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- As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement about the Trump Administration’s reported plans to withhold certification of Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R.1698), which the Committee marked up this morning:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for calling this markup.

“This has been a busy week, Mr. Chairman, as we all wait to learn what the Administration plans to do about the Iran deal.

“This morning, we’ve got two bipartisan measures before us, and that’s no surprise, because this Committee is accustomed to working in a bipartisan way. We think foreign policy should be bipartisan and that partisanship should stop at the [water’s] edge and that’s the way we’ve conducted ourselves during these past five years.

“But apparently the Administration doesn’t agree. We learned through reporting that last evening that the President’s national security advisor, General McMaster, and Secretary of State Tillerson briefed Republican members on the Administration’s plans.

“Policy towards Iran is of the highest national importance. We must stand together to confront these threats, and frankly, partisan briefings simply do not help. So let’s get this right and stop the political games that the Administration’s playing.

“If the reporting is accurate, the Administration plans to decertify the deal and push for Congress to pass legislation to change parts of it. I’m not quite sure how that would work. Congress has a role to play in foreign policy, but we cannot pass a law to unilaterally change an international agreement.

“If the Administration wants to change the nuclear deal—and I’d be the first to say there are areas which can be improved or strengthened—I want to remind everybody that I voted against the deal two years ago—then the Administration needs to work with our allies and negotiate.

“We can do this. There’s time before areas of the agreement sunset. Let’s put our heads together with our friends in London, Paris, Berlin, and the EU and see to it that all pathways to a bomb are cut off for Iran in perpetuity.

“But, let’s do it right. Don’t blow up the agreement to save it. We’ll come out worse in the end. If the Administration needs certain authorities, that’s where we have a job to do.

“But this talk of decertifying the agreement, then kicking it to Congress for some sort of magical fix just doesn’t make sense. I wish I had more clarity on what the White House plans to do, but the White House apparently feels that Democratic members don’t need any kind of briefings. I’m frankly irked that many of us are being kept in the dark.

“That said, I’m a cosponsor of the ballistic-missile legislation, and I plan to support it. I am ready to work with Chairman Royce to pass more sanctions on Iran. But I’m more curious why the tough sanctions law the President signed in August hasn’t been put to use yet. We hear a lot of talk from the White House, but so far the only action when it comes to Iran is this plan to decertify the deal. I agree with my friend, the Chairman: let’s enforce the hell out of the sanctions we have.

“So I’ll support this bill, but I have a lot of questions about what the Administration plans to do in the hours and days ahead. And again I am concerned about legislating on Iran when only a few members have the full picture of what’s about to happen.”

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