PA Congressmen Spar with Secretary Kerry on Iran Deal (VIDEOS)
That changes, however, whenever a hotly debated issue comes before a committee.
That committee contains three members of the Pennsylvania delegation: Democrat Brendan Boyle of the 13th district, as well as Republicans Tom Marino of the 10th district and Scott Perry of the 4th district.
Usually in these settings, members of the Administration’s party use their questions to paint the President’s policy in the best possible light. Meanwhile, the opposing party does their best to spark confrontations. That was about what happened yesterday.
Each member was given five minutes for questioning. The most contentious sessions are presented first.
Rep. Perry (3:16:40)
Congressman Scott Perry began by quoting President Bill Clinton’s comments concerning a 1994 nuclear framework with North Korea. The North Koreans eventually developed and tested a nuclear weapon in 2006.
The point was Rep. Perry felt this Iranian deal would yield a similar result. He also listed a series of past contentious events between Iran and the United States, most prominently the 1979 hostage crisis.
“Look you and I can have a speech-off if you want,” Sec. Kerry responded. “We could have a competition for who is angrier about some of the things Iran has done historically. We understand they’ve killed Americans.”
The Secretary then tried to transition to Iran’s nuclear ambitions before Perry interjected that Americans see Iran “as like a crocodile or a shark”. He compared the deal to giving one of those creatures more teeth.
The two men talked over each other again (Sec. Kerry unleashed a major eye roll at one point) before Rep. Perry complained that the Administration is pursuing an executive agreement instead of a treaty.* He believes Congress can force a better deal.
“And if the Ayatollah doesn’t like it, and doesn’t want to negotiate it, oh ‘boo-hoo’. We’re here for America,” Congressman Perry proclaimed. “We stand for America. You [Kerry] represent America.”
“Congressman, I don’t need any lessons from you about who I represent,” he declared. “I’ve represented and fought for our country since I was out of college. So, don’t give me any lessons about that, okay?”
Kerry again tried to emphasize that Iran’s capacity to create a nuclear weapon had been “rolled back” only for the two to get into another verbal joust.
“OK, that’s your opinion,” Perry interrupted.
“No, that’s a fact! That’s a fact!” Kerry shot back.
Rep. Perry concluded with a question about Iran acquiring weapons from Russia which Kerry dismissed.
Congressman Marino outright rejected the premise that this deal will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. In fact, he seems to believe it will induce Iran’s nuclear capability.
“How is a nuclear Iran going to make the world and the United States a safer place?” he asked.
Secretary Kerry flipped the burden back on to Rep. Marino, asking how the U.S. could get a better deal than the one we have now.
The Congressman quoted Secretary Jack Lew’s claim that the P5+1 sanctions have “crippled” Iran and contended that the sanctions should be ratcheted up.
Kerry responded that the intelligence community would disagree with Marino’s contention.
“And you will not sanction Iran out of it’s commitment to what it has a right to,” Kerry continued “Iran is an NPT country, there are 189 of them-”
“And we have a right to protect the American citizens from this disaster, this country [Iran] having nuclear power,” Marino said again invoking Lew’s comments.
“Congressman if you’re gonna quote me, let me speak for myself,” Sec. Lew stated.
“No, I quoted exactly what you said!” Marino replied.
Lew explained that the sanctions were “crippling” because of the cooperation the U.S. was able to get from other nations, like Russia and China, which the Congressman feels are working against American interests.
“But Congressman, as we have said again and again, and I want to repeat it now,” Kerry jumped in. “We are absolutely committed that Iran will never get the material for one bomb. Not for one bomb.”
“OK, but you didn’t answer my original question, Mr. Secretary,” Marino asserted. “My original question is how is that going to make the United States’ citizens safer?”
“Let me tell you,” Kerry responded. “I’ll tell you exactly how it makes the United States’ citizens safer, because if Iran fully implements the agreement that we have come to, Iran will not be able to make a nuclear weapon.”
He went on to talk about how the agreement reduces Iran’s stockpile from material that can make 10 to 12 bombs to a total insufficient to manufacture one.
Rep. Marino took over, stating that Kerry was repeating himself. It became evident that the Congressman wanted to get in an unrelated question before his time expired. He asked if the Secretary had ever used non-government email account to conduct official business.
“No, I conduct my business on a government account,” Kerry answered.
The previous question concerns Hillary Clinton’s use of one email address to conduct personal and official business during her tenure as Secretary of State. Republicans have been attacking the Democratic presidential front-runner on the issue for months and likely will continue for the foreseeable future.
Not surprisingly, Congressman Brendan Boyle was far less hostile to the members of the Obama Administration.
Boyle mostly conveyed his concerns and questions to Energy Secretary Moniz.
Sec. Moniz expressed confidence that the IAEA will be able to effectively detect any attempts Iran may make to secretly develop their nuclear capabilities.
The Congressman finished by turning to the issue of how the U.S. would protect our own intelligence methods.
“We’re very careful not to disclose sources and methods,” Secretary Kerry answered. “And we have ways of providing information and making it available in ways that don’t compromise that. I can assure that will not happen.”
Altogether it was quite the day for soundbites and Pennsylvania provided its fair share.
*Treaties are required by the U.S. Constitution to be approved by two-thirds of the Senate. Under the current partisan divide, President Obama would need to win the support of all 46 Democratic Senators, as well as 21 Republican Senators, to get a treaty approved. Therefore, this deal is an executive agreement which doesn’t require congressional approval. The GOP-controlled Congress will likely seek to pass legislation squelching the deal but the President will veto it. There are more than enough Democrats in both chambers to prevent an override.