This morning, President Obama announced that the U.S. and Iran (along with Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) have agreed to a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program.
Below we’re cataloging the various reactions to the deal from Pennsylvania lawmakers and candidates:
Senator Pat Toomey
“I look forward to closely examining this nuclear agreement during the upcoming 60 day Congressional review period. Preliminarily, I have deep concerns that this deal will provide hundreds of billions of dollars to an untrustworthy Iranian regime’s support for terrorism, while ushering in a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East.”
Senator Bob Casey
“Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is critical to our national security and that of our partners in the region, especially Israel. That’s why I have consistently sponsored and supported sanctions against Iran, which brought the regime to the table in the first place, and legislation like the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015.
I appreciate the hard work that Secretary Kerry and his team put into these negotiations. Over the coming days, I will be conducting a thorough review of the agreement to evaluate whether it protects our national security interests.”
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick
“I have deep concerns about the direction the Obama Administration has taken in reaching this agreement with Iran. While I support all diplomatic efforts to promote peace and cooperation, there is little reason to believe this deal will halt Iran’s nuclear program or that the Iranian regime is truly committed to joining the international community. Even during negotiations, Iranian leaders have spewed hateful language towards the United States, Israel and the Jewish people, and have unapologetically continued their state sponsorship of terrorism.
Next week, the bipartisan Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing I am proud to chair will take a closer look at Iran’s role in financing terrorist groups around the world; information that I feel is vital to the Administration, Congress and American people when reviewing any nuclear agreement with Iran that includes sanctions relief.
In the end, this announced deal is under Congressional authority to review and I will only support it if it meets the simple benchmark of forever preventing a nuclear Iran.”
Congressman Chaka Fattah
“I applaud the President and Secretary Kerry for their strong leadership throughout these tough negotiations that have led to this historic nuclear agreement with Iran.
“In 2005, I traveled to Vienna on a Congressional delegation trip led by the Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and met with the International Atomic Energy Agency where I was briefed by experts on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Since that visit, I have been committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and I was proud to support the legislation that allows Congress an ability to review and approve any final agreement.
“Over the coming weeks, I will join my colleagues as we examine and debate this comprehensive, long-term nuclear deal. However, I have every confidence in the negotiators that this is a good deal—based on verification—and that once the details are fully understood and assessed, it will earn the support of the United States Congress.”
Congressman Bill Shuster
“Congress has continued to represent the will of Americans by ensuring that any final agreement with Iran must effectively block their ability to develop nuclear weapons. I have continued to say that no deal with Iran is better than a bad deal. The fact that Israel is already calling this agreement a ‘mistake of historic proportions,’ is telling.
Congress will now fully review this agreement, and based on what we know it appears that the administration has made several concessions that will apparently strengthen Iran’s hand by lifting sanctions against the regime, prohibiting inspections of nuclear facilities and doing nothing to curb Iran’s support for terrorism around the globe. I have significant apprehension about how this agreement is a good deal for the United States and its allies. But I am confident that the 60 days of Congressional hearings and oversight will review every last aspect of the president’s deal-and if it is in fact a deeply flawed agreement- Congress will have the opportunity to protect America from ending up with a bad deal with Iran.”
Congressman Pat Meehan
“The ultimate goal of any agreement with Iran must be to prevent the regime from obtaining nuclear weapons. There are legitimate concerns that the deal would amount to a cash infusion for Iran, some of which may fund violence abroad. I also have concerns that the agreement’s inspections and verification systems are not sufficient to ensure Iran’s compliance. In the coming days, I’ll be pressing the administration for answers on these issues. I look forward to reviewing the agreement closely with my colleagues and seeking assurance it will improve our own security and the security of our allies like Israel.”
Congressman Lou Barletta
“I firmly believe that Iran would never agree to any deal it felt would impede its progress toward a nuclear weapon, so the fact that the mullahs are pleased with the agreement gives me great concern. The agreement allows Iran to ‘manage’ inspections of their facilities, rather than submitting to unannounced visits. Giving the Iranians up to 24 days to prepare for inspections sounds like a recipe for cheating to me, especially since we are dealing with a belligerent nation, and state sponsor of terrorism, whose leaders I do not trust.
“We are told that the deal is better than nothing at all, since it will essentially freeze Iran’s nuclear program for ten to fifteen years. However, in global historical terms, that is the merest blink of an eye. In a ten year span, Iran’s economy will have continued to grow, free of sanctions, allowing them to carry on funding terrorist groups in the region. At the end of that time frame, they will be free to pursue whatever programs they wish. I’m afraid we will soon have to begin teaching school children to pointlessly hide under their desks again, as we did when faced with the threat of Russian nuclear attack in the 1950s and ‘60s.
“As Congress considers the deal, I believe we should also send to the president a plan to dramatically increase our energy exports, including natural gas. By doing that, we would reduce the reliance of our allies on Iranian energy, and thereby diminish their reluctance to re-impose economic sanctions in the future.
“With an issue as monumental as national security at stake, this is not the time to be burnishing legacies or campaigning for the next Nobel Peace Prize. Congress must carefully examine the agreement and its impact on this country and our allies, particularly Israel. I am mindful of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s declaration that if Iran wants to be treated as a normal nation, it should act like one. As a consistent and belligerent state sponsor of terrorism, Iran has certainly not kept its part of the bargain.
“I am eager to scrutinize the details of the agreement over the sixty day period, and will make my final determination on how I will vote after a full consideration of all the facts.”
Congressman Tom Marino
“It is a complete fallacy to say the negotiations with Iran were complicated or even necessary. In fact, it is quite simple; we should have never begun negotiations in the first place. Once we began, Iran was legitimized. Our time and effort would have been better spent squeezing them further with more severe sanctions.
Instead, President Obama embarked on this needless effort to broker a deal which is nothing more than an attempt to mark history with an otherwise empty presidential legacy. Now Iran will receive billions in economic sanctions relief and will be allowed to further enrich materials for its centrifuges – many of which are already identified as weapons grade and unnecessary for their so-called ‘peaceful energy use.’ To suggest otherwise is reckless, ignorant and dangerous.
Iran is encouraged. They will continue to develop Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capabilities, sponsor terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and further threaten peace and stability throughout our world. Dissolved sanctions surely mean terrorists will receive new supplies and cash injections to carry out terror operations.
You know this is a bad deal when Putin says it brings the world a sigh of relief. You know it is a bad deal when Assad hails it and when foreign business interests are itching to make a quick buck in a frozen market. Neither Russia nor Syria are friends to the United States, nor are they friends to our allies. I find their support a clear indication the United States has failed to secure the toughness and seriousness needed to end Iran’s nuclear weapons programs.
When the world’s most untrustworthy leaders hail a deal like this it makes Neville Chamberlain look like a tough guy.
What I fear most is what America and our allies may be called to do when Iran breaks this agreement, as I suspect it will.”
Congressman Mike Kelly
“Based on everything we currently know, the Obama administration’s deal with Iran represents a dangerous mistake of potentially historic proportions. It fails to achieve the paramount mission of permanently ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions while instead leaving the Islamic Republic newly emboldened, wrongly legitimized, and ominously free to continue its deadly sponsorship of international terrorism.
“Throughout the entire negotiation process, President Obama was openly desperate to achieve a legacy-cementing deal at almost any cost. The Iranians exploited the situation by extracting concession after concession and are now left celebrating a deal that rewards their government with tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief—much of which is guaranteed to be funneled to terrorist groups and causes throughout the world. At the same time, the agreement excludes any requirements by Iran to allow thorough American inspections, release American hostages, or even curb its well-known human rights abuses against its own people.
“Going forward, the American people’s representatives in Congress must remind the world what this administration has clearly forgotten: that Iran is not our moral or geopolitical equal but rather an untrustworthy terror state still committed to the advance of radicalism and the annihilation of Israel. We must do everything in our power to defeat this agreement. Doing so would reassert our nation’s indispensable global leadership and deny Iran a victory the world cannot afford.”
Congressman Charlie Dent
“America entered these nuclear negotiations from a position of strength, thanks to the successful impact of congressionally driven sanctions – which President Obama reluctantly accepted. Lower oil prices increased the pain of the sanctions and thus our bargaining power. Unfortunately, President Obama acts as if we need a deal more than the Ayatollahs.
After a preliminary review of the agreement, it appears the deal allows Iran nearly one month to conceal their nuclear activities prior to any inspection. Verification cannot be efficacious under this provision. On sanctions relief, all nuclear related sanctions are lifted after two months unless Congress acts. As far as “snapback sanctions” are concerned, in the event of Iranian noncompliance with this agreement, no one even pretends that such sanctions could ever be re-imposed given Russia and China’s veto power and divergent regional security interests and goals.
We should heed the warning of former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, who wrote months ago, ‘negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability.’
As Iran continues its march towards nuclear arms, does anyone believe for a moment that the Sunni nations in the region won’t undertake nuclear programs of their own? It would jeopardize the safety and security of the world to have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East – a region of state instability and irrational non-state actors like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Nusra Front, and others.
I will need more time to analyze this agreement, but under no circumstances will I support a deal that leads to further nuclear proliferation or enables Iran to further its destabilizing influence in the Middle East.”
Congressman Joseph Pitts
“What the United States decides to do about the Islamic Republic of Iran will be the single most important foreign policy decision in the generation since the fall of communism. Iran is the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, and is attempting to become a regional hegemon. Iran supports the murderous Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and currently leads the world in executions. Iran holds a number of Americans in prison on false pretenses, and Iranian-backed forces have killed American troops in Iraq.
“In the proposal, the Administration did obtain concessions from Iran, including commitments that Iran would never seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons. However, those concessions and commitments are undermined by the concessions by Western powers, which leave too much room for Tehran to blame eventual disagreements on the United States and the West, possibly as a pretext for reneging on their commitments.
“Negotiation is founded upon trust, and, given the Islamic Republic’s past and present behaviors, there can be no trust for such a country as Iran. Now that a final proposal has been reached, Congress has 60 days to review it, with the option of overriding it with a two-thirds supermajority. While I support a diplomatic solution to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, I have serious concerns that relieving sanctions will only strengthen Iran’s ability to wage terroristic wars against its neighbors at best, and possibly enable renewed resources to obtaining a nuclear weapon if the regime is not acting in good faith.”
Congressman GT Thompson
“Over 350 members of Congress have voiced their bipartisan concerns to the President on more than one occasion, focusing specifically on Iran’s lack of cooperation and secrecy within their nuclear program.
Now, the Administration will attempt to sell the American public on a deal that will lift sanctions, providing the regime access to billions of dollars, which could be used to support Iran’s clandestine activities and further destabilize the region.
Relief from several decades of sanctions should not occur until we have verified full compliance and unfettered access to any nuclear sites. Furthermore, providing Iran any avenue to conventional weapons or ballistic missiles down the line would be foolish.
Congress will be further reviewing the specifics of the deal in the coming weeks. During that time, we must ask ourselves how this deal will specifically benefit our national security and the security of our allies in the region. If these questions cannot be answered, I will not hesitate to oppose this deal.”
2016 Senate candidate and former Congressman Joe Sestak
“Today’s nuclear agreement with Iran is another cautious, crucial step toward peacefully and permanently stopping the Iranians from attaining nuclear weapons. Diplomacy is protracted, difficult and complex – but it must always be the first option to try over war.”
Among other achievements, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:
- Reduces for at least 15 years the number of centrifuges that can enrich uranium to an amount below what is needed to produce bomb-grade materials in less than a year, while also diluting Iran’s existing enriched uranium from 20 percent to below 4 percent
- Stops for at least 15 years all uranium enrichment activities at Fordow – a deep-underground facility that we cannot destroy nor have been able to inspect, until now
- Removes all ability to produce bomb-grade plutonium by the sole Iranian heavy-water reactor at Arak, and curtail nuclear research and development programs to do so
- Limits centrifuges used at Natanz to low-grade enrichment for civilian purposes, with the only centrifuges used being first generation ones constructed in the 1970s
- Establishes vigorous international inspection of nuclear-capable facilities, including the deeply buried uranium enrichment facilities
As I have said throughout the negotiations, it is true that our military could temporarily halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Should the Iranians breach the agreement and pursue a nuclear weapon, U.S. strikes remain our ready option.
But because of a sophisticated air defense system, an array of offensive missile, naval and air forces, and the fact that a number of Iran’s nuclear facilities are deeply buried underground – one protected by hundreds of feet of stone – any U.S. airstrikes would be wide in breadth and long in duration to accomplish.
Strikes would involve attacks against both those air-missile defense systems and hundreds of surface missiles that can reach our aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, our troops and bases in the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf, as well as Israel. Complicating this is a score of midget submarines nearly undetectable in the shallow waters of the Gulf, as are thousands of Iranian mines.
As a consequence, U.S. strikes would result in stopping Iran’s nuclear program, but for only four years, a finding confirmed by a study I participated in with other generals, admirals and national security officials. In contrast, today’s agreement could potentially be much longer lasting – 15 years or more – if the deal is truly verifiable.
Unfortunately, my opponent Sen. Toomey does not understand the importance of a measured, thoughtful foreign policy, as shown by his signing of a letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran – Ayatollah Khamenei, who has called for ‘death to America’ – in an attempt to undermine the negotiations with war being the only alternative to end Iran’s nuclear program.
Senators have the absolute right to argue and disagree with the President’s approach to any issue. But for Toomey to sign a letter to a foreign leader urging that leader to ignore the institution of the American Presidency is inexcusable, embarrassing, and shows a lack of experience and understanding about America’s standing in the world.
Toomey again showed his foreign policy inexperience when he, in opposition to the ongoing negotiations, said on Friday that ‘we should make it clear to Iran that our sanctions will cripple their economy if they continue to pursue nuclear weapons.’
The Senator fails to realize that the sanctions in place have been effective only because China, Russia and other nations have worked with us in enforcing a comprehensive, multi-lateral system of sanctions.
If our negotiations ceased — as Toomey has advocated — and Russia walked away, or China, the sanctions fail. What then is the Senator’s recourse? Another vote for war, as he did when he sent us into the tragic misadventure in Iraq?
There is not a question that we must halt Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear capability, by military means if necessary. But it was irresponsible to make allegations that the U.S. national security team was negotiating away our security — especially during this most critical phase – while he leaves war as the only remaining option.
Toomey’s actions to undermine American diplomacy during the final days of these negotiations were so reckless, so indicative of his inexperience in national security, that the Senator should not say anything at all.”