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Engel Remarks on Iran Heavy Water Bill

ENGEL FLOOR REMARKS ON IRAN HEAVY WATER BILL

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WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement in opposition to the No 2H20 from Iran Act (H.R. 5119) on the House floor:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I rise in opposition to this bill and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

“Thank you.  Mr. Speaker, by now, everyone knows that I opposed the Iran nuclear deal. But as I've said again and again and again, now that the deal is done, we need to focus on holding Iran's leaders to their word and holding the regime accountable for its other bad behavior.  I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any Member of this body who disagrees with that goal.

“But there's a right way to do that, and a wrong way to do it.

“The right way to do it is to collaborate across the aisle to draft legislation that will win bipartisan support, that will make it across the finish line, and that the President will sign into law. The right way to do it is to let Committees go through a regular process, a regular order, so that Members on both sides have a chance to debate and contribute. 

The right way to do it is to bring it to the Floor in a way that ensures we end up with the best possible legislation, so that we can honestly advance American interests and protect American security.

“The wrong way to do it is to ram it through the Rules Committee.  That’s what happens here.  And bring it to the floor with no chance to offer new ideas to make the bill better.  But that's exactly where we are today. That's why this bill is so deeply flawed.  That's why it has no chance of becoming law.  And that’s a shame, in my opinion, because this bill might have been a good starting point.

“Again, I think we do need to deal with Iran more forcefully.  Generally speaking, I agree that we shouldn’t be buying heavy water from Iran.  But this bill is far too broad: a blanket prohibition, no waivers, no sunset, no exceptions.  We have no idea what the unintended consequences of this bill could be in the years ahead.   And those are the uncertainties we try to deal with on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“So pull it out of the Committee’s jurisdiction and give it to the Rules Committee.  And the Foreign Affairs Committee really has no say in what is truly an important Foreign Affairs Committee bill.

“Mr. Speaker, traditionally, the House’s Iran-related bills have been bipartisan.  The way we’ve dealt with Iran has maybe been the best example of nonpartisan collaboration on foreign policy, or bipartisan collaboration on foreign policy, and politics stopping at the water’s edge. But in this case, the Speaker has totally circumvented the Foreign Affairs Committee and our normal bipartisan approach.  And I think there are serious consequences to the process that led us here.  We’re sending a message to the rest of the world that foreign-policy issues are now part of everyday politics.  This is a dangerous path.

“I don't blame my good friend Chairman Royce for this lousy process.  This isn't the way he runs our Committee, and I'm grateful as always for his fair leadership.  Tomorrow we're marking up 13 bipartisan measures in our Committee.  That's the way it should be.  We pride ourselves on bipartisanship.  That’s how you pass legislation in foreign policy, and that’s exactly what we’re not doing here this afternoon.

“But I'm left to wonder: what happened to the Speaker's commitment to regular order when he became Speaker?  That was the platform he rode in on.  What do our friends in the Freedom Caucus and the Liberty Caucus have to say about the Speaker's change of heart?  It just isn't right.

“And it leads to bad policy.  Foreign policy is rarely black and white.  There are very few times when it’s smart to say, ‘This is the right way to go without exception in perpetuity.’  That’s what this bill does.  Complexity isn’t a vice in foreign policy, and sometimes bills that are only a page or two long are the most dangerous.

“Mr. Speaker, I sincerely regret that we’re spending our time on a measure that we all know isn’t going anywhere—that we all know is just political theater as my friends in the Majority move into their convention next week.  We could be using this time in an honest effort to make our country safer with this issue, which is an important issue.  But a flawed process has led to a flawed bill, and I’m forced to oppose it.  I urge all Members to do the same.  And I reserve the balance of my time.”