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Engel Remarks Opposing Partisan Iran Bill

ENGEL REMARKS OPPOSING PARTISAN IRAN 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 Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act (H.R. 3662) at a full Committee markup:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  As I have said many, many times, I’m so proud of this Committee and its members on both sides of the aisle.  We are really an exception to the typical partisan fighting the American people so often unfortunately associate with Congress.  And under your leadership Mr. Chairman, we’ve taken up bill after bill with bipartisan backing.  We’ve carried out oversight of key national security objectives.  We haven’t wasted our time on political targets as so many other committees have done.  And we’ve embodied the spirit that politics should end at the water’s edge.  I have used that phrase many, many times.  And as you know Mr. Chairman, I profoundly value our personal friendship and our excellent working relationship.

“I must say though that I have to oppose this bill.  This bill is an exception, I think, to, to bipartisanship in that no Democrats were consulted in terms of the drafting of the bill.  I know the bill is well intended, but isn’t done the way things should be done, where we put our heads together in a bipartisan fashion, we come up with a bill, and we go back and forth and eliminate some things, add some things, and move forward in a bipartisan way. 

“This measure really has no chance of becoming law.  And what bothers me, you know, yesterday we had a vote on the Affordable Care Act to repeal it.  Sixty-two times.  Now this is the second time we’ve tried to overturn the JCPOA agreement.

“Everyone in this room knows how I feel about Iran.  I thought we were wrong to allow Iran to continue enriching during the talks.  I voted against the nuclear deal and I continue to believe that the agreement’s deeply flawed.  I see Iran for what it is: the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and a destabilizing force across the Middle East.

“But Congress had an opportunity to vote on the deal, and we lost.  There weren’t enough votes to override a veto or even send a resolution of disapproval to the President.  And the agreement’s now gone into effect. 

“I believe it doesn’t serve any purpose to have bills like this that are designed to kill the deal.  I don’t want to vote 62 or 63 times on killing the Iran agreement.  We already have had one several months ago, and this is now the second one.  And I’m afraid we’re following the same path that we’re following with the Affordable Healthcare Act. Congress has spoken, and it’s done. And I think that we have to work together on bipartisan legislation that will hold Iran’s feet to the fire on its nuclear program, and hold the regime accountable for its support of terrorism and other nefarious activities.  And also to help our ally Israel with her legitimate security needs.

“So I don’t think it serves any purpose to take up a partisan bill like this that’s designed to kill the deal.  We know it’s not going to go anywhere.  We know that if it passes both houses, the President will veto it.

“I would rather put our heads together and work—as we have done so many times in the past three years—to work together to have a bipartisan bill that achieves what we all want on both sides of the aisle.  We want to hold Iran’s feet to the fire.  We want to make sure that they are sanctioned again for other things other than their nuclear capabilities—that they’re sanctioned for their support of terrorism, and that we have to continue to hold their feet to the fire.

“I was disappointed that the Administration this week mentioned that it was going to impose some sanctions on Iran, and then seemed to pull it back.  We have to hold Iran’s feet to the fire, but the only way we could effectively do that is in a bipartisan way. 

“So, we have been working.  My staff has been working.  We’re trying to come up with legislation.  We’ve gone a long way.  And I would hope that ultimately we can introduce this legislation with you, Mr. Chairman, with me, working together in one bill with other members of this Committee, working together with one bill.

“I would like to do what we did in this Committee, where we have repeated so many times, and it almost sounds unbelievable.  If people had listened to Chairman Royce and myself back in 2013 when this Committee unanimously—with not with one negative vote—passed an additional Iran sanctions bill, which we were proud of, and then it passed on the floor with 400 yes votes. That’s the kind of bipartisan bill I would like to see us do now to hold Iran’s feet to the fire.  So, there’s no shortage of good ideas as to how to achieve these goals, and we can do this. 

“So, I’m going to oppose this bill.  I hope that we can again get together and come up with a bill that does what this bill does.  But a bill like this—which has sponsors only from one of the political parties—all the sponsors are Republicans.  And to be fair to Mr. Russell, he did ask me about going on the bill.  But Democrats had no part in drafting the bill, no part in formulating the bill, and if we are going to have something that shows, that moves forward and makes sense, we have to do it in a bipartisan way.  And unfortunately, I don’t believe this is the way to go about it.

“So, I’m going to oppose it.  I hope we can pick up the pieces.  Because, again, the President will surely veto this if it passes both houses.  And I am hoping to come up with a bill that the Administration can understand that we in the Congress feel very strongly about holding Iran’s feet to the fire. 

“Mr. Chairman, everything you said, I agree.  Everything you mentioned, I agree.  Everything you talked about with the threat to Iran, I agree.  I just don’t believe this is the way to go about doing it.  Now thank you, I yield back.”