Pelosi Floor Speech Ahead of Iran Nuclear Agreement Votes

September 11, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the House Floor ahead of House votes on the Iran nuclear agreement.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for his leadership, for the courage it took for him, and the humility to listen and to learn what was in this legislation and this agreement.  And that is something that I commend the Members of the House for doing.  To listen and to learn.  Our distinguished Speaker just referenced the oath of office that we take when we become Members of Congress, and it is a vow that we make to the American people – to protect and support our Constitution, and our responsibility to protect and defend the American people.

“Today, Mr. Speaker, we will vote on an agreement to make America safer – indeed, to make the world a safer place.  So say the nuclear scientists and the diplomats.  So say the military and security leaders of both parties, or of no party.  So does the faith community beseech us to do.  This morning, Father Conroy offered a prayer to God to ‘Help the Members of this House to recognize that You are with us in our deliberations.’  Indeed, as we cast our votes on this historic agreement, we are thankful to God that God was with us to, again, give us the humility to learn and the courage to act.  And for that, we should all be grateful.

“It's important to note that support for this agreement, as I have said, comes from both sides of the aisle – more than 100 former diplomats, Democrats and Republicans, ambassadors, et cetera, wrote: ‘In our judgment, the [JCPOA] deserves Congressional support and opportunity to show that it can work.  We firmly believe that the most effective way,’ Mr. Speaker, ‘to protect U.S. national security, and that of our allies and friends, is to ensure that tough-minded diplomacy has a chance to succeed before considering other more costly and risky alternatives.’

“Thirty-six generals and admirals wrote: ‘There's no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.  If the Iranians cheat,’ as the Speaker suggested they might, ‘our advanced technology, intelligence and the inspections will reveal it.  And the U.S. military options remain on the table.  And if the deal is rejected by America, the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year.  The choice is stark.’  What is mysterious to me is when our colleagues come to the floor and say: ‘Under this agreement, Iran can be a nuclear power in 10 or 15 years.  So we should reject this agreement.’  No.  Without the agreement, they are a threshold nuclear power right now, and could have a weapon within months or a year.  It seems to me the choice is clear, as the generals and admirals pointed out.

“It's also interesting to note that our distinguished Speaker pointed out some shortcomings in his view in the agreement.  Well, that is disagreed with by the best nuclear physicists, who wrote to congratulate the President on the agreement.  As they wrote, ‘We consider’ –  now, these are Nobel Laureates, these are engineers, nuclear physicists who work and specialize in nuclear weapons, research and development – they said: ‘We consider that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action the United States and its partners negotiated with Iran will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve’ – this is really important – this agreement ‘as a guidepost for future non-proliferation agreements.’  They went on to say: ‘This is an innovative agreement with much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated non-proliferation framework.’  That's why they were congratulating the President of the United States.

“I mentioned the prayer of Father Conroy this morning.  I also this morning saw, in The Washington Post, that the Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, the French President François Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: ‘This is an important moment,’ these Heads of State said, ‘It's a crucial opportunity at a time of heightened global uncertainty to show what diplomacy can achieve.’  These Heads of State went on to say, ‘This is not an agreement based on trust or any assumption of how Iran may look in 10 or 15 years.  It's based on detailed, tightly-written controls that are verifiable and long lasting.  We condemn,’ they said, ‘in no uncertain terms that Iran does not recognize the existence of the State of Israel and the unacceptable language that Iran’s leaders use about Israel.  Israel’s security matters are and will remain our key interests too.’

“Prime Minister Cameron, President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel then said, ‘We will not have reached the nuclear deal with Iran if we did not think that it removed a threat to the region and the non-proliferation regime as a whole.  We are confident that the agreement provides the foundation for resolving the conflict on Iran’s nuclear program permanently.  That is why we now want to embark on the full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.’

“Today, I urge my colleagues to vote in support of the agreement that enhances our vigilance and strengthens our security.  I just always am fond of quoting Solomon in the Bible.  When King David died and Solomon was to become king, he was uncertain as to his ability to be king in terms of his wisdom and the rest.  And he prayed to God and prayed that God would give him the wisdom because David was such a great king and how could he – he said to God: I’m going to be the king of your people; help me with knowledge, with wisdom.  God came to him in the night and said: Solomon, because you did not ask for longevity, because you did not ask for great riches, because you did not ask for vengeance upon your enemies, I will give you more wisdom than anyone has ever had and you will be renowned for wisdom.  The Solomon of Wisdom which sprang from humility – the humility to pray for enlightenment, for knowledge, for wisdom, for judgment.

“And that humility is so essential in the job that we do here, that we don't have foregone conclusions. That's why I’m so proud of my Members who spent so much time studying this issue – not only reading the agreement and the classified sections and the rest but seeking answers, having information, seeking validation from generals and admirals and scientists and leaders of other countries as to what their actions would be should we unfortunately reject this, which happily we will not do today.  They had the humility to open their minds to learn; and when they learned, they had the courage to take an action where some other of their friends may not have arrived at yet because they didn't have the benefit of all of this information.

“So, wherever Members come down on this issue, we know one thing: that we have to come together in the end, to protect our country and stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  I say boastfully of my own experience that I’ve had decades of experience tracking Iran and its nuclear ambitions.  I’ve served longer than anyone – more than two times longer than anyone – on the Intelligence Committee, so I know of what I speak.  And I went to the Intelligence Committee to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  That gave me some judgment as to what the President brought back in this agreement.  And still, I want to subject it to the harshest scrutiny as to from my experience, if I thought that this was the best possible deal we could achieve.

“We mustn't judge agreements by what they don't do but respect them for what they do do.  And what this does is to make our country safer, the region safer, and our friends in Israel safer as their own national security experts have attested.

“So, I thank you, my colleagues.  I thank you for listening, for learning, for coming to whatever conclusion you came to, but understanding that at the end of the day, we have a respect for each other’s opinion and a regard for our responsibilities to our people, to people in the region, our friends in Israel and also a global responsibility.  I join the nuclear physicists in congratulating President Barack Obama for his great leadership in giving us this opportunity.

“Today, we will not just be making history as the approval of this agreement goes forward, we will be making progress for the cause of peace in the world.  With that, I yield back the balance of my time.”