Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

September 10, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the House Floor in support of the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding and I commend him for his extraordinary leadership as Ranking Member on the Intelligence Committee, which has served us so well, his leadership has served us so well in this debate today and in our deliberations leading up to this debate.  He has served us well on the ongoing, as we use intelligence to protect the American people.  Thank you, Mr. Schiff.

“I did not go to the Well as usual for the Leader, but I wanted to be here because I have some materials that I want to share you, Mr. Speaker.  Mr. Speaker, I think today and tomorrow, the next 24 hours, is a very, very special time in the Congress of the United States.  Members will be called upon to make a decision that affects our oath of office, to protect and support the Constitution and, of course, the American people.

“This is a moment that we have prepared for and that's what I have this binder here for, to say that I commend my colleagues because they have spent thousands of hours reviewing the agreement, reviewing the annexes and the classified materials, speaking with experts, gaining information, acquiring validation from outside sources other than the Administration and the agreement itself, conversations with each other, conversations with their constituents – all to have, again, a sense of humility that we all don't know everything about this subject and we have to get our assurances from those whose judgment we respect as well as to support this agreement on the merits.

“It is a very fine agreement.  I will take a moment just to talk about my own credentials because I see that people are doing that in their statements.  I read with interest Mr. Menendez’s statement in the Senate where he talked about his service in the Senate and I will talk about mine in the House.

“For over 20 years, I have served as a member of the Intelligence Committee, both as a member of the Committee, as the top Democrat on the Committee, as the Speaker and Leader ex-officio over the years – longer than anyone in the history of the Congress.  I went to the Intelligence Committee because I had a major concern, which sprang from my district, which was a very big interest there, in stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Ploughshares, an organization dedicated to that purpose, was founded there.  They saluted President Reagan and the actions that he took when he was President, and they are very actively supporting this agreement now.

“I mention my credentials because I brought that experience to make a judgment on the agreement after it was negotiated.  Of course, we were briefed as members of the Committee and as members of the Leadership on the ongoing, as to the progress that was being made in negotiations.  Again, having been briefed all along the way, I still was pleasantly pleased to see what the final product was.  What the president negotiated was remarkable.  It was remarkable in several respects.  One was that the P5, the permanent members of the Security Council, +1, that would be Germany, the P5 nations negotiated this agreement with Iran – China, Russia, France, the U.K., the United States.

“This is quite remarkable, that all of those countries could come to agreement.  And under the leadership – an important part of that leadership was the leadership of President Obama, to have that engagement sustained over a couple of years.  Now, President Bush took us a bit down this path, and that is referenced in an op-ed that was put forth by Brent Scowcroft because when he supported this legislation, he says: ‘The deal ensures that this will be the case for at least 15 years and likely longer,’ but he talks about the fact that this has been a goal; is what Ronald Reagan did with the Soviet Union arms control and what President Nixon did with China.  It was a negotiation and he talked about the fact that this particular agreement was one that was worked on under the presidency of President Bush.  Actually, he places it in time so let me read his comment.  He says: ‘Congress again faces a momentous decision regarding U.S. policy toward the Middle East. The forthcoming vote on the nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) will show the world whether the United States has the will and sense of responsibility to help stabilize the Middle East, or whether it will contribute to further turmoil, including the possible spread of nuclear weapons. Strong words perhaps, but clear language is helpful in the cacophony of today’s media.’

“‘In my view,’ Brent Scowcroft says, ‘the JCPOA meets the key objective, shared by recent administrations of both parties, that Iran limit itself to a strictly civilian nuclear program with unprecedented verification and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Security Council.’

“He goes on for a couple of pages and, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to submit this statement for the record.

“I also want to quote another Republican – Brent Scowcroft served in the Administration of President George Herbert Walker Bush – Senator John Warner joined Carl Levin, Senator Carl Levin, two chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee, one a Democrat, but before him, a Republican, John Warner.  And they talk about how they support this.  ‘The deal on the table,’ they say, ‘is a strong agreement on many counts, and it leaves in place the robust deterrence and credibility of a military option. We urge our former colleagues not to take any action which would undermine the deterrent value of a coalition that participates in and could support the use of a military option. The failure of the United States to join the agreement would have that effect.’

“I submit Carl Levin and John Warner’s statement for record with your permission, Mr. Speaker.  And again, I refer to statements of my colleagues.  They're thoughtful, they're serious and they're courageous in support of the agreement.

“I'd like to thank President Obama and the entire Administration for being available – as Members sought clarification – to respond to their concerns.  I want to thank the President, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, Secretary Lew and so many others for their leadership and availability to us in a bipartisan way and in our Democratic Caucus.

“For years, Iran’s rapidly accelerating enrichment capability and burgeoning nuclear stockpile has represented one of the greatest threats to peace and security anywhere in the world.  We all stipulate to that.  That's why we need an agreement.  And that's why I'm so pleased that we have so many statements of validation from people out.  The agreement – as the experts say – this agreement is one of the greatest diplomatic achievements of the 21st century.  It's no wonder that such a diverse and extraordinary constellation of experts have made their voices heard in support of this – again, I use the word extraordinary – accord.

“On the steps of the Capitol the other day, with our veterans and with our Gold Star moms who have lost their sons, we heard the words of diplomats and soldiers – generals and admirals, and diplomats by the score – Democrats, Republicans, nonpartisan.  We heard from our most distinguished nuclear physicists.  We heard from those scientists and we heard from people of faith.  And I would like to quote some of them.

“More than 100 Democratic and Republican former diplomats and ambassadors wrote, ‘In our judgment, the JCPOA deserves Congressional support and opportunity to show that it can work.  We firmly believe,’ they said, ‘that the most effective way 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.’  That's the diplomats.

“The generals and admirals wrote, ‘There's no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.  If the Iranians cheat, 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.’  That choice, the choice, is that stark.

“Twenty-nine of our nation's most prominent nuclear scientists and engineers wrote, ‘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 as a guidepost for future non-proliferation agreements.’  I quote that.  ‘And can serve as a guide post for future nonproliferation agreements […] This is an innovative agreement with much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated non-proliferation framework.’  They went on to say more.

“440 Rabbis urge Congress to endorse the statement writing, ‘The Obama administration has successfully brought together the major international powers to confront Iran over its nuclear ambitions.  The broad international sanctions moved Iran to enter this historic agreement,’ and they urge support.

“4,100 Catholic nuns wrote to Congress stating, ‘As women of faith, followers of the one who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” we urge that you risk on the side of peace – and vote to approve the Iran nuclear deal.’

“Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned of the hazards of rejecting the agreement, reminding us that ‘Foreign governments will not continue to make costly sacrifices at our demand.’  ‘Indeed,’ – and I say this in response to something that my distinguished colleague from California said – ‘indeed, they would more likely blame us from walking away from a credible solution to one of the world's greatest security threats, and would continue to re-engage with Iran.’  He went on to say: ‘Instead of toughening the sanctions, a decision by Congress to unilaterally reject the deal would end a decade of isolation of Iran and put the United States at odds with the rest of the world.’  We certainly don't want to do that.

“Today, something very interesting happened, Mr. Speaker.  There was a statement put forth by the U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  They wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post and it says, ‘This is an important moment.  It is a crucial opportunity at a time of heightened global uncertainty to show what diplomacy can achieve.’

This is not an agreement based on trust or any assumption about how Iran may look in 10 or 15 years.  It is based on detailed, tightly-written controls that are verifiable and long lasting. They went on to say, ‘We condemn 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. We would 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. This is why we now want to embark on the full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, once all national procedures are complete.’

And then our own President wrote to Congressman Jerry Nadler, ‘I believe the JCPOA, which cuts off every pathway Iran could have to a nuclear weapon and creates the most robust verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program, is a very good deal for the United States, for the State of Israel, and for the region as a whole.’

“Many of us share the views that have been expressed by those in a position to make a difference on this agreement.  Tuesday night, again, after the votes here in this House, dozens of Members supporting the nuclear agreement stood on the steps of the Capitol.  We were honored to be joined by military veterans and Gold Star families, men and women whose sacrifices remind us of the significance of putting diplomacy before war.  They remind us of the significance of this historic transformational achievement.  Congratulations.  These nuclear physicists congratulated the President on this agreement.  I congratulate him, too.  Our men and women in uniform and our veterans and our Gold Star moms remind us of our first duty, to protect and defend the American people.  I am pleased to say we achieved that with this agreement.

“I urge my colleagues to support the agreement, to vote no on the other items that are being put before us today.  I think we all have to – as we evaluate our decision, ask ourselves – if we were the one deciding vote as to whether this agreement would go forward or that we would fall behind, how would we vote?  None of us has the luxury to walk away from that responsibility.  I'm proud of the statements that our colleagues have made, the agreement the President has reached.  And I know that tomorrow, we will sustain whatever veto the President may have to make.  With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back.”