Hagerty on Senate Floor: Congress Must Have a Say in Iran Nuclear Agreement; Questions Biden’s Push to Unleash Energy Production for our Adversaries

March 8, 2022

“This Administration would rather work with killers than American drillers […] If the Biden Administration refuses to submit its new Iran agreement to Congress, it will be ignoring the law and undermining the role of this body in U.S. foreign policy.”

WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, today delivered remarks on the Senate floor, seeking to draw attention to ongoing negotiations in Vienna where the Biden Administration is working to revive the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran that the Trump Administration rightly withdrew from in 2018. Hagerty questioned why President Biden appears more eager to unleash energy production for our adversaries than right here in America, and to demand preservation of the role of Congress amid concern that the Administration will not submit an agreement with Iran to Congress for an up-or-down vote—as required by law. Hagerty also implored his colleagues to co-sponsor his Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act of 2021.

*Click to photo above or here to watch*

Remarks as Prepared

Mr. President,

Much of the news media today is focused on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine—and rightfully so.

But not enough attention is being paid to the negotiations that are happening today and have been happening in Vienna.

The Biden Administration appears dead-set on reviving—at any cost—the Iran nuclear deal.

Worse, President Biden’s chief negotiator Rob Malley—whom I observe, is not a Senate-confirmed official—outsourced our negotiations for reviving this flawed Iran deal to the Russians.

This is outrageous.

Let me get this straight:  We’re working hand-in-glove with Vladimir Putin to reach a deal that will help Russia evade sanctions being imposed for its aggression in Ukraine and work with its ally, Iran.

This is not the way to protect the safety and interests of the American people.

This is what Russia’s chief negotiator to the Iran talks had to say about what he’s accomplished for the Biden Administration.

“I am absolutely sincere in this regard when I say that Iran got much more than it could expect, much more,” he recently told reporters, adding: “Realistically speaking, Iran got more than frankly, I expected or others expected.  This is a matter of fact.”

Again, this is Russia’s chief negotiator making this statement.

Most alarmingly, this revived deal would pave Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

News reports also suggest that the revived deal would quickly unleash $90 billion in frozen funds to Iran, again, the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism.

Moreover, Iran can expect to earn roughly $50 billion annually in renewed oil exports.

It is unconscionable that the Biden Administration appears more eager to unleash energy production in Venezuela and Iran than right here in America.

The Biden Administration is so stubborn and blinded by its ideological green-energy fantasies that it would rather work with terrorists and dictators, with some of the worst human rights records in history, than admit that it was a mistake to abandon America’s energy independence. 

This Administration would rather work with killers than American drillers.

As before, the Iranian regime will use this massive windfall of sanctions relief to fund terrorism and aggression against our ally Israel, against our Arab partners, and against Americans serving in the Middle East.

Let me be clear:  The Trump Administration was right to withdraw us from the Iran nuclear deal in May of 2018.

But, I am not here today to debate the pros and cons of resurrecting the Iran deal.

We will likely have that debate in the days to come and probably sooner than most people think.

Rather, Mr. President, I am here today to argue for preserving the role that Congress—amid concern that the Biden Administration will not submit their new Iran nuclear deal for review and for an up-or-down vote—that Congress must maintain its role as required by U.S. law.

If news reports are to be believed, the Biden Administration may be nearing the end of negotiations for an agreement to resuscitate the Iran deal.  

As Reuters reported recently: “The draft text of the agreement, which is more than 20 pages long, stipulates a sequence of steps to be implemented….”

Mr. President, in 2014 and 2015, many lawmakers passionately argued that the original Iran deal should have been submitted to the Senate as a treaty requiring our advice and consent under the U.S. Constitution.

But because the Obama Administration refused to follow the Constitution, Congress was compelled to enact the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act—or INARA.

INARA passed the Senate in a 99-to-1 vote.  99 to 1!  This is nearly unanimous, a bipartisan vote that reflects how frustrated the Senate is that the Executive Branch was trying to circumvent Congress on such an important matter.

INARA clearly requires that any agreement—I repeat, any agreement—related to the nuclear program of Iran should be submitted to the Senate and to the House for congressional review, including for an up-or-down vote.

It is beyond debate that the Biden Administration is required by law to submit any new agreement for reviving the Iran deal to Congress for congressional review.

But the Biden Administration has not clearly committed that it will submit whatever agreement it is negotiating in Vienna for our review and an up-or-down vote by Congress.

If the Biden Administration refuses to submit its new Iran agreement to Congress, it will be ignoring the law and undermining the role of this body in foreign policy.

Last year, I was concerned that this might happen.

That is why I introduced the Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act of 2021.

My bill borrows a provision from the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act—or CAATSA—an Act that overwhelmingly passed Congress in 2017.

The CAATSA provision allows for congressional review and an up-or-down vote on any presidential waiver of Russia sanctions.

My bill takes—word-for-word—that same provision and applies it to any presidential waiver of Iran sanctions.

This is important because any new agreement to revive the Iran deal will require, once again, the Executive Branch to waive Iran sanctions.

In other words, my bill protects the role of Congress if the Executive Branch ignores INARA and refuses to submit the new agreement to the Senate and to the House.

So far, 37 Senators have co-sponsored the Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act with me.

This number is significant because 37 Senators would be more than enough to deny the Senate’s advice and consent if the Executive Branch actually followed the Constitution and presented the new Iran agreement to the Senate as a treaty.

Mr. President, I urge my colleagues, who have not yet co-sponsored the Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act, to join me, and to do so.

We must protect the first branch of government from an Executive Branch that seeks to encroach upon it or even to ignore it.

I also remind the Biden Administration, the Iranian regime, and the world, of a fact that should be patently obvious by now.

Any agreement to revive the Iran nuclear deal that lacks the Senate’s advice and consent under the Constitution—that is, lacks the support of 67 Senators—will not survive multiple presidential administrations.

It will be ripped up.  Just like it was the last time.

And I have zero doubt that—as before—the next presidential administration will end this deal again, and will snap back sanctions—with a vengeance—against the Iranian regime and those countries who are foolish enough to trade with it.

Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.