March 19, 2019

Deal or no deal? A busy road ahead for Congress

The region’s Democratic Congressmen are speaking out about the Iran nuclear deal forged by a Democratic president — with reservation.

Speaking to the Journal hours after the landmark deal was announced on July 14, Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) expressed concerns about the deal but stopped far short of rejecting it. 

“If we accept the agreement,” Schiff said in a phone interview on Tuesday from Washington, D.C., “it means Iran will have a lot more resources to support Hezbollah and Hamas to continue its interference in places like Yemen, its support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and it will also get to preserve its nuclear enrichment capacity, although to a lesser degree. On the other hand, if we reject it, we can’t be sure we’ll keep the international coalition together and I think it is unlikely Iran, as a result of new sanctions, will be forced back to make greater concessions.

“So, serious consequences flow in either direction. It would be much easier if this was a black or white issue,” Schiff continued, “but it’s just not.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) released a statement also suggesting he is unsure what to think about the deal, which involves the lifting of sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran halting the development of its nuclear program for at least 10 years.

Congress has 60 days to review the deal and will vote to approve or reject it. President Barack Obama has veto power over any decision Congress makes. 

In the meantime, Congress members are bracing for days of meetings with various constituencies about the deal — with some already underway. Schiff said that he met with representatives of various Jewish groups the weekend before the deal was reached, including American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and 30 Years After, an Iranian-American Jewish organization. Sam Yebri, president and co-founder of 30 Years After, confirmed in an interview with the Journal that members of his organization met with Schiff. Yebri said that the meeting involved Iranian-American Jewish community members discussing with Schiff their firsthand experience with the governance of the Iranian regime. 

Sherman, for his part, took a more oppositional tone with regard to the deal than did Schiff and Lieu. Speaking to the Journal shortly after he delivered remarks before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which he is a member, Sherman said that although he is disappointed with the deal, his main concern is determining what happens from here. 

He told the Journal that the text of the deal amounts to more than 100 pages and that nearly every sentence in the text requires cross-referencing work. He anticipated there would be a lot of work ahead before he can make a decision as to how he would like to vote.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, denounced the deal outright during an interview he participated in with The New York Times on Tuesday.

Last month, Royce, during an appearance at local synagogue Bais Naftoli, said a deal with Iran would need to allow inspectors the right to visit the Iranian nuclear sites. He lamented the fact that the deal was based around a 10-year timeframe as opposed to a 20-year one. 

For Sherman, a longtime member of Congress, the issue of preventing the Iranians from building a nuclear bomb is a personal one. 

“I’ve been through the seven stages of grief on the Iran nuclear program. I declared in my first few months in Congress that the Iran nuclear program was the No. 1 threat to American security. No one was saying that then, so I’ve been through the grief, I’ve been through the denial, I’ve been through the anger,” he said Tuesday. “For me, the question is what do we do now, not to return to July 13 and to a president who might’ve wanted to get tougher on Iran, but what do you do today when you have a president who has agreed to a deal?
We have to keep working on this, and we cannot accept the ugly 10th year of this agreement.”