January 29, 2015


WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – released the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s Executive Session meeting to mark-up legislation entitled “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015.”
Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.
Senator Sherrod Brown - Opening Statement: Iran Sanctions Mark-up
January 29, 2015
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  None of us disagrees with the goal of the legislation before us.  We are united in our desire to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon; through peaceful diplomacy if possible, and through other means if necessary.
We differ on tactics, which in legislative debates are often of little consequence.  But in this debate, tactics could have an enormous impact on our national interests.
Many of our colleagues have talked about how economic sanctions have brought Iran to the negotiating table.  I think that is true.  But it has been a solid, multilateral sanctions regime that has done so.
It seems to me that those who have the greatest skepticism about reaching an agreement with Iran should also have the greatest reluctance to do anything to undermine our ability to stiffen sanctions on a multilateral basis should the negotiations fail. 
And yet that is not the case. The Administration, and some of our closest allies, are telling us that unilateral action on sanctions in advance of the conclusion of the negotiations may in fact make it harder to keep the coalition together.
My Democratic colleagues on the Committee, including Senators Schumer, Menendez, Tester, and Donnelly, have indicated that they will give the President at least until after March 24th before agreeing to support new sanctions legislation on the floor.  This is helpful.
Even so, as some of us heard from four European ambassadors yesterday – our closest partners in these negotiations –turning that “soft” deadline in fluid negotiations into a hard deadline for legislative action may have consequences – for the negotiations, for our partners, and for the U.S. – that we can’t now foresee.
Congress should have the collective patience to wait until the end of June to see whether our negotiators can resolve the nuclear issue with Iran through diplomacy.
And once that is determined, and if negotiations fail, Congress and the President will join hands in applying greater pressure.  And we will be in a far better position to ask the rest of the world to join us.
In the past, this Committee has worked patiently to craft tough, targeted sanctions – maximizing their effect on Iran while minimizing unintended consequences for the U.S. and our allies.
Instead, at an especially sensitive time in negotiations, we are considering a bill with no legislative hearings, and no opportunity to thoroughly and responsibly assess the likely consequences of our action.
The additional questions for the witnesses from Tuesday’s hearing are not due until next week.  The answers will be received some time later.  These answers should be used to inform our work, yet we are marking up this bill before we have even decided what questions to ask.
I believe there are substantive issues with this legislation that should be addressed.  Should negotiations fail, what can be implemented and how quickly?  I won’t go into detail today, but these issues need to be resolved before floor consideration.
The President has said new sanctions legislation would dramatically undermine the negotiations, our relations with our negotiating partners, and eventually international support for multilateral sanctions.
He will veto the bill. Our negotiating partners have expressed similar strong opposition. We’re acting hastily today, and unwisely in my judgment.
If Congress acts to force the President’s hand in the next few months by pressing ahead, and overriding his veto, and contributes to the collapse of negotiations and our heading down the path toward a military confrontation, Congress – beginning with each of us – will rightly be held responsible.
This is the first step in a longer legislative process. In the coming weeks and months, I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and both sides of Capitol Hill will finally heed the President’s warnings, and give our negotiators the time they need to try to resolve this diplomatically.
We have the time for all of the relevant committees in both Houses to ensure that all Members are fully informed of the potentially profound, and historic, consequences of our actions.  Let’s use it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.