WASHINGTON, DC – Republicans in the Senate and House praised President Trump’s decision on Friday to decertify the Iran nuclear deal and allow Congress to take on the matter.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ), who has been one of the president’s biggest critics, hailed his decision.
“For years, the Iranian regime has literally been getting away with murder,” he said in a statement. “I agree with the President that the deal is not in the vital national interests of the United States.”
Armed Services Committee senior member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said, “The president’s action today marks a strong new beginning to America’s foreign policy – one where our allies trust us and our enemies respect us.”
Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) said Trump is “correct to decertify President Obama’s dangerous Iran Nuclear Deal because it is not in national security interests.”
And Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who is working on legislation to strengthen the nuclear deal, said Trump made the “right decision.”
“By not certifying it, President Trump has given Iran a wake-up call and redirected our Iran policy toward advancing U.S. interests and those of our allies,” he said.
Over on the House side, Republicans also hailed the move.
“President Trump has every right to decertify Iranian compliance with the JCPOA. Moreover, I applaud his efforts,” said House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ).
Republicans had criticized the Obama administration for leaving them out of the negotiating process of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for temporary limits to its nuclear program.
But Trump’s decision on Friday to decertify Iran’s compliance with the deal kicks the issue over to Congress – giving them 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions and potentially blow up the deal on Iran or to do nothing and leave the deal intact.
The White House and Republicans are working on a third option, however – to impose new legislation that would strengthen the existing deal by creating new “trigger points” for sanctions to kick back in.
Those trigger points could include ballistic missile launches by Iran, a refusal to extend constraints on nuclear fuel production, or a determination by the U.S. intelligence community that Iran could reach a “breakout time” – or produce a nuclear weapon – in less than a year.
Republicans expressed eagerness to begin working on that legislation.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on additional legislation to increase sanctions and other pressure to hold Iran accountable for its broader destructive behavior in the region,” McCain said. “I am also eager to collaborate with our partners and allies to revisit the most problematic provisions of the nuclear deal, and support a unified, forceful international front in the event that Iran materially breaches the terms of the agreement.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said, “As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I look forward to considering legislation to address many of the issues the President raised in his speech today.”
“I look forward to working with the President, his administration and my colleagues in Congress to make meaningful, substantive changes to the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” Inhofe added.
There were some Republicans who expressed doubts over whether the Iran deal could be altered, however.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), an Iran hawk and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Politico, “I’m generally skeptical of the ability to fix it. I hope I’m wrong. I’m concerned that continuing to adhere to the deal in any capacity has long-term consequences that would make things worse, not better.”
But, he said, he is “willing to be persuaded.”
House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner (R-OH) was also lukewarm, even though he said he initially opposed the deal.
“In my briefings from the International Atomic Energy Agency, it appears that Iran is materially complying with the provisions that require Iran abandon pursuit of the development of nuclear weapons,” he said. “After the President’s statements today, the international community and Congress must provide sufficient leverage for amending the agreement in ways that could ensure Iran never obtains nuclear weapons.”
House and Senate Democrats predictably slammed Trump’s decision, arguing it would leave the U.S. isolated.
“Unfortunately, this is just the latest example of President Trump alienating the U.S. from our partners and allies,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.
“President Trump’s refusal to certify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action only serves to undermine America’s credibility and isolate us from the rest of the global community,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
But Perdue argued that the opposite was true.
“Decertification gives the U.S. significant leverage at the negotiating table to get the international community on board to tackle non-nuclear issues and to address shortcomings in the deal,” he said.
“President Trump is doing what the last administration refused to do: reengaging with the rest of the world, while asserting American security interests,” he added.
Cotton, who is working on legislation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), said it would not conflict with the Iran deal upon passage.
“Instead, it would set conditions that halt Iran’s nuclear program and provide a window of time for firm diplomacy and pressure to work,” said a fact sheet explaining key provisions of the proposed legislation.
Trump did, however, threaten to terminate the deal altogether if the White House and Congress could not come up with legislation.
Some members of Congress indicated they would support that move.
“To pretend there’s a ‘deal’ worth making with the genocidal theocrats in Tehran is delusional,” Franks said:
Mr. Obama’s Iran Deal protected protocol to enrich uranium and produce plutonium on its own soil, paid them a $400 million ransom via cargo plane, freed up $100 billion for Iran to spend on exporting terrorism, and provided them a path to a nuclear weapon without having to violate the provisions of the Deal thanks to the sunset provisions.
“With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why the author of the Art of the Deal might want to retract this one.”