WASHINGTON – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with CPC Members Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Judy Chu (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) unveiled the Progressive Caucus’ FY 2016 budget alternative called The People’s Budget: A Raise for America.  

The executive summary for The People’s Budget is below and the full budget can be found here.

The press conference to introduce The People’s Budget will be live streamed at noon and can be seen here.

“The most important thing Congress can do as we recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is pass a budget that invests in the American people,” Rep. Grijalva said. The People’s Budget create good paying jobs by addressing our nation’s biggest challenges head-on, from rebuilding crumbling roads to updating antiquated energy infrastructure. It’s a down payment on the continual effort to improve the quality of life for all Americans by raising wages, restoring and enhancing vital programs like SNAP and emergency unemployment compensation, and making bold new investments like debt-free college for all, which will increase our global competitiveness and ensure every student has a fair shot at achieving their dreams.”

"Too many working Americans open their paychecks each week and ask themselves how they will make ends meet," Rep. Ellison said. "The People's Budget fully funds childhood health, education and affordable housing to help working families stretch their paychecks. The Progressive Caucus budget is a blueprint of proven investments to end grinding poverty, promote economic mobility and enable shared prosperity. It asks the wealthiest Americans and multi-national corporations to pay their fair share, so we can afford debt-free college, universal pre-kindergarten, paid sick leave and workforce training for all. The People's Budget makes smart cuts to the Pentagon budget and puts the money towards working families. The People's Budget invests in people, providing hard-working Americans with a raise they deserve."

“First and foremost The People’s Budget reflects our progressive priorities – leveling the economic playing field by increasing wages for middle- and low-income workers," Rep. Pocan said. "With families struggling to make ends meet, it is clear the American people want Congress to help create good-paying jobs and expand economic opportunity for all."

“Working a full time, 40 hour schedule is supposed to lift you out of poverty, not chain you to it,” Rep. Chu said. “It’s not just unfair, it’s wrong. It flies in the face of the promise of America. And it is why this budget – The People’s Budget – is so necessary. This budget promises to not only to grow our economy but to tackle inequality.”

“During our economy’s best decades, Congress invested in the American workforce and every family was better off for it. But recent years have been dominated by growing inequality and a Republican majority in Congress obsessed with slashing the budget, making it harder for working Americans to find decent jobs and save for the future,” Rep. Jackson Lee said. “The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget reverses the damage budget austerity has inflicted on hard-working families and restores our economy to its full potential by creating 8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018.”

“Today Americans are working more and earning less. Republicans, however, continue putting forth a budget that gives tax breaks to the wealthy instead of helping working American families,”  Rep. Gallego said. “While the GOP budget would end Medicare guarantees and make cuts to education that would make college even less affordable, the Congressional Progressive Caucus does the opposite ensuring that we make investments in the American people - creating good paying jobs, providing universal pre-K, and restoring funding for programs like SNAP that many American families rely on. It’s time for us to pass a budget that reflects the needs of the American people and focuses on giving American families the best opportunity to move ahead.”

“The Progressive Caucus works on everyday issues of the working family, and our budget reflects this commitment,” Rep. Napolitano said. “We will continue to fight to deliver that which we all feel is a necessity for our districts, for our working class.”

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget expands economic opportunity for middle class and lower income families and reflects priorities different from the House Republican proposal,” Rep. Hahn said. “Our budget creates jobs and invests in essential repairs and upgrades to America’s roads, highways and bridges to keep us globally competitive in the future.  The CPC budget also includes my recommendation to fully spend the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, returning money collected at our nation’s ports so they can make necessary improvements.”

“Despite a recovering economy, too many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet,” Rep. Lee said. “This budget supports American families and focuses on much needed investments here at home. This budget also reins in waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon and ends the OCO slush funds for defense contractors.”

The People’s Budget Executive Summary

The People's Budget fixes an economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the opportunities American families need to get ahead. Despite their skills and work ethic, most American workers and families are so financially strapped from increasing income inequality that their paychecks barely cover basic necessities. They earn less and less as corporations and the wealthy continue amassing record profits. It has become clear to American workers that the system is rigged.

The People’s Budget levels the playing field and creates economic opportunity by increasing the pay of middle- and low-income Americans. More customers and higher consumer spending advance American businesses, not tax cuts and relaxed regulations. The People’s Budget drives a full economic recovery by creating high-quality jobs and reducing family expenses, restoring the buying power of working Americans.

The People’s Budget closes tax loopholes that companies use to ship jobs overseas. It creates fair tax rates for millionaires and provides needed relief to low- and middle-income families. It invests in debt-free college, workforce training and small businesses within our communities, helping return our economy to full employment and giving a raise to Americans who need it most. Investments in The People’s Budget boost employment and wages by addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time: repairing America’s rapidly aging roads and bridges, upgrading our energy systems to address climate change, keeping our communities safe, and preparing our young people to thrive as citizens and workers.

A fair wage is more than the size of a paycheck. It’s having enough hours, paid overtime, sick and parental leave, and affordable health and childcare. It’s being able to afford a good education for your kids and never living in fear that your job will be sent overseas. It’s knowing you can make ends meet at the end of the month. The People’s Budget helps achieve that with a raise for American workers, a raise for struggling families and a boost to America’s long-term global competitiveness.

 

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WASHINGTON – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with CPC Peace and Security Taskforce Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) held a forum today on ISIL and President Obama’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The Congressional Progressive Caucus heard from policy experts who discussed the need for a comprehensive solution to the conflict in Syria and Iraq. The hearing can be seen here.

Congress has the responsibility to hold this president – and every president – accountable when sending troops into harm’s way. President Obama’s proposal to fight ISIL fails to meet minimal expectations for political, economic and diplomatic solutions that will be vital to ending hostilities," Rep. Grijalva said. “The fact that an outdated and overreaching AUMF from 2001 has been relied on more than 30 times since it went into effect only emphasizes the need for specificity to prevent ongoing conflicts and mission creep in United States' military engagements. Congress must demand real answers from this administration before committing to any military action going forward.

"Before the United States enters a conflict, the elected representatives of the American people must debate and vote on a specific and narrow AUMF,” Rep. Ellison said. “We have to make it clear that the 2001 and 20002 AUMFs do not authorize the executive to wage perpetual war. We have learned the painful lesson that prolonged American military engagement in Iraq will not stop terrorism. Defeating the so-called Islamic State requires a comprehensive solution led by Middle East regional powers; open-ended AUMFs do not solve the problem.” 

“Our nation has been involved in a half year war that has no end in sight. Despite calls from Members of Congress and the American people, there has been no debate on this vital national security issue,” Rep. Barbara Lee said. “As we advance strategies to ultimately degrade and dismantle ISIL, we must ensure that these strategies are effective, comprehensive and do not continue our policy of blank checks for endless war. It’s past time for Congress to re-establish its vital role in matters of war and peace.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to close loopholes in the revised DOJ profiling guidance released in December of 2014. While the revised guidance prohibits profiling based on ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity, the guidance provides exceptions for activities within the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Patrol. The Chairs of the caucuses released the following statements:

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:

“The updated guidance is an important step toward ending profiling that has come after a decade’s work on this issue.  But, more work must be done to close the loopholes that still allow certain law enforcement agencies to continue biased-based profiling. Approximately half of the House Democrats, representing thousands of minority communities, have sent a strong message to the Department of Justice (DOJ) that bias-based profiling is unacceptable, without exception. We also urge the DOJ to hold law enforcement accountable to the guidance through data driven tracking of profiling complaints and a thorough complaint process. In the end, these steps will help to bridge the divide between communities of color and law enforcement, and make us more secure.”

Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), CBC Chair:

“The Congressional Black Caucus has asserted for years that Black Americans are treated unfairly and disproportionally in the criminal justice system, and we know that police bias and excessive use of force are real in the African American community.  This is a critical time in our country and an opportunity to restore the trust of the American public in our criminal justice system. We must ensure that all Americans are treated equally before the law, and it starts with efforts to reform the guidelines used by federal law enforcement.  The CBC joins with our colleagues from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) to urge the DOJ to take stronger action and reform the 2014 federal law enforcement profiling guidance to end racial and discriminatory profiling.”

Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, CHC Chair:

“The Department of Justice’s updated guidance on racial profiling was a necessary first step. There are still a number of loopholes affecting immigrants and Latinos that need to be addressed. Given current events, it is critically important that we prevent and eliminate discriminatory profiling once and for all. Our communities of color deserve equal justice under the law.”

Congressman Keith Ellison, CPC Co-Chair:

“The Department of Justice report on Ferguson made it clear: when we break from our values, our communities suffer. Equal protection under the law is a bedrock American principle and it cannot be compromised, especially by law enforcement. It's time to end discriminatory profiling once and for all.”

Congressman Raúl Grijalva, CPC Co-Chair:

“Discriminatory profiling by law enforcement will not end through half-measures and exceptions for our rules. I am heartened by the revised guidelines the Department of Justice released to address this continuing problem, but where loopholes remain, profiling will too. I am particularly concerned by the fact that the DOJ’s exemptions are for the exact same areas of law enforcement where profiling is relied upon the most. This practice is a complete departure from our values as a nation that values equality, and it must be stopped, once and for all.”

A link to the letter can be found here.

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WASHINGTON-Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Linda Sánchez (D-CA), and Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Judy Chu (D-CA) sent a letter last week to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray calling for a strong national standard for payday loans.

The text of the letter is below and a PDF copy can be found here.

 

The Honorable Richard Cordray

Director

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

1700 G Street, NW

Washington, D.C.  20552

 

Dear Director Cordray:

We are writing in support of strong, effective rules governing payday loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a responsibility to protect consumers from these predatory and exploitive financial products, and we urge you to implement rules that would prohibit fraudulent and abusive payday loans that threaten the economic well-being of so many Americans, especially those from low-income communities of color.

While several states have recently passed new laws and others have increased the enforcement on the abusive nature of these loans, the need for federal regulation is pressing. As of 2014, at least 36 states still permit these abusive loans, and many do so without restriction.[i]  Moreover, the prevalence of internet payday lending has grown tremendously in recent years. In fact, one in every three payday loans originates online, some with rates as high as 700% APR or more.[ii]    

What is particularly concerning is that payday lenders target low-income communities and communities of color. According to a four state study conducted by Howard University’s Center on Race and Wealth, 12 million people living in low-income communities use payday loans annually. Those individuals averaged eight payday loans each year with an average interest rate of 400 percent for each loan. Nearly 90 percent of payday lenders referenced in the study were located in low-income communities of color.

The prevalence of such predatory and abusive practices is unacceptable. The payday loan industry robs borrowers of the opportunity to secure a foothold in the mainstream financial services market by locking borrowers into a long-term debt trap and by increasing the likelihood that a borrower will suffer other harmful financial consequences, such as bankruptcy, excessive overdraft fees, and involuntary bank account closures. The resulting adverse impact on credit scores, which lenders use to determine a borrower’s eligibility, can make it even harder for individuals to avail themselves of mainstream financial services. This means that the millions of individuals from low-income communities and communities of color are further disadvantaged and further unable to break free of existing socio-economic barriers.

That is why we need a clear, consistent, national standard that ensures that no one in this country is subject to predatory lending practices. To that end, we urge the CFPB to implement rules to stem predatory practices that are based on exorbitant interest rates and fees that draw consumers into a harmful cycle of repeat lending. Specifically, we ask that the CFPB meaningfully reform the marketplace by implementing rules governing both storefront and online payday lending that would:

1.    Require the lender to determine the borrower’s ability to repay the loan, including consideration of both income and expenses;

2.   Not sanction any series of repeat loans or provide any safe harbor;

3.   Recognize that borrowers need small dollar loans with good terms, not short-term loans that are difficult for them to repay. The CFPB should establish an outer limit on length of indebtedness that is at least as short as the FDIC’s 2005 guidelines – 90 days in a twelve-month period; and

4.   Prohibit lenders from using post-dated checks of electronic access to a borrower’s checking account as evidence of ability to repay the loan.

We thank you for your leadership and consideration of our suggestions for strong protections for consumers in the financial market. We look forward to working with you and the Bureau to establish clear rules for the payday lending industry in order to protect consumers from products that have been shown to be financially damaging.

Very truly yours,


[i] The Pew Charitable Trusts, How State Rate Limits Affect Payday Loan Prices, April 10, 2014, available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2014/04/10/how-state-rate-limits-affect-payday-loan-prices.

[ii] The Pew Charitable Trusts, Key Findings About Internet Payday Lending: Harmful Practices, Fraud, and Abuse Abound in a Growing Industry, Oct. 02, 2014, available at http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/multimedia/data-visualizations/2014/key-findings-about-internet-payday-lending.

WASHINGTON –The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released broad principles today to establish standards for U.S. trade policy that put workers first, balance trade deficits, and improve labor and environmental protections around the world. The Congressional Progressive Caucus believes it is possible to negotiate a trade agreement that doesn’t replicate the mistakes of the past, and instead creates a new model for trade, promoting balanced growth for the global economy.

The text of the executive summary is below and the full version can be viewed here. 

Principles for Trade: A Model for Global Progress

America’s current trade policy fails working families while increasing profits for the world’s largest corporations. Trade agreements should create a net increase of good American jobs, spur more balanced trade between partners, and improve governance, public health, and environmental protections around the world. The Congressional Progressive Caucus believes the following principles can ensure fairer trade agreements by prioritizing middle class families and removing special protections and privileges for corporations:

  • Protect Congress’ Authority to Set Trade Policy
  • Restore Balanced trade
  • Put Workers First
  • Stop Currency Manipulation
  • Expand Buy America Procurement Practices
  • Protect the Environment for Future Generations
  • Prioritize Consumers above Profits
  • Protect Nationhood Rights
  • Secure Affordable Access to Essential Medicines and Services
  • Respect Human Rights
  • Provide a Safety Net for Vulnerable Workers

Since implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, the United States has lost millions of jobs in key sectors like manufacturing, wages have stagnated, and the standard of living for working families has dropped.

Outside of the United States, misguided trade policies are devastating both rural and urban communities in emerging nations, from the displacement of millions of small farmers in Mexico to low wages and terrible conditions for garment factory workers in Honduras.  Trade agreements that destroy local livelihoods and provide workers with little economic opportunity create strong incentives for immigration to the United States. U.S. trade policy must focus on creating economic opportunity for working people in the United States and abroad, not only on maximizing short-term profits for large corporations.

The United States negotiates some of the world’s largest trade agreements. These deals must put working families and our environment first. The United States must stop using trade agreements as investment deals for the world’s wealthiest corporations and instead prioritize higher wages, safer work and environmental standards, and a healthier world economy.

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WASHINGTON – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to approve Chairman Wheeler’s proposal protecting net neutrality through Title II reclassification of Internet access.

“We applaud the FCC for supporting an open and free Internet. After millions of comments from people all across the country, the FCC has validated their voices and ensured the Internet remains the democratic platform it is today.

“The Internet provides a space for free expression, and makes room for voices that are shut out of mainstream media.  Reclassifying the Internet as a common carrier prevents a handful of powerful companies from controlling how Americans access the Internet. Allowing Internet service providers to create fast lanes would give an unfair advantage to a lucky few and burden the rest of us with a slower Internet. It would also create barriers for the web entrepreneurs and innovators who have great ideas, but wouldn’t be able to compete on a pay-to-play Internet. Today's decision preserves the people's voice and allows the Internet to remain democratic and open.” 

The Congressional Progressive Caucus was an early proponent of net neutrality and led the fight in Congress by sending FCC Chairman Wheeler a letter in May of 2014 and later sending comments to the FCC in July 2014.

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after the White House announced that the Department of Labor is moving forward with a rule to expand the definition of retirement investor advisors who must put their clients’ interests first.

“We applaud President Obama and Secretary Perez's bold move to protect working Americans saving for retirement from financial advice that is not in their best interest. Every month the industry lobbyists who tried to stop this rule cost American savers as much as $1.4 billion dollars in overpaid fees and hidden commissions.  

“When workers leave a job, they can be encouraged to roll over their low-cost, quality employer-based retirement account into an IRA. Too frequently, working Americans do not realize the IRA they are being offered is actually a product that they are being sold. The product could have higher fees and worse investment options than the plan they had. Under current law, the person selling the plan to the worker does not have to put the client’s best interest first. That’s just wrong. The Department of Labor is siding with retirees to hold financial advisors to a higher standard.   

“Seniors are facing choices that will determine the security of their retirement. The rule proposed today improves the retirement investment marketplace and requires financial advisors and broker dealers to work in their client’s best interests.

“Expanding Social Security benefits, providing investor protections for consumers, and strengthening the private pension system are all important things government can do to create a system that ensures America’s seniors will be able to retire with security and dignity.  The CPC supports the President’s actions today and encourages him to propose the strongest possible rule.” 

By updating the definition to include advisors who encourage workers to roll their employer-sponsored retirement accounts, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, etc., into IRAs, the proposed rule will protect working families from high fees, hidden commissions and inferior product choices The Department of Labor will soon seek comments on a rule that promotes transparency, accountability and minimum conflict of interest. The proposed rule is expected to still allow advisors to give general advice and to give investors the option of choosing different types of fee-based advice plans. The proposed rule is not expected to prohibit commissions or revenue sharing.

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and CPC Peace and Security Task Force Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) released the following statement today in response to President Obama’s proposal for an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL. 

“The devastating and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that when we give military authority to the executive, it should not be a blank check. Prolonged military action requires robust debate and authorization from Congress, so we are glad that President Obama has presented a proposal. One of Congress’s most important roles is to declare war, and an AUMF is a declaration of war.

“Unfortunately, the authorization proposed by the president this week is too broad. In order to ensure meaningful limits on executive branch authority, an AUMF should at a minimum contain a clear objective and geographical limitations. It should also include an enforceable ban on the deployment of ground troops with exception for only the most limited of operations, unambiguous language, and a repeal of the 2001 AUMF.

“The Administration has argued that the 2001 AUMF, which was designed to declare war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban shortly after the attacks of 9/11 but has since been broadly applied more than 30 times, provides the legal authority for any existing and future operations against ISIL. Until Congress declares that the 2001 AUMF does not apply to ISIL, any limitations or restrictions in the AUMF proposed by the president are irrelevant.

“An AUMF debated by Congress should also be comprehensive, and include the political, economic, and diplomatic solutions that will ultimately degrade and dismantle ISIL. We should work to cut the flow of money, weapons, and fighters to ISIL. We should push the United Nations to start negotiations to end the Syrian civil war. Most importantly, we should ensure that our humanitarian aid is not eclipsed by our military efforts.  

“In the coming weeks, the Congressional Progressive Caucus will be holding hearings and meetings on the AUMF. One thing is clear now: the conflict in Syria and Iraq requires a comprehensive solution. ISIL’s barbaric tactics are designed to pull the United States into another endless conflict. We must provide careful consideration to an AUMF, but lasting peace and stability will only come with a regional political solution.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus led the fight for calling for Congressional debate on the use of force against ISIL. In the 113th Congress, the CPC introduced H. Con. Res. 114, which called for debate and a vote on any US sustained combat role against ISIL, supported a ban on the deployment of combat ground troops, and argued that any AUMF must be narrowly tailored and include robust reporting requirements.  CPC Peace and Security Taskforce Chair Barbara Lee recently introduced the Comprehensive Solutions to ISIL Act, which would ensure that the Administration pursues a comprehensive strategy to degrade and dismantle ISIL, repeals the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, bars the deployment of combat ground troops, and requires the Administration to submit to Congress a “comprehensive diplomatic, political, economic and regionally-led strategy.”

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WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after Federal Communications Commission Chairman  (FCC) Tom Wheeler released a proposal to reclassify the internet as a common carrier, protecting net neutrality.

“Today’s victory belongs to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who wrote letters, organized protests, tweeted and demanded the FCC protect a free and open Internet. Reclassification is the only way to stop providers from increasing prices and restricting the Internet for those who can’t afford to pay for fast lanes. We applaud Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to continue the Internet’s role as an engine for democracy and free expression, and we hope the full commission approves it. Too often in Washington, D.C., only the biggest corporations get what they want. Today’s move to reclassify the Internet is proof that when we organize together we can win.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus led the fight for net neutrality in Congress, standing with advocates, sending a letter in May of 2014 to the FCC Chairman demanding a free and open Internet, and submitting comments in July 2014

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Washington, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with CPC Peace and Security Task Force Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) sent a letter to Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Richard Shelby and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown and House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Elliot Engel urging them to postpone enacting new sanctions legislation on Iran. The letter opposes sanctions that threaten to derail the P5+1 negotiations, which is an ongoing effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The text of the letter is below and a signed version can be found here.

 

The Honorable Richard Shelby

The Honorable Sherrod Brown

U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

 

The Honorable Ed Royce

The Honorable Elliot Engel

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

 

Dear Chairmen Shelby and Royce and Ranking Members Brown and Engel:

We write to urge you to postpone enacting new sanctions legislation against Iran. We fully support the P5+1 effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and stand strongly opposed to legislation that threatens to derail these negotiations. Thanks to the tireless work of our diplomats and our negotiating partners, Iran’s nuclear program is frozen and there is a real prospect for peacefully ensuring Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

Enacting new sanctions legislation now undermines the efforts of the P5+1 and is contrary to a peaceful solution. Given the sensitive timing, Congressional action should reflect support for a negotiated settlement over the Iranian nuclear dispute rather than pushing legislation that could take us off the negotiating track and escalate towards war. There is significant risk in passing sanctions legislation now, whereas there is no risk in waiting. Congress has proved that it can quickly pass sanctions legislation if necessary.

We are unequivocal in our agreement that Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon would pose a grave threat to international peace and stability and the national security of the United States and our allies. As the IAEA has confirmed, the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) went into effect in January 2014, Iran has complied with the preliminary agreement by terminating the enrichment of uranium beyond the 5 percent level, eliminating its stockpile of medium enriched uranium, halting progress at the Arak nuclear reactor, and allowing far more intrusive inspections from the IAEA. The JPOA has made Americans and the rest of the world safer; it does not make sense to pass new sanctions legislation when the IAEA has determined that Iran has adhered to the obligations outlined in this agreement and when negotiators are within reach of a final agreement.

The only logical reason to pass sanctions legislation now is if the goal is to derail negotiations. As Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) recently said, “the end of negotiations isn’t an unintended consequence of congressional action; it is an intended consequence.” 1 There is widespread agreement that new sanctions legislation would compromise the negotiations, not provide leverage to negotiators.

In December National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that new sanctions on Iran would “blow up” nuclear negotiations and that “the P5+1 would fracture, the international community would blame the United States rather than Iran for the collapse of the negotiations, and the Iranians would conclude that there’s little point in pursuing this process at the negotiating table.”2 Last week Israeli Mossad chairman Tamir Pardo echoed Rice, saying a new sanction bill would be “like throwing a grenade into the process.”3 Sanctions may have brought Iran to the table, but they aren’t keeping them there— negotiators are doing that.

A diplomatic solution to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is in the best interest of U.S. national security. During his Congressional testimony Ambassador Tom Pickering noted that “without a realization to reach a negotiated agreement, the U.S. may be left with two unpalatable options: containing a nuclear armed Iran or war.”4

We are committed to ensuring that a diplomatic solution succeeds and will not support legislation that compromises nuclear negotiations with Iran. We stand ready to urge the Congressional Progressive Caucus to sustain a veto of harmful legislation.

In the event that a final status agreement is reached, we are prepared to work with the Administration to repeal sanctions legislation in accordance with the terms of such an agreement upon stringent verification that Iran has adhered to its obligations.

Our negotiators need support from Congress to accomplish the objective shared by lawmakers, the Administration, and the American people, which is to peacefully prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

______________________________

1 Tom Cotton remarks, http://www.armscontrol.orglissue-briefs/20 15-01 -15/Congress-Should-Support-Negotiations-Not-New-Iran-Sanctions

2 Susan Rice remarks, http://thehill.comlpolicy/internntionall2257s9-rice-new-sanctions-would-blow-up-iran-talks ~

3 Tamir Pardo remarks, http://www.bloombergview.comlarticles/2015-0 I -22/netanyahu-mossad-split-divides-u-s-congress-on-Iran-sanctions

4 Tom Pickering testimony, http://iranprojectfcsny.org/ambassador-thomas-pickerings-testimony-to-the-u-s-armed services-committee/

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