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- As Delivered - 

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following testimony in opposition to HR 3457, the so-called Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act, before the House Committee on Rules:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  And thank you to Members and to my good friend Judge Poe. 


“You know, we have worked on the Foreign Affairs Committee with Chairman Royce in probably the most bipartisan manner of any committee in Congress.  And I pride myself in saying that.  So does Chairman Royce.  And in doing so we think we’ve made tremendous strides with all the Members of our Committee. 


“Nobody in Congress would accuse me of being a pushover when it comes to Iran.  I’ve authored sanctions bills.  I opposed the nuclear agreement.  And going forward I’ll do whatever I can do to hold Iran’s leaders accountable and to keep a nuclear weapon out of their hands.


“And to add to that, I certainly have enormous sympathy for American victims of Iranian terrorism and their families.  They deserve justice.  But this bill has zero chance of bringing them that justice. 


“To date, American courts have rewarded roughly $46 billion for almost 1,300 victims and their families.  And even if Iran had any intention of paying that amount—and I wouldn’t bet on that—this legislation would actually make it more difficult for Iran to do so.


“You see, Iran only has access to about $20 billion of its reserves.  All the other resources Iran would need to pay for these judgments are frozen by international sanctions.  Iran cannot use these frozen resources to compensate victims.  And of course, this bill says all those other resources stay frozen until Iran pays its judgments in full.


“So it’s really a Catch-22.  Because this bill isn’t about providing justice to the victims of terrorism.  It really just uses the suffering of those victims to score political points and I just don’t think that’s right.
“The bill is the first volley in the effort to try to undermine the Iran deal.  Look, I didn’t like the Iran deal, but we had a vote.  And I’m still going to fight all these issues.  But, it looks like the effort that has taken so much of the House’s time to undermine Obamacare—voting and re-voting on a settled issue.  And like the effort to kill Obamacare, it just won’t work.

“So rather, we should send legislation to the President that will strengthen enforcement for the nuclear deal, protect our friends and allies in the region, and crack down on Iran’s support for terrorist organizations.  I will soon offer measures to advance that agenda, and I hope to work with colleagues of both parties to pursue those goals.  I have no doubt that in the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Royce and I will develop reasoned, bipartisan legislation that will advance our interests around the world.


“So what we shouldn’t do, with all due respect, is to flout regular order and ram through partisan legislation.  This bill has no bipartisan support.  It wouldn’t accomplish anything.  And it shouldn’t be brought to the floor in this manner in my opinion.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”