Floor and Committee Statements

“Mr. President, I rise on January 20, 2016, on the floor of the United States Senate, to acknowledge that today is the 35th anniversary of the return of 52 Americans by the Iranian government to the shores of the United States of America after their captivity for 444 days in Iran.

“As the members of the Senate will remember, [the hostages] were the employees of the United States Embassy in Tehran who were brutally attacked, went through mock executions, subjected to beatings, subjected to brainwashing, subjected to torture. And for 444 days, they were out of communication with their loved ones, with our country.

“Fortunately, we successfully negotiated their release and on January 20, 1981, they were released back to the United States. But that release included the execution of the Algiers Accords between the United States and the Iranians which prohibited any hostage from suing the nation of Iran for compensation for their suffering.

“Since that time, many Americans in the United States House and Senate, including myself, have worked hard to try and right that wrong, and I’m very pleased to acknowledge that on the passage of the omnibus in December, we were able to secure funding to be able to compensate those hostages as they should have been compensated 35 years ago.

“We were able to take money from the Paribas Bank forfeiture of funds from sanctions violations to see that they were compensated, in some measure, for the sacrifice they made for our country.

“A lot of people have said, ‘Why would you pay people, compensate people for their captivity? Why would you [make] the effort after 35 years to see these people got some kind of money to compensate them for their captivity?’

“Why would we not do it, Mr. President? There are Americans all over the world serving in very dangerous places as ambassadors and diplomats through the [U.S.] State Department. They should know we’ve got their backs, not just on the day they’re serving, but 35 years later if they were tortured, if they were beaten or if they were held captive.

“We all know from last weekend, [when we were delighted] to see the Americans that were released by the Iranians now. We also know that there were Americans kidnapped in Iraq, in Baghdad, just two days later.

“Taking hostages and taking American hostages and using them as tools of war is something that’s been happening for years and years and the Iranian government has been at the head of it.

“These Americans deserve fair treatment. They deserve compensation. They deserve recompense for all they have suffered and I’m glad to say that because of a bipartisan effort of the [U.S.] House and the [U.S.] Senate, we were able to do so.

“I want to thank Senator Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin, the Ranking Member, Senator Menendez from New Jersey, Senator Reid from Nevada, and Senator Blumenthal, my ranking member on the Veterans’ Committee of the United States Senate, who were instrumental in helping me in this effortt.d to see to it that the Paribas [Bank] money is made available to the hostages who were taken in 1979.

“We saw to it [the former hostages] were compensated. Some of them have passed away. Some of them have taken their own life. Some of them have had difficulties. Some of them have never been able to rid themselves of the scars of captivity, torture and brainwashing.

“But fortunately this Senate and this Congress did what it was supposed to do: It stood up for America and sent the signal to everybody who works for our State Department who’s a diplomat for our country, who works overseas that, if you’re taken, we’ll stand behind you and we will never, ever, ever forget.

“Whether it’s 444 days or longer, once an American serves our country, we will always be there for you and go to every effort and every length, even if it does take 35 years. So on the anniversary of their release in 1981, when they came back to the United States of America, we pay tribute to those brave Americans who served our country and were held hostage in Iran.

“We give thanks that we have the kind of men and women who are willing - day in and day out - to sacrifice on behalf of our great country. May God bless each and every one of them, and may God bless the United States of America.”