APN Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending October 18, 2013

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Iran P5+1 Talks Meet Congressional Skepticism and Scorn
3. Members on Partial Suspension of Egypt Aid
4. Hearings
5. Members on the Record

Briefly noted:
10/17: New Peace Now Report: Settlement Construction Surge in First Half of 2013

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(PRECONDITIONS FOR ANY IRAN SANCTIONS RELIEF & CALL FOR IMMEDIATE NEW SANCTIONS) S. Res. 269 (text also here): Introduced 10/16 by Rubio (R-FL) and Risch (R-ID), "A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on United States policy regarding possession of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities by the Islamic Republic of Iran." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. The resolution's "resolved" clauses state explicitly that "relief of sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program imposed upon Iran by the United States should only be provided once Iran has completely abandoned its nuclear weapons program, including any enrichment or reprocessing capability, and has provided complete transparency to the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding its work on weaponization of a nuclear device" and that until this happens, "Congress should move to pass a new round of additional sanctions without delay." Rubio further fleshed out his views on the issue in a press release, a 10/15 op-ed in USA Today, and in a 10/15 floor statement. Speaking on the Senate floor, Rubio dismissed the current negotiations, arguing, "Do you want to understand why they [Iran] are doing all this now, what their plan is? It is not that hard to understand. ...they are trying to get us and the world to agree to weaken the sanctions without them having to agree to any concessions that are irreversible, to any concessions that irreversibly block their ability to one day build that weapon. This ambition of theirs, this plan they have is clear as day. They are trying to figure out if they can get these sanctions suspended or lifted without giving up too much. Then at some point in the future, when the world has moved on, when we are focused on other things, they can then make their move to build their bomb." For more on Rubio's Iran efforts, see here, here, here and here.

(AUMF AGAINST IRAN, CONDITIONS ON NEGOTIATIONS/AGREEMENT) HR 3292: Introduced 10/15 by Franks (R-AZ) and 15 cosponsors, the "United States-Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act." Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Government Reform, and Financial Services. For details of the bill, see last week's edition of the Round-Up. On 10/17, Franks published an op-ed in the Washington Times explaining his views on Iran. For some excellent analysis of the bill and Franks views, see these pieces from ThinkProgress: GOP Rep. Uses Self-Described 'Hyperbole' To Justify His Iran War Authorization Bill & GOP Rep Angling For War With Iran Continues To Stumble On Basic Facts. Finally, in terms of understanding whose views in Congress this bill represents, it is worth noting that on 10/16, Franks and every one of his 15 cosponsors voted "No" on HR 2775, the bill to re-open the government and prevent U.S. defaulting on its financial obligations.

Letters:

(Menendez et al) Bipartisan Letter to Obama on Iran: On 10/11 a group of 10 senators sent a letter to President Obama regarding negotiations with Iran. The letter reiterates the "four strategic elements" that the senators believe must guide U.S. efforts with Iran, as previously laid out in the 8/2 letter to Obama signed by 76 senators (detailed in the 8/2 edition of the Round-Up). These are "(1) an explicit and continuing message that we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, (2) a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations by Iran, (3) the maintenance and toughening of sanctions, and (4) a convincing threat of the use of force." The letter closes with a clear threat: "if Iranian actions fail to match the rhetorical reassurances of the last two weeks, we are prepared to move forward with new sanctions to increase pressure on the government in Tehran." The letter includes no timeline for matching those reassurances, and rumors are rife on the Hill of pressure for the Senate to move on new sanctions in the coming weeks (i.e., before the next round of negotiations, set for early November).

(Sherman, Poe et al) Letter to Obama Urging that OFAC personnel be declared "essential": On 10/10, in the midst of the shutdown of the U.S. government and the looming showdown over the debt ceiling, 15 members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Reps. Sherman (D-CA) and Poe (R-TX) came together in a show of bipartisan cooperation around the notion that "nothing is more essential to national security than working to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program [sic]." In light of this being a top national priority, the signers call on President Obama to "deem all, or most, of the employees of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as essential."

(Inhofe et al) Letter to Obama Opposing U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT): On 10/15, a group of 50 senators sent a letter "reiterating to President Obama that the Senate overwhelmingly opposes the ratification of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and will not be bound by its obligations." The letter enumerates 6 reasons for this opposition. The 6th reason reads: "We are indeed deeply concerned that the treaty criteria as established could hinder the United States in fulfilling its strategic, legal, and moral commitments to provide arms to key allies such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Israel."

2. Iran P5+1 Talks Meet Congressional Skepticism and Scorn

This week (Oct 15-16), Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Russia, China, UK, France, and Germany) met in Geneva in the first talks over Iran's nuclear program since the Iranian elections that brought President Hassan Rouhani to power. Notwithstanding the positive signals from Iranian officials in the weeks before the talks, and notwithstanding reports of serious, substantive Iranian proposals during the talks, and notwithstanding a next round of meetings scheduled for early November, the talks were met with open skepticism and even scorn by many in Congress. Rumors on the Hill are rampant of pressure for Senate action to approve additional Iran sanctions BEFORE the next round of talks, set to take place Nov. 7-8.

Timeline/Summary of selected statements/actions

10/16: Rubio (R-FL) and Risch (D-ID) introduce S. Res. 269 (see Section 1, above, for details)

10/15: Rand Paul (R-TX) op-ed, Peace Through Strength (starting with Iran)

10/15, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) statement: The Administration Should Not Give Concessions To Rouhani, Instead It Must Fully Enforce and Increase Sanctions Against the Iranian Regime

10/14: Corker (R-TN) statement: Hold Firm on Sanctions in Negotiations with Iran

10/14: Royce (R-CA) statement: Chairman Royce Urges President Obama to Exercise Great Caution in Dealing with Iran During Nuclear Negotiations this Week

10/13: Kirk (R-IL) op-ed in the Telegraph (UK), "Appeasement won't reduce the peril of a nuclear Iran"

10/12: Frankel (D-FL) statement, speaking against the government shutdown, "Mr. Speaker, as I speak, the Earth is in turmoil. Iran is building a nuclear weapon; in Syria, a civil war is killing thousands of women and children..."

10/11: Menendez et al's Bipartisan Letter to Obama on Iran (see Section 1, above, for details).

10/9: Holding (R-NC) statement Calling for more Iran sanctions

Media

Christian Science Monitor 10/17: Iran nuclear talks: Will 'bad cop' Congress approve a deal?
LA Times 10/16: Iran nuclear talks continue amid pressure from Congress
AP 10/16: Senators push for escalation of sanctions against Iran after nuclear talks end in Geneva
ForeignPolicy.com 10/15: Democrats, AIPAC Jeopardize Iran Talks
Reuters 10/14: U.S. Congress calls for hard line on Iran sanctions
CBS News 10/14: White House asks Congress not to disrupt Iran nuclear talks
CFR Backgrounder (updated 10/14): The Lengthening List of Iran Sanctions

3. Members on Partial Suspension of Egypt Aid

Menendez (D-NJ) 10/9: Chairman Menendez Statement on Administration Announcement regarding Egypt

Udall (D-CO) 10/9: Udall Welcomes Partial Withdrawal of U.S. Aid to Egypt

Kaine (D-VA) 10/9: Kaine Statement on U.S. Assistance to Egypt

Granger (R-TX) 10/9: Granger Statement on White House Decision to Suspend Some Aid to Egypt

Engel (D-NY) 10/9: Engel Statement on Reported Suspension of Military Aid to Egypt

Smith (D-WA) 10/9: Ranking Member Adam Smith's Statement on Aid to Egypt

The Hill 10/11: Egypt turns to K Street after U.S. aid cut

Daily Beast 10/10: McCain: Obama Mishandled Egypt, Abandoned Libya and Syria

National Journal 10/10: Congress Slams Obama Team On Egypt Aid Decision

The Cable 10/9: Top Democrat Slams Obama for Cutting Egypt Aid

Roll Call 10/9: Leahy: Administration 'Trying to Have It Both Ways' on Egypt Aid

National Journal 10/9: Cutting Egypt Aid Too Little, Too Late (Engel, Schiff, Leahy)

4. Hearings

10/24: Hearing scheduled in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, "Next Steps on Egypt Policy." Witnesses to be announced.

5. Members on the Record

King (R-NY) 10/11: King Defends Israel in Extraordinary House Debate

Turner (R-OH) 10/11: Once again making the argument that the Obama Administration will negotiate with evil-doers like Iran and Syria, but not with Congressional Republicans [see last week's Round-Up for commentary on the self-evident irony implicit in this argument]

Gohmert (R-TX) 10/9: Another rant about how Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have infiltrated the Obama Administration

Poe (R-TX) 10/9: Once again making the argument that the Obama Administration will negotiate with evil-doers like Iran and Syria, but not with Congressional Republicans [see last week's Round-Up for commentary on the self-evident irony implicit in this argument]

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