APN Legislative Round-Up: September 30, 2016

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2.  Hearings
3. On the Record

Note: Congress is apparently getting a full-court press from pro-settlement advocates wrapping themselves in the “fighting BDS” flag. As discussed in the 9/16 edition of the Round-Up, Congress returned from its summer break to a supposedly anti-BDS event on Capitol Hill organized by an Israeli settlement organization (the Shomron Regional Council). This week saw more of the same, with what appear to have been meetings and events on Capitol Hill organized by a group of Jewish leaders to push Congress to adopt the kind of legislation being adopted in many states (legislation that is ostensibly about fighting BDS but that is in reality almost 100% about protecting and legitimizing settlements) – report and photos here.

1. Bills & Resolutions & Letters

(WE <HEART> SETTLEMENTS & WILL PROTECT THEM!) S. XXXX: On 9/29, Portman (R-OH) and Senators Cardin (D-MD) – the longtime standard-bearers of the faux-anti-BDS/pro-settlements agenda in the Senate – issued a press release announcing the introduction of new legislation “to Reject United Nations' Attempt to Economically Isolate Israel.” As with all the other efforts these two Senators have promoted on this issue (exhaustively reported on in previous Round-Ups – for a summary of their efforts in 2015, see here), this new measure has virtually nothing to do with BDS against Israel but is entirely about protecting and legitimizing Israeli settlements. This bill seeks to do so by fundamentally changing U.S. law to, in effect, make it illegal to comply with any boycott of settlements linked to action by the UN or any other body. The bill is explicitly designed to undermine/derail action by the UN to identify companies linked to settlements (UN action that has zero to do with BDS targeting Israel).  Stay tuned for a House version (smart money is on it being introduced by Roskam, R-IL, and Vargas, D-CA).

(ABSOLUTELY NO UNSC ACTION ON ISRAEL!) S. Con. Res. 54: Introduced 9/28 by Kirk (R-IL) and Blumenthal (D-CT), “A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress and reaffirming longstanding United States policy in support of a direct bilaterally negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposition to United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing a solution to the conflict.” This resolution does not yet (as of this writing) appear on the AIPAC lobby page advocating this exact same position, but smart money would be on that changing soon (expect a full court press lobbying for wall-to-wall bipartisan support on this). Referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kirk press release is here.

(ABSOLUTELY NO UNSC ACTION ON ISRAEL!) H. Con. Res. 165: Introduced 9/28 by Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY), “Expressing the sense of Congress and reaffirming longstanding United States policy in support of a direct bilaterally negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposition to United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing a solution to the conflict.” This resolution does not yet (as of this writing) appear on the AIPAC lobby page advocating this exact same position, but smart money would be on that changing soon (expect a full court press lobbying for wall-to-wall bipartisan support on this). Referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

(NO UNGA OR UNSC ACTION ON ISRAEL!) H. Con. Res. 157: Introduced 9/20 by Hastings (D-FL) and having no cosponsors, “Expressing the sense of Congress that the United States should continue to exercise its veto in the United Nations Security Council on resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and oppose anti-Israel measures considered by the United Nations General Assembly.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Hastings’ floor statement in support of his resolution is here.

(MORE $$ FOR ISRAEL – IT’S AN EMERGENCY! AND LET’S ALSO LINK IT TO IRAN!) S. 3363: Introduced 9/20 by Graham (R-SC) and having 6 all-GOP cosponsors, the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for the Defense of Israel, 2016.” The bill is an apparent rebuke aimed at both the Obama Administration and the Netanyahu Israeli government for the newly agreed-on US-Israel 10-year MOU, as well as an effort to paint Democrats as less pro-Israel (both in terms of funding and toughness on Iran) than the GOP.  It does this by seeking to appropriate for Israel additional funds for 2016 totaling $1.5 billion ($750 million in Defense funding for procurement and R&D; and $750 million in additional FMF).  This funding would be on top of regular FY16 funding for Israel– which totaled almost $3.6 billion ($3.1 billion in FMF, consistent with the current US-Israel MOU, paid in cash within 30 days of the approps bill becoming law, and of which more than $800 million can be spent outside the USA; and $487.595 million in DOD funding). But that’s not all! The bill also includes a final provision extending the Iran Sanctions Act – a top AIPAC priority – until the year 2031 (with no sunset clause). Referred to the Committee on Appropriations. Graham press release is here. Cruz (R-TX) press release (with video from the press conference announcing the bill and quotes from other sponsors) is here.

(NO $$ FOR PALESTINIANS UNLESS PA PREVENTS ATTACKS ON ISRAELIS) S. 3414: Introduced 9/28 by Graham (R-SC) and 8 all-GOP cosponsors, “A bill to condition assistance to the West Bank and Gaza on steps by the Palestinian Authority to end violence and terrorism against Israeli citizens.” Graham’s press release on the bill notes that the bill (among other things) “Requires the Secretary of State to certify to Congress the Palestinian Authority is taking credible steps to end acts of violence against United States and Israeli citizens that are perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control, such as the attack on Taylor Force [who was stabbed to death in Jaffa by a Palestinian from the West Bank].” Referred to the Foreign Relations Committee. Rubio (R-FL) press release is here.

(NO $$ FOR IRAN) S. 3443: Introduced 9/28 by Perdue (R-GA), “A bill to prohibit the United States Government from making cash payments to state sponsors of terrorism, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(NO $$ FOR IRAN) HR 5931: Introduced 9/6 by Royce (R-CA) and having 36 cosponsors (all GOP), “To provide for the prohibition on cash payments to the Government of Iran, and for other purposes” (aka, the “Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act “). On 9/20, the House Foreign Affairs Committee reported this bill out of committee (report is here – including an unusually strong, substance dissent from Committee democrats, which closes, in part, by noting: “this bill is not a serious effort at affecting U.S. policy toward Iran. Without any input from the minority, we are left to conclude that this is a partisan stunt.”). On 9/22, the House passed H. Res. 879 (providing for consideration of HR 5931) by a 100% partly-line vote of 236-175 [floor debate on H. Res. 879 is here; speaking in favor were: Byrne (R-AL) and Williams (R-TX); speaking against was Hastings (D-FL)] . The House then amended HR 5931 (adopting all four GOP amendments and rejecting the one Democratic amendment, offered by Engel, D-NY) and passed it by a mostly party-line vote of 254-163. On 9/26, HR 5931 was received in the Senate and referred to the Foreign Relations Committee. For further discussion of this bill, see the 9/16 edition of the Round-Up. Floor consideration of the bill is here. Speaking in favor: Royce (R-CA); Young (R-IA); Zeldin (R-NY); Lance (R-NJ); Scalise (R-LA); Wilson (R-SC); Pompeo (R-KS); and Duffy (R-WI). Speaking against (and/or in favor of Engel’s amendment) were: Engel (D-NY), Connolly (D-VA); Deutch (D-FL).  Additional statements in the record on the bill are included in Section 3, below. The Obama Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing the measure.

(FOLLOW THE MONEY IN IRAN) HR 5461: Introduced 6/13 by Poliquin (R-ME) and Hill (R-AR), the “Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act” (aka, “To require the Secretary of the Treasury to submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees on the estimated total assets under direct or indirect control by certain senior Iranian leaders and other figures, and for other purposes”).  On 9/21, the House voted to consider H. Res. 876 (providing for consideration of HR 5461) by a 100% partly-line vote of 242-181; the House then passed H. Res. 876 by a mostly party line vote of 247-174 [floor debate on H. Res. 876 is here and here.  The House then took up HR 5641, voting to amend the bill and passing it by a mostly party-line vote of 282-143 (one of the Democratic votes in favor was cast by mistake). Floor debate on the bill is here; speaking in support were: Hensarling (R-TX), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Poliquin (R-ME), Pittenger (R-NC), Rothfus (R-PA), Williams (R-TX), Hill (R-AR), Tipton (R-CO), Schweikert (R-AZ), Smith (R-NJ), Young (R-IN), Lance (R-NJ); speaking against were: Waters (D-CA), Himes (D-CT), Price (D-NC), Heck (D-CA), Meeks (D-NY). On 9/22 it was received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. For further discussion of this bill, see the 9/16 edition of the Round-Up. Additional statements in the record on the bill are included in Section 3, below. The Obama Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing the measure.

(PUSH TO LABEL IRGC AN FTO) HR 3693: Introduced 10/6/15 (yes, almost a year ago) by Poe (R-TX) and no cosponsors, “To require a report on whether Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a terrorist entity, and for other purposes,” aka, the “IRGC Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2015.” This bill sat moribund until 2/12/16, when it was referred to Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. Then it sat moribund again for 7 months – until this week, when that subcommittee decided to mark up what is obviously viewed as an urgently important piece of legislation on 9/27. A summary of the subcommittee’s actions is here (the subcommittee amended it, passed it, and reported it out to the full committee). Poe’s press release is here.

(IRAN DAMAGES OWED TO AMERICANS) S.2452: Introduced 1/20 by Moran (R-KS), “to prohibit the use of funds to make payments to Iran relating to the settlement of claims brought before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal until Iran has paid certain compensatory damages awarded to United States persons by United States courts.”  On 9/21, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance held a hearing related to this bill.

(CONDEMNING IRAN’S TREATMENT OF BAHA’I) H. Res. 220:  Introduced 4/23/15 (yes, in 2015) by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and 5 cosponsors, “Condemning the Government of Iran's state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” Discharged from the Foreign Affairs Committee 9/21 and passed by the House that same day by voice vote. Floor consideration is here. HFAC press release is here.

(CONDEMNING IRAN FOR 1988 MASSACRE) H. Con. Res. 159: Introduced 9/21 by McCaul (R-TX) and 11 cosponsors (bipartisan), “Condemning the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and calling for justice for the victims.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Given the high level of outrage and concern expressed in H. Con. Res 159, it is notable that this appears to be the first mention of the massacre (or demand for justice for the victims) in a resolution since the massacre took place 26 years ago (and the first such mention in the 9 years since the Amnesty International report, cited repeatedly in the resolution, was issued).

(DISAPPROVING OF WEAPONS SALES TO KSA) S. J. Res. 39:  Introduced 9/8 by Paul (R-KY) and 3 cosponsors (bipartisan), “A joint resolution relating to the disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of M1A1/A2 Abrams Tank structures and other major defense equipment.” On 9/21, the Senate voted to discharge S. J. Res. 39 from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 71-27 (floor discussion is here, with McCain, R-AZ and Graham, R-SC, making the loudest case for not going too tough on Saudi Arabia). Rubio (R-FL) also placed a statement in the record opposing the resolution.

(DISAPPROVING OF WEAPONS SALES TO KSA) H. J. Res. 98: Introduced 9/20 by Lieu (D-CA) and having 8 cosponsors, “Relating to the disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of M1A1/A2 Abrams Tank structures and other major defense equipment” [House version of S. J. Res. 39, discussed above]. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Lieu press release is here.

Letters

(NO OBAMA ACTION ON MEPP AT UN) Gillibrand letter: On 9/19. Sens. Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rounds (R-SD), along with 86 Senate co-signers, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to block any action on Israeli-Palestinians issues at the United Nations. While framed in the context of the upcoming UN General Assembly session, the message is much broader, seeking to convince Obama to block action in the Security Council: “We urge you to continue longstanding U.S. policy and make it clear that you will veto any one-sided UNSC resolution that may be offered in the coming months. Any such resolution, whether focused on settlements or other final status issues, will ultimately make it more difficult for Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict.” As expected, hat letter is now listed on AIPAC’s lobbying page. APN rejects this argument and is urging senators not to sign this letter. APN has long urged President Obama to support or lead action in the UN Security Council on Israel-Palestine (for more, see here).  Gillibrand press release is here. Other press releases: Cruz (R-TX), Coats (R-IN).

(NO $$ FOR IRAN) Sasse letter: On 9/19, Senator Sasse (R-NE) sent a letter to President Obama regarding U.S. payments to Iran, stating that “not only did you embark on a policy that ultimately endangers American lives by incentivizing foreign governments to detain our citizens as a means of extortion, but that this policy was enacted in a manner that maximizes Iran’s ability to hide its use of these funds. Furthermore, you appear to be denying Nebraskans a clear understanding of how and why these funds were given to the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.” Sasse follows these rather breathtaking accusations by “respectfully” requested written answers to a list of questions about payments to Iran. Sasse press release is here.

(DEMANDING ANSWERS ON RUSSIA/IRAN VIOLATIONS OF SYRIAN ARMS EMBARGO) McConnell et al letter: As noted in their press release, in 9/19, GOP Senate leaders led a total of 34 GOP senators in sending a letter to Secretary of State Kerry asking “if Russia and Iran violated the international arms embargo when Russia used Iranian territory to launch airstrikes against the moderate opposition forces in Syria.” The letter requests specific information and closes saying: “If launching such airstrikes from Iran violates a legally binding Security Council Resolution, then that point should be made clear and enforced. We look forward to hearing from you whether Russia’s airstrikes against Syrian opposition forces launched from Iran were in compliance with or violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.” Barrasso (R-WY) press release is here.

2. Hearings

9/29: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled. “Regional Impact of the Syria Conflict: Syria, Turkey and Iraq.” The sole witness was Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

9/28 (rescheduled from 9/21): The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and National Interest held a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Administration's FY 2017 Refugee Resettlement Program.” Witnesses were:  Simon Henshaw, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (testimony); León Rodríguez, Department of Homeland Security Director for Citizenship and Immigration Services (testimony); and Robert Carey, US Department of Health and Human Services Director for Refugee Resettlement (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. Chairman Grassley (R-IA) statement is here; Ranking Member Leahy (D-VT) statement is here.

9/22: The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Annual Report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council.” The sole witness was Jacob Lew, Secretary of the Treasury (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. While unrelated to the ostensible topic of the hearing (and unmentioned in the Chairman’s opening statement), committee members used the opportunity to go after Lew and the Obama Administration over payments to Iran. Further reading:  Treasury: No increase in terror funding by Iran after cash payment (Washington Examiner 9/22); Lew: Question of Wire or Cash Payment to Iran a 'Technicality' (Weekly Standard 9/23)

9/22: The House Homeland Security Committee’s Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee held a hearing entitled, “Identifying the Enemy: Radical Islamist Terror.” This follow an event 9/20 at AEI featuring Chairman McCaul (R-TX) and AEI’s Danielle Pletka, entitled “Winning the war against Islamist terror: A conversation with Chairman Michael McCaul.” Witnesses were: George Selim, Department of Homeland Security (Testimony); Peter Hoekstra, former House Intelligence Committee chair (Testimony); M. Zuhdi Jasser, American Islamic Forum for Democracy (Testimony); Sahar Aziz, Texas A&M University School of Law (Testimony); and Shireen Qudosi, CounterJihad.com (Testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

9/21: CANCELLED. The House Foreign Affairs Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing entitled, “The Consequences of Cash to Iran.” Witnesses – representing a breathtakingly homogeneous view on Iran policy, the JCPOA, etc – were to have been: Juan Zarate, FDD; Pastor Saeed Abedini (Formerly Detained in Iran); and Michael Doran, Hudson Institute.

9/21: The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance held a hearing entitled, “Terror Financing Risks of America’s $1.7 Billion Cash Payments to Iran.” Witnesses were: Michael Mukasey, Former Attorney General of the United States (statement); Eric Edelman, JINSA & Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (statement); and Suzanne Maloney, Brookings (statement). Video of the hearing is here. Chairman Kirk’s (R-IL) press release is here; his opening statement is here.

9/21: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “15 Years after 9-11: The State of the Fight Against Islamic Terrorism.” Scheduled witnesses are: James Jeffery, WINEP (statement); Brian Jenkins, RAND (statement); and Lt. Col. Bryan Price, West Point (statement).

3. On the Record

  • An extraordinary number of Members of Congress – including members who are openly hostile to or have with their words and votes actively undermined Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts – issued statements honoring Shimon Peres, who died this week.  There are just too many to collect here – to find those statements, check members’ websites.
  • A huge number of GOP House members issued statements in support of HR 5931 and/or HR 5461. There are just too many to collect here – to find those statements, check members’ websites.
  • A number of Democrats made statements opposing HR 5931 and/or HR 5461: Capuano (R-MA), DeFazio (D-OR), Engel (D-NY), Nolan (D-MN), Van Hollen (D-MD), Waters (D-CA)

Other Issues

McCain (R-AZ) 9/27: Floor speech about the genocide in Syria

McCain (R-AZ) and Graham (R-SC) 9/26: Statement by Senators John McCain & Lindsey Graham on Obama Administration’s Failed Syria Policy

Schumer (D-NY) 9/23: Schumer Op-Ed on Iran Prisoner, Bob Levinson

Corker (R-TN) 9/23: Corker Statement on Apparent Collapse of Syria Ceasefire

Grassley (R-IA) 9/22: Floor speech raising concerns about transparency and government oversight, including with respect to payments to Iran

Poe (R-TX) 9/22: Floor statement , “Protecting Refugees – Camp Liberty) (i.e., the MEK)

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 9/22: Floor statement entitled, “UNHCR’s Bash Israel Day”

Grassley (R-IA) 9/22: Statement: Unclassified Iran Ransom Documents Hidden from Public Scrutiny

Hensarling (R-TX) 9/21: Administration Approval of Commercial Aircraft Sales to Iran Outrageous

Pompeo (R-KS) 9/21: Pompeo Says U.S. Government Helping to Build Iranian Air Force

Rubio (R-FL) 9/20: Rubio: Iran President's Visit To Cuba And Venezuela Should Alarm All Americans

Cotton (R-AR) 9/20: Cotton Statement on Reports that President Obama May Consider Supporting UN Resolution that Will Undermine Israel

McCain (R-AZ) 9/20: “Even under the best of circumstances, the Iran nuclear deal gives Iran a free hand to develop nuclear weapons in a decade.” [from his opening statement as SASC hearing)

Cruz (R-TX) 9/20: Sen. Cruz: President Obama Should Have Advanced an American Agenda at the UN (“…And he should have forcefully advocated for our great ally Israel, putting the United Nations on notice that the United States will do everything in our power to stop its serial persecution of Israel in that body, and forcefully prevent any unilateral attempts at statehood by the Palestinians.”)

Wilson (R-SC) 9/20: “Politico revealed that past wire payments to Iran directly contradict the President's inaccurate claim that the $1.7 billion ransom payment had to be in cash.”

Pompeo (R-KE) 9/20: Pompeo Says Obama Administration Laundered Money to Circumvent U.S. Law

Kirk (R-IL) 9/18: Kirk Awarded Distinguished Public Service Award for US-Israel Relationship, Combating Terrorism

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