Legislative Round-Up: September 8, 2017

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived

  1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
  2. Hearings

Shameless self-promotion: Please check out these two op-ed by FMEP’s Lara Friedman, published during the congressional recess. The first challenges the arguments behind the Taylor Force Act and suggests that a broader policy agenda is in play (to which many supporters of the bill are probably oblivious). The second looks at the pending “Israel Anti-Boycott Act,” using Lara Friedman as a case study to examine whether, indeed, the legislation would undermine constitutionally-protected free speech.

1.Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(FY18 OMNIBUS APPROPS) HR 3275 HR 3354: This week the House considered on the floor HR 3275 HR 3354 (still technically entitled the “Water and Energy Sustainability through Technology Act,” “Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act“), which has become the vehicle for number of FY18 appropriations bills, including the ForOps bill. The full text and amendments will be covered in next week’s Round-Up. What we can say now is that more than 1000 amendments were offered to the entire bill. Of these, the Rules Committee ruled “In Order”:

  • An amendment offered by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on, seeking to cut off all funding to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. That amendment was brought up on the floor on Ros-Lehtinen’s behalf by Yoho (R-FL) - Yoho and Lamborn (R-CO) spoke in favor; Meeks (D-NY), Rogers (D-KY), and Ellison (D-MN) spoke against (Congressional Record is here). At 9:19pm on 9/8, where it was defeated by a vote of 199-212, with only 3 Democrats voting in favor and 29 Republicans voting against. Some have suggested that the defeat of this bill was due to Hurricane Irma, which caused some members of the Florida delegation to miss the vote. That is certainly one possibility, though the math isn’t clear. There were 22 no votes on this amendment – 8 Democrats and 14 Republicans (of which one is Scalise, R-LA, who is in the hospital and would not have voted, regardless of Irma). Based on these numbers, for the amendment to pass all of the absent GOP members would have had to vote “yes” (possible but not certain) and more than half of the absent Democrats would have had to vote against their own caucus (possible but even less certain).
  • An amendment from offered by Gaetz (R-FL), barring funds from being given to a list of Palestinian schools named after terrorists. Gaetz and Lamborn (R-CO) spoke in support nobody opposed, and the amendment was agreed to without objection. (No vote as of this writing)
  • An amendment from Hastings (D-FL) to designate $12 million for programs benefiting the Ethiopian-Israeli community. (No vote as of this writing)
  • An amendment from Budd (R-NC) to bar funds from being used to honor the families of those engaged or connected to terrorist activity. (No vote as of this writing)
  • An amendment from Roskam (R-IL) to prohibits any funds from being used to issue a license pursuant to any Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) memo regarding section 5.1.1 of Annex II to the JCPOA, including the OFAC memo titled, “Statement of Licensing Policy For Activities Related to the Export Or Re-Export to Iran of Commercial Passenger Aircraft and Related Parts and Services’’ and any other OFAC memo of the same substance [intended to kill Boeing’s deal with Iran] (No vote as of this writing)
  • Another amendment from Roskam (R-IL) to prohibits any funds from being used to authorize a transaction by a U.S. financial institution (as defined under section 561.309 of title 31, Code of Federal Regulations) that is ordinarily incident to the export or re-export of a commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran [also intended to kill Boeing’s deal with Iran]. (No vote as of this writing)

(FY18 FOROPS – SENATE) S. 1780: On 9/6, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Foreign Operations Subcommittee marked up and passed the Senate version of the FY18 ForOps Approps bill. Highlights released by the subcommittee are here and audio of the mark-up is here. On 9/7, the full Appropriations Committee marked up and passed that bill. Highlights released by the subcommittee are here and audio of the mark-up is here. Full analysis of the S. 1780 will be included in the next Round-Up. Notably: The full committee added the Taylor Force Act to the bill, discussed below. NOTE: Congressional procedure requires that appropriations bill originate in the House. That means that vehicle for FY18 ForOps will be HR 3275, which has become the FY17 Omnibus Approps bill. The ForOps language passed by the Committee will eventually be part of an amendment in the nature of a substitute for the House text of HR 3275 (become the Senate bill that will have to be reconciled with what the House passed).

(CUT OFF $$ FOR PA) S. 1697 and in S. 1780: Introduced 8/1 by Graham (R-SC) and now having 21 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 and United States Citizens.

  • The free-standing bill: S. 1697 was reported out of the SFRC on 9/6 without a written report (see the last edition of the Round-Up for details) and placed on the Senate calendar. As noted in that previous report, there was some opposition to the bill in the SFRC, most notably from Sen. Booker (D-NJ), who subsequently was viciously attacked by backers of hardline Israel positions, including Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, who accused Booker of a “pro-Palestinian vote” in which he “betrays vulnerable Jews.” [The free-standing bill: S. 1697 was reported out of the SFRC on 9/6 without a written report (see the last edition of the Round-Up for details) and placed on the Senate calendar. As noted in that previous report, there was some opposition to the bill in the SFRC, most notably from Sen. Booker (D-NJ), who subsequently was viciously attacked by backers of hardline Israel positions, including Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, who accused Booker of a “pro-Palestinian vote” in which he “betrays vulnerable Jews.” (It is worth recalling that Boteach, in addition to being a vocal supporter and defender of President Trump, is also personally connected to Israel’s settlement enterprise, as demonstrated in May when his son’s wedding was held in a settlement located deep inside the West Bank, attended by Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman who in doing so became the first U.S. ambassador to attend a social event in a settlement.)
  • In Senate ForOps: On 9/7, the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) considered the FY18 ForOps bill (which is must-pass legislation). As recounted by Sen. Merkley (D-OR) during the markup (at around the 40:30 point in the hearing audio), Graham intended to offer S. 1697 as an amendment in committee, but agreed to worth with Merkley, Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD) and Murphy (D-CT) to tweak the text to ensure it does not hurt humanitarian funding. This tweak enabled the amendment to become part of a managers’ package of amendments (meaning the amendments were treated as so non-controversial that they did not require any real consideration) – was adopted by a Voice Vote (unanimous). With its passage, Graham and backers of the Taylor Force Act are claiming victory (the measure is almost certain to now be part of the final bill) and Booker has announced that he now supports the measure (it remains to be seen if this will be enough to restore the Boteach-Booker friendship). Underscoring the political pandering entailed in this amendment, the SAC’s press release summary after the hearing included the Taylor Force Act as the FIRST element of highlight (from a bill that deals with funding for U.S. policy initiatives and interests worldwide). More on the story here.

(NDAA) HR 2810: The House and Senate passed their respective version of the FY18 National Defense Authorization Bill back in July (see reporting in previous Round-Up). Now, the Senate has taken up HR 2810, the House version of the bill. On 9/7, Graham (R-SC) offered an amendment to that bill intended to void a key element of the new 10-year, $38 billion US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding governing U.S. assistance agreed to between Israel and the Obama Administration. Graham’s amendment would provide that “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, regulation, or memorandum of understanding, with respect to military assistance provided to Israel pursuant to section 23 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2763, relating to Foreign Military Financing Program), the off-shore procurement rate shall be not less than 26.3 percent from fiscal years 2019 through 2028.

 Letters

(MSG TO PA: FREE ISSA AMRO) Pocan et al letter: On 9/6, Reps. Pocan (D-WI), Carson (D-IN), Blumenauer (D-OR), McGovern (D-MA), Conyers (D-MI), Beyer (D-VA), Moore (D-WI), Lofgren (D-CA) and DeFazio (D-OR) sent a letter to PA President Abbas urging him to  “immediately drop the baseless charges and release Mr. Issa Amro, a recognized community leader, nonviolent activist and previous recipient of the United Nations Human Rights Defender of the Year in Palestine award.”

 

2.Hearings

9/6 & 9/7: On consecutive days this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s ForOps Subcommittee and the full Committee held markups of the FY18 State & Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. Details in Section 1, above.

9/6: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Priorities and Challenges in the U.S.-Turkey Relationship.” Witnesses were Steven Cook, CFR (testimony) and Amanda Sloat, Harvard Kennedy School (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

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