Legislative Round-Up: September 22, 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
  3. On the Record

Shameless self-promotion: Debate continues to swirl around the "Israel Anti-Boycott Act" and the threat it poses to Constitutionally-protected free speech. This week, Churches for Middle East Peace hosted a webinar examining the legislation and related issues, featuring FMEP's Lara Friedman - video of the webinar is here.

1.Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(FY18 OMNIBUS APPROPS) HR 3354: On 9/14, the House passed HR 3354, formerly the “the Department of the Interior, environment, and related agencies,” and now known as the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018.” HR 3354 includes the FY18 ForOps bill. As noted in the 9/8/17 edition of the Round-Up, 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, was defeated on the House floor 9/8. Other Middle East-related floor amendments fared as follows:

  • An amendment 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. (Agreed by Voice Vote 9/7)
  • An amendment offered by Hastings (D-FL) to designate $12 million for programs benefiting the Ethiopian-Israeli community. (Failed by Voice Vote 9/7)
  • An amendment offered by Budd (R-NC) to bar funds from being used to honor the families of those engaged or connected to terrorist activity. (Agreed by Voice Vote as part of en bloc, 9/7)
  • An amendment offered by Roskam (R-IL) to prohibit 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] (agreed 9/13 by voice vote - [Quigley, D-IL, opposed on floor – consideration here; Roskam press release is here]
  • Another amendment offered by Roskam (R-IL) to prohibit 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]. (agreed 9/13 by voice vote – Blumenauer, D-OR, opposed on floor - consideration here).

(FY18 NDAA) HR 2810: This week the Senate completed floor action on HR 2810, the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As per usual practice, the Senate adopted an amendment in the nature of a substitute – in effect deleting the House-approved text and replacing it with Senate text (as previously adopted in the form S. 1519, covered in the 7/21/17 edition of the Round-Up). A number of additional Middle East-related amendment were offered, as follows (analysis based on best info available as of 4pm on 9/22 – will update in next Round-Up if new info changes any of this):

  • SA 796, offered by Cornyn (R-TX), requiring a report on Mahan Air (ADOPTED – see Cornyn 9/19 press release touting passage)
  • SA 1069, offered by Cruz (R-TX), to add a report on the illicit activities of certain Iranian persons (NO ACTION TAKEN).
  • 993 and SA 1092, offered by Rubio (R-FL) and Shaheen (D-NH), to add far-reaching new legislation related to Hizballah (NO ACTION TAKEN).
  • SA 930 and SA 1097, offered by Rubio (R-FL) to add the “the Combating BDS Act of 2017” to the bill (NO ACTION TAKEN).
  • SA 928, offered by Rubio (R-FL) to require a report on Iranian activities in Iraq and Syria (NO ACTION TAKEN).
  • SA 924, offered by Rubio (R-FL), requiring report on use by the Government of Iran of commercial aircraft and related services for illicit activities (NO ACTION TAKEN).
  • SA 813, offered by Graham (R-SC), to add provision stating 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.” [intended to undo part of the 2016 US-Israel MOU). (NO ACTION TAKEN).

 Letters

(REMINDER: ADMIN MUST REPORT TO CONGRESS ON JCPOA) Senate Ranking Members letter: On 9/20, seven Senate Democrats, each the ranking member of a committee with jurisdiction over national security matters, sent a letter to Secretaries Tillerson, Mattis, Mnuchin, Perry and Director Coats reminding them that U.S. law “requires the President to provide information to Congress on any potentially significant Iranian breach or compliance concern related to the JCPOA within ten calendar days of receiving the information.” The letter notes that “To date, the Senate has received no such notification and the Administration has provided little public testimony to Congress on the status of Iranian compliance with the agreement.” It concludes: “In light of the upcoming certification decision the President must make with respect to Iran’s compliance, if you are aware of any information that would suggest that Iran is no longer complying with the JCPOA, or that would lead the President to conclude that the continued suspension of sanctions is no longer in the vital national security interests of the United States, we request that you provide a written report containing such information and, as appropriate, public testimony promptly to the Senate Committees of jurisdiction with oversight over each of your agencies prior to October 6, 2017.” Signers were: Cardin (D-MD – SFRC) Leahy (D-VT, Approps); Durbin (D-IL, Appropriations Defense Subcommittee); Reed (D-RI, Armed Services Committee); Cantwell (D-WA, Energy and Natural Resources Committee); Brown (D-OH, Banking Committee); and Warner (D-VA, Select Committee on Intelligence).  Press release is here.

(CONCERNS ABOUT UNDISCLOSED ADM. FLYNN 2015 TRIP TO MIDEAST) Cummings-Engel letter: On 9/12, Reps. Cummings (D-MD) and Engel (D-NY) - Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs, respectively – sent a letter addressed to X-CO Dynamics Inc.’s Managing Director (Alex Copson) and Chairman (Rear Admiral (Ret.) Michael Hewitt, as well as to the Flynn Intel Group. The letter thanks the addresses for responding to a June 19 letter asking for information about “a press report that retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, failed to disclose a trip he made to the Middle East in 2015 on behalf of your companies to promote a joint U.S.-Russian, Saudi-financed program to build nuclear reactors in the Arab world…” The letter goes on to request “additional information about new concerns that your responses raise.”

(LET ISRAEL KEEP $$ IT PROMISED TO GIVE BACK IN MOU) Cotton-Rubio letter: On 9/12, Sens. Cotton (R-AR) and Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson urging the State Department to refrain from seeking the return of $75 million in U.S. security assistance that has been appropriated for Israel (return of which was promised by Israel under the MOU signed in 2016 with President Obama). Press release is here.

(IRAN: LET OUR PEOPLE GO) Menendez et al letter: On 9/12, Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Cruz (R-TX); Rubio (R-FL); Nelson (D-FL); and Cotton (R-AR) sent a letter to President Trump regarding the Iranian Government’s continued detention of a number of US  citizens and urging the Trump administration to expand on efforts to bring them home. Press release is here.

(CONCERNS ABOUT TURKEY) Royce-Engel letter: On 9/8, HFAC Chair Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson asking him to “to take steps to ensure that there is not another violent incident involving the security detail of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or other Turkish officials.” Press release is here.

(IRAN AIR CONCERNS) Roskam-Barr-Zeldin-Reichart letter: On 8/23, Reps. Roskam (R-IL), Barr (R-KY), Zeldin (R-NY) and Reichart (R-WA) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin urging him to investigate photos of alleged Iranian-backed militants aboard an Iran Air commercial aircraft (“as first reported by the Washington Free Beacon), and to re-sanction Iran Air if found guilty of transporting military goods and/or personnel to Syria since implementation of the JCPOA. Press release is here.

 

2.Hearings

9/28: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a markup of a number of pieces of legislation, including H.R. 3329 (To amend the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 to impose additional sanctions with respect to Hizballah, and for other purposes) and H.R. 3342 (To impose sanctions on foreign persons that are responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights by reason of the use by Hizballah of civilians as human shields, and for other purposes.) ***THERE IS A STRONG POSSIBILITY THAT THE TAYLOR FORCE ACT WILL BE ADDED TO THIS MARKUP. Rumor as it (multiple sources), that the bill will be marked up this same day in the House, and that at present key Committee members are working to tweak the House version to more effectively address concerns about cutting off funding for programs that are for humanitarian needs or that are supported by Israel (i.e., more effectively than the ambiguous language adopted as part of the Senate ForOps bill).

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 (testimony). Chairman Corker’s (R-TN) opening statement is here. Video is here.

 

3.On the Record

On Trump UN Speech

Gallego (D-AZ) 9/19: “At the United Nations, the President implied that he would pull out of the Iran Deal, despite the fact that the agreement has unquestionably slowed or stopped Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon. Scrapping the deal would isolate us from the world community, encourage Iran to seek a nuclear breakout, and prime the Middle East for a massive conflict. Without the deal, Trump is choosing a nuclear Iran, a war with Iran, or both.”

Feinstein (D-CA) 9/19:  “He missed an opportunity to present any positive actions the U.N. could take with respect to North Korea, and he launched a diatribe against Iran, again offering no pathway forward.

Rokita (R-IN) 9/19: Trump Showed Strong, Clear Stance to the UN (excerpt: “Our great friend and ally, the State of Israel, was also in the audience for the President’s speech. Israel is represented by another great leader, Prime Minister Netanyahu.”)

Messer (R-IN) 9/18: Rep. Messer Echoes Netanyahu’s Call for an End to Iran Nuclear Deal

Price (D-NC) 9/18: “President Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly served only to further alienate the United States from its allies, and to sow doubts among our adversaries and rivals as to our steadfastness and resolve. In an incoherent series of brash threats, the President called on the international community to ‘totally destroy’ a nuclear-armed North Korea, while undermining the international effort to restrain Iran’s nuclear program.”

 

General

McCain (R-AZ) 9/20: Statement By Sasc Chairman John McCain On The Release Of Mahvash Sabet From Prison In Iran

Royce (R-CA) 9/20: on Fox News: U.S. needs to press Iran

Shaheen (D-NH) 9/19: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Shaheen Syria Study Group

Cruz (R-TX) 9/18: Sen. Cruz Votes for Final Senate Passage of the 2018 NDAA (promises to keep pushing for initiatives that he proposed as amdts that were not adopted, notably Combatting BDS Act (to give federal cover/encouragement for state legislation targeting BDS/supporting settlements) and requiring a report on all individuals and entities given U.S. sanctions relief under the JCPOA)

Rooney (R-FL) 9/18: Op-ed - It's Time for Serious United Nations Reform (excerpt: “…the UNHRC has a noticeable anti-Israel bias, passing a myriad of resolutions against this one country while barely condemning serious human rights violations by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”)

Neal (D-MA) 9/15: Neal Talks Politics With Residents at Town Hall Meeting (excerpt: “…Others urged him to reverse his opinion on the Anti-Boycott Act, which the American Civil Liberties Union said would impose penalties on those who support a boycott of Israel and which Neal voted in favor. Those at BCC called the bill an attack on free speech and asked him to reverse his stance. Neal responded by voicing his support of Israel.”

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 9/14: Ros-Lehtinen Commends Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Latin America Outreach Efforts

Costello (R-PA) 9/13: Floor statement on UNFIL (supporting Amb. Haley’s efforts to “increase the accountability of this Force”)

Banks (R-PA) 9/12: Banks Statement on Possible Change in Iran Strategy

Rubio (R-FL) 9/7: Statement – “We Must Be Clear Eyed About Iran's Dangers to U.S. National Security Interests” (Response to Haley’s AEI speech)

Cotton (R-AR) 9/5: Statement on Ambassador Haley’s Speech at AEI (Cotton’s priorities: “Living with a nuclear-armed North Korean regime whose main interest is its own preservation is dangerous enough. Living with a nuclear-armed Iranian regime whose main interest is the export of Islamist revolution and terrorist chaos would be catastrophic.”)

Lowey (D-NY) 8/28: Lowey Statement on Iran Court Decision Upholding Siamak and Baquer Namazi Convictions

Meng (D-NY) 8/16: Meng Issues Statement on Queens Museum's Decision to Cancel Commemoration and Reenactment of 1947 United Nations Vote for the Establishment of Israel

Schumer (D-NY) 8/4: SCHUMER CO-SPONSORS BIPARTISAN TAYLOR FORCE ACT

Corker (R-TN) 8/4: Corker Holds News Conference on Committee Passage of Taylor Force Act

 

My Summer Trip to Israel

Comer (R-KY) 9/12: Close Working Relationship With [Greater] Israel Needs To Continue (money quote: “It is impossible to visit Israel without feeling the weight of history, from Biblical times to modern day. Staying in Jerusalem, seeing Bethlehem up close, viewing Israel from atop the Golan Heights, and traveling all along the Jordan River, all made a lasting impression.”

Fitzpatrick (R-PA) 8/31: Congressman’s Trip to Israel Leaves Him ‘In Awe’ (AIEF trip, around 35 members, including Hoyer, D-MD, and McCarthy, R-CA)

Rothfus (R-VA) 8/27: Rothfus opens up about visit to Israel, violence in Virginia

Capito (R-WA) 8/24: Capito Explores Economic and National Security Opportunities During Trip to Israel

Smucker (R-PA) 8/15: Smucker Statement on Congressional Delegation Trip to Israel (“The trip was sponsored by the American Israel Educational Foundation (AIEF), the charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC. The trip was paid for by AIEF, which is privately funded by American citizens. No funding comes from the American taxpayer or the Israeli government.)

Faso (R-NY) 8/14: Statement on Fact-finding Trip to Israel (no tax $$ spent, so no worries!)

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 8/8: “I am in Israel this week seeing first hand our nations' collaborative efforts to defeat terror, stand strong against Iran, and strengthen America's national security.”

Comer (R-PA) 8/7: Congressman Comer travels to Israel this week (“The trip will be led by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), a charitable organization that is affiliated with the bipartisan American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). No taxpayer dollars will be used to fund this travel, which adheres to all House Ethics rules.”)

Young (R-IA) 8/6: Iowa Congressman David Young Begins Policy Travel to Israel

Rutherford (R-FL) 8/6: Rutherford to Travel With Congressional Delegation to Israel

Bacon (R-NE) 8/4: Bacon Will Travel to Israel: Will Meet top Israeli and Palestinian Leaders (AIEF trip)

Dunn (R-FL) 8/4: Dr. Neal Dunn to Join Official Congressional Delegation in Israel (AIEF trip)

Rothfus (R-PA) 8/3: Rothfus to Meet with Israeli and Palestinian Leaders

 

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