APN Legislative Round-Up: May 22, 2014

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Playing Politics with the “Best-Allies-With-Benefits Bill” (S. 462)  
3. May Madness!  The FY15 NDAA
4. Hearing
5.  Members on the Record
6.  From the Press

 

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

 

(BEST-ALLIES-WITH-BENEFITS) S. 462: As reported in last week’s Round-Up, this bill was scheduled to be marked up this week in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  As has been widely reported in the press, this didn’t end up happening.  See section 2, below, for details of this week’s drama.

(NDAA) HR 4435  This week, the House took up the NDAA on floor, voting on amendments 5/21 and 5/22.  The bill then passed 5/22 by a vote of 325-98.  The Middle East-related provisions in the bill and the report language, as well as amendments offered for consideration by the full House, are covered in detail in Section 3, below. 

(NDAA) S. XXX:  The Senate Armed Services Committee took up its version of the NDAA this week, with its markup expected to be completed on 5/22.  Details of that bill will be covered when they become available.

(HONORING SHIMON PERES) HR 2939:  Introduced 8/1/13 by Kennedy (D-MA) and having 299 cosponsors, “To award the Congressional Gold Medal to Shimon Peres.”  Passed by the House 5/19 under suspension of the rules by voice vote and referred to the Senate.  Passed by the Senate 5/20 without amendment.  Kennedy press release on passage of HR 2939 is found here.  Sens. Ayotte (R-NH) and Bennet (D-CO) press release on Senate passage of the bill here (they were the lead sponsors on the Senate version of the bill, S. 1456.  House floor consideration of the bill is here, with statements from Huizenga (R-MI), Kennedy (D-MA), Franks (R-AZ), Capuano (D-MA), and Jackson Lee (D-TX).  Also see: Congress votes to award Peres Congressional Gold Medal (Times of Israel 5/20)

Letters:

(ISRAEL-PALESTINE) Cardin-Collins letter: This week, Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Collins (R-ME) were seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama.  The letter blames President Abbas’ decision to go to the UN and his effort to achieve reconciliation with Hamas for the breakdown of negotiations (and closes by noting that throughout all the effort of the Obama Administration, “Israel has expressed its commitment to seek peace.”)  The letter asserts (erroneously) that if the reconciliation effort succeeds, it will (automatically) trigger U.S. laws that cut off aid to the PA (in fact, a cutoff would be triggered only if the new government failed to meet conditions specified in the law).  The letter urges Obama to “continue to actively oppose any and all efforts by the Palestinians to upgrade their status within the UN system or at the International Criminal Court.”  The letter also urges Obama to “continue our country's strong opposition to any efforts to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.”  It goes on to articulate what appears to be a threat: “The entire world must understand that acts designed to single out and intimidate Israel through economic and political pressure will be strongly opposed by the United States, and that we will take steps to counter them.”

(ISRAEL-PALESTINE) Doggett-Price-Holt-Blumenauer letter:  This week, Reps. Doggett (D-TX), Price (D-NC), Holt (D-NJ), and Blumenauer (D-OR) circulated a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama.  The letter thanks the Obama Administration for its peace efforts; rejects an “unproductive and politically charged blame game”; urges the U.S., during this pause in peace efforts, to “caution against unhelpful unilateral actions by either party which would impede a negotiated two-state resolution.”  It also endorses concerns about possible Palestinian reconciliation, stating that the U.S. “must carefully examine the composition and policies of any interim government before moving to alter the United States relationship with the Palestinian government in accordance with US law. It is vital that any Palestinian government fulfill the stated promise of President Abbas that it will continue current policies of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and implementing prior agreements”; and urges strong U.S. leadership, noting that, “With the parties approaching what Secretary Kerry has described as a precipice, now is the time to provide them with a way over the divide.”

2. Playing Politics with the “Best-Allies-with-Benefits Bill” (S. 462)

As noted in last week’s Round-Up, S. 462, which has been a top AIPAC priority for more than a year, was finally scheduled for a markup in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) this week, with the firm support of SFRC Chairman Menendez (D-NJ).  The decision to move ahead with the bill – more than a year after it was introduced (see below for background) came after lead sponsor Boxer (D-CA) and other key members agreed on new language with respect to Congress’ aspiration for Israel to be included, one day, in the Visa Waiver Program.  That new language reportedly makes clear this aspiration, while also making clear that in order for it to be achieved, Israel must satisfy the same requirements as any other country with respect to U.S. law – the only exception being a slight lowering of the bar in terms of visa refusal rates (but only if all other requirements have been met).  In addition, the language reportedly makes explicit the requirement that Israel must meet the legal requirement of extending reciprocal privileges to all Americans “without regard to race, religion, national origin, or ethnicity.”

S. 462 was virtually guaranteed passage in the SFRC this week, had it been brought up for action.  From there it could have moved to near automatic passage (counting Boxer, it has 63 cosponsors), where it would probably have been adopted as substitute text for the already-passed House version of the bill, HR 938 (enabling the bills to be conferenced).    If/when it does go to conference, there could still be further fighting over the visa waiver provisions – Sherman (D-CA) – who has introduced freestanding legislation to compel the Administration to make Israel part of the Visa Waiver Program – said during the House markup of the bill he that “we will defend this provision from outrageous attacks and strengthen it in conference…I hope that this provision is not only defended but strengthened as it goes through the process.”  However, given how this has played out so far in both houses of Congress, the odds of such an effort succeeding seem very small, meaning that the bill could be expected to be readily cleared for final passage in both the House and Senate.

Corker Throws a Wrench into the Works

The effort to move S. 462 this week was scuttled, at least temporarily, over something entirely unrelated to the visa waiver provision or, indeed, anything else in the bill.  It was scuttled by a maneuver of Sen. Corker (R-TN), in which he sought to exploit S. 462 to force Democrats into taking a politically difficult vote on an Iran-focused amendment that is strongly opposed by the Obama Administration.  The headlines tell the story:

May 16:  Key Senator Wants To Force Vote On Iran Deal (Daily Beast)

May 19: Exclusive: Powerful Pro-Israel Lawmaker Suddenly Pulls Pro-Israel Bill  (The Cable)

May 19: Menendez Threatens to Scuttle Key Pro-Israel Bill (Washington Free Beacon)

May 20: Dems Kill Key Pro-Israel bill to Appease White House on Iran (Washington Free Beacon)

May 20: NJ Senator Bob Menendez pulls pro-Israel legislation due to Iran amendment (Haaretz)

May 20: 'US senator pulls pro-Israel bill over Iran amendment'  (Jerusalem Post) [note: interestingly, the headline of this article was subsequently changed to “US-Israel partnership proposal put on hold”]

May 21: Menendez Pulls Pro-Israel Bill that would Divide Democrats (Arutz Sheva – Israeli religious-nationalist, pro-settlement media outlet)

May 21: Menendez Keeps Democrats From Having to Choose Between Supporting Israel and Negotiations With Iran (National Journal)

May 21: Menendez shelves pro-Israel bill, cites last-minute Iran amendment (JTA)

May 21:  Obama Admin blasts Corker Amedt: We can’t have 535 negotiators with Iran (Haaretz)

The AIPAC Angle

When asked, AIPAC officials made clear (quoted in numerous reports) their support for the Corker amendment.  This, in turn, raises some questions about what is going on here. 

S. 462 has languished in Congress for more than a year.  Indeed, no other examples come to mind of a key ask from an AIPAC policy conference being stymied for this long – so long that it had to be brought up in two consecutive years (history of S. 462 and its House version is covered in detail, below).  Given the defeats and mis-steps that AIPAC has had to deal with of late (enumerated in previously in the Round-Up), it seems reasonable to expect that AIPAC would (a) want this bill passed into law, so it can declare victory and move on; and (b) not want to pick another overly partisan fight with the Obama Administration.  

For these reasons, it is not unreasonable to ask if AIPAC may not have been the driving force behind the Corker amendment (and the subsequent Franks amendment to the House FY15 NDAA, discussed in Section 3, below).  Or to ask whether, even if AIPAC was involved in the substance of the effort, the timing/strategy of the effort was not of its choosing.  If either is true, it raises the question: rather than appear to be picking another divisive, partisan fight in the Senate, why didn’t AIPAC find the diplomatic middle ground – for example, making clear it supports the substance of the Corker amendment but not the timing or the effort to attach it to a bill that is widely viewed as an AIPAC initiative? 

An alternative analysis is that the substance and timing of this drama was indeed of AIPAC’s choosing.  This could be because AIPAC perhaps was unhappy with the final text of the measure, or it could reflect a deliberate effort to punish Democrats for blocking the earlier Iran sanctions effort (S. 1881).  In such a scenario, AIPAC would in effect be colluding with the GOP to portray Democrats as blocking a key piece of pro-Israel legislation, being “soft” on Iran, and sacrificing Israel to support the Obama Administration. 

For further analysis of the AIPAC angle, see: Another AIPAC Miscalculation? (Mitchell Plitnick writing for LobeLog)

Background on the Best-Allies-With-Benefits Bills

S. 462 and its House companion bill, HR 938, were introduced around the same time (on 3/5/13 and 3/4/13, respectively).  Together, they were the Israel-focused centerpieces of the 2013 AIPAC policy conference, which ran March 3-5, 2013 (and was covered in detail in the Round-Ups during that period, for example here).  HR 938 and S. 462 differed from the start on the visa waiver section: the House version did not seek to legislate Israel into the visa waiver program, but expressed the view that Israel should be admitted to the program once it meets the requirements for admission; the Senate version, in contrast, sought to legislate Israel into the program (the two versions were compared in detail in the 5/10/13 edition of the Round-Up).

Both bills hit a wall in 2013.  In the House, HR 938 reportedly got stuck at least in part because some Members (most prominently Sherman, D-CA) as well as some outside parties, were pushing for the bill to be amended so that, like S. 462, it would compel the Administration to make Israel part of the Visa Waiver program.  This effort went nowhere.  At the same time, on the Senate side, serious objections to language in S. 462 regarding the visa waiver provisions led to zero movement on that bill, too, for more than a year.

Having failed to achieve a win on these key asks as part of its 2013 legislative agenda, AIPAC raised them again in 2014, once again making these bills a central goal of its lobby efforts (along with Iran letters in the House and Senate; see Round-Up reporting from that period, for example here).  This time around, there was some movement.  HR 938 was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee 1/29/14 – but not only was the visa waiver language not strengthened, it was abbreviated and a reporting requirement was removed.  The bill was then passed by the full House on 3/5/14 – exactly a year and a day after it was introduced. 

With House action complete, attention shifted to the Senate where, as predicted in the 5/9/14 edition of the Round-Up, the decision of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez (D-NJ) to sign on as a cosponsor of the bill on 5/8 was a tip-off that movement on the bill was imminent.  Which brings us to this week’s drama.

Looking Ahead

Stay tuned for the next chapter, a likely preview of which has already been reported: "‘I pulled it down because of the Iran amendment,’ Boxer told Al-Monitor. ‘I didn't think it should get mired in this. This is about a bilateral relationship with Israel.’  Instead, she vowed to try to ‘hotline’ the bill for unanimous approval by the Senate. Any Republican could object and force a vote requiring a 60-vote majority, but the bill already has 62 co-sponsors and Republicans may be reluctant to vote against pro-Israel legislation.”

At the same time, it remains an open question whether the text of the Corker amendment (like the House version, discussed in Section 3, below) will be introduced as a freestanding bill.

3. May Madness!  The FY15 NDAA

 The Bill Itself

As noted in last week’s Round-Up, HR 4435 was reported out of committee on 5/13.   Middle East elements in the bill, as reported out of committee, are:

Report on Defense contractors

Sec. 1262 requires a report on contractors with the DoD that have conducted significant transactions with Iranian persons or the government of Iran.

Reports on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Sec. 1263 requires the President to report to Congress “on the interim agreement relating to the nuclear program of Iran,” including “verification of whether Iran is complying with such agreement” and “an assessment of the overall state of the nuclear program of Iran.”  If by the time this bill becomes law the interim agreement has renewed or a final agreement has been reached, the President must report to Congress on the same issues in either of those contexts.

Sense of Congress regarding Iran Agreement

Sec. 1264 is a Sense of Congress laying out red lines for a U.S. agreement with Iran (including the demand for zero enrichment).  This is the Lamborn (R-CO) amendment adopted in Committee last week (discussed in the 5/9/14 edition of the Round-Up).    The White House Statement of Policy on HR 4435 expresses serious concerns about this section.

Israel Cooperative Programs

These programs – which are shorthand for several missile defense programs – is mentioned in the funding table at the end of the bill, where it indicates that the Committee authorizes $268.803 million for these programs, an increase of $172 million over the President’s request.  While there is no other discussion of Israel Cooperative Programs in the bill text, the matter is covered in some detail in the Committee report that accompanied the bill.  The report states:

The budget request contained $96.8 million in PE 63913C for Israeli Cooperative Programs in missile defense for fiscal year 2015. Of this amount, $10.7 million was requested for the Israeli Arrow program, $54.4 million for the Israeli Upper Tier program (also known as Arrow III), and $31.7 million for the Israeli Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense program (also known as David's Sling Weapons System (DSWS)).

The committee supports these cooperative programs and is pleased with the record of success seen over the past year. For example, on January 3, 2014, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Israeli Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) successfully completed a flight test of the Arrow 3 Interceptor missile over the Mediterranean Sea. This test was an important step towards fielding an additional layer of defense, with exo-atmospheric capability, against ballistic missile threats to the State of Israel. Additionally, on November 20, 2013, MDA and IMDO successfully conducted an intercept test using the DSWS. This second intercept test of DSWS continues to prove out the lower-tier capability Israel and the United States have cooperatively developed for the defense of Israel.

The committee continues to support these cooperative programs being mindful of the January 29, 2014, Annual Threat Assessment testimony of the Director of National Intelligence before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that, `Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East.'

The committee is also mindful of section 8070 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014 (division C of Public Law 113-76), which noted that of the $149.7 million provided for the DSWS, $15.0 million was provided for production of its interceptors in the United States and in Israel. Given the significant ongoing U.S. taxpayer investment, the committee supports co-production of these programs, and the committee expects to be regularly updated on the implementation of these appropriated funds…”

Iron Dome

Iron Dome is mentioned in the funding table at the end of the bill, where it indicates that the Committee authorizes $351.972 million for the program, an increase of $176 million over the President’s request.   While there is no other discussion of Iron Dome in the bill text, the Committee report that accompanied the bill included some new and very interesting language about Iron Dome.  While expressing clear support for Iron Dome, it also implies a surprising degree of criticism/dissatisfaction with elements of how the program is going.  For reporting on this (seemingly the only report in the media), see: House Defense bill mandates US firms get piece of Israel’s Iron Dome (Al-Monitor 5/22).

The Iron Dome report language is included here, in full:

The budget request contained $176.0 million in PE 28866C for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system.

The committee has supported the Iron Dome Weapons System since the State of Israel's first request for U.S. funding in fiscal year 2011. Since the first authorization of Missile Defense Agency (MDA) funding, U.S. taxpayers have provided $720.0 million for the program. The committee is aware that the Israeli requirement may necessitate up to $175.0 million in addition to the $176.0 million contained in the President's request.

The committee has received `The Agreement Between the Department of Defense of the United States of America and the Ministry of Defense of the State of Israel Concerning Iron Dome Defense System Procurement,' signed on March 5, 2014. The committee is pleased that this agreement resolves many details of U.S. coproduction of Iron Dome components and interceptors in the United States. The committee is aware that MDA and the Israeli Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) have entered into an international agreement to govern how the United States funds up to $680 million between fiscal years 2012-15 for Iron Dome. The committee is concerned that the agreement does not cover the full amount it recommends for fiscal year 2015. Given the significant U.S. taxpayer investment in this system, the committee believes that coproduction of parts and components should be done in a manner that will maximize U.S. industry participation in interceptor and battery deliveries for Israel's defense needs. The committee recommends $351.0 million, an increase of $175.0 million, in PE 28866C for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system.

However, the committee expects that the Director, Missile Defense Agency will not obligate or expend $175.0 million of that amount, and instead hold it in reserve and disburse it incrementally until receipt and acceptance by the MDA of sufficiently detailed cost and schedule justification from the Government of Israel. Such detailed cost and schedule justification must include:

(1) A timeline for Iron Dome expenditure of funds above the President's request for the fiscal year for which the funds were appropriated or made available;

(2) Copies of signed and ratified contracts, subcontracts, and teaming arrangements between Israeli and U.S. industry for all Iron Dome coproduction efforts;

(3) Delivery to MDA of all technical data packages as accepted by U.S. industry suppliers for coproduction; and

(4) A common cost model of Iron Dome components, to be jointly developed and agreed upon by MDA and IMDO that includes: recurring and non-recurring engineering costs; estimates for future buys and actual costs beginning with fiscal year 2013; the required quantities for all components through fiscal year 2019; and component lead-times and delivery schedules.

Additionally, the committee expects the Director, Missile Defense Agency will ensure that: Iron Dome operational data has been provided per previous commitments; this additional funding be applied to the work share percentage for fiscal year 2015 funding between U.S. and Israeli industry as proscribed under the recently signed Iron Dome Procurement Agreement; and that the additional funds are required to meet Israeli defense needs. Any funds found to be in excess of Israel's justified and documented needs during fiscal year 2015 may be transferred by the MDA to appropriations available for the procurement of weapons and equipment according to priority needs.

The committee also believes that if there is a request for Iron Dome funding for fiscal year 2016, the Director, Missile Defense must establish for the committee how those funds will resolve details and agreements needed for U.S.-based coproduction of all-up-rounds and cover the export of Iron Dome technology to U.S. and Israeli allies, including coproduction of parts, components, and all-up-rounds of those exports.

The committee directs the Director, Missile Defense Agency, in coordination with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, to provide a report to the congressional defense committees not later than October 1, 2014, on the information provided in the required detailed cost and schedule justification, including the views of the Director and the Under Secretary on its sufficiency.

Further, the committee directs the Director, Missile Defense Agency to provide a briefing to the congressional defense committees not less than once each quarter in fiscal year 2015, starting October 1, 2014, on the progress in achieving the requirements established in `The Agreement Between the Department of Defense of the United States of America and the Ministry of Defense of the State of Israel Concerning Iron Dome Defense System Procurement.'

Operational testing of High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator 

The report language states: “The committee believes that the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL-MD) is of great value to the Army and to the Department of Defense's efforts to develop directed energy weapons. The committee is concerned that the Army does not have a clear plan for the future of the HEL-MD. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a briefing on the plan for the future of the HEL-MD to the House Armed Services Committee by December 1, 2014. This plan shall include an analysis on the feasibility of operational testing of the HEL-MD, including the possibility of operational testing of the HEL-MD in international locations such as Israel.”

 Amendments to the bill

 HR 4435 was brought to the floor this week, following several days during which members submitted amendments to the Rules Committee.  As is always the case, the bill attracted numerous Iran- and Middle East-related amendments.  The Rules committee ruled some of these “in order” (meaning they would come to the floor for debate or a vote).  The remaining amendments were either withdrawn by the sponsor (in a handful of cases) or simply won’t be considered.  A quick look at all of these amendments follows.  As has been noted in the Round-Up in the past, it is worth keeping a close eye on amendments that are not made in order, as these often indicate language that will come up again in another form.

1.  Mideast-related Amendments “Made in Order” by Rules Committee

 (ISRAEL/IRAN) Roskam (R-IL):  As noted in last week’s Round-Up, this amendment seeks, in effect, to ensure that Israel has what it needs to carry out military action on its own against Iran.  As described in the amendment’s summary, the amendment (amended since last week) would require the President to submit a report to Congress every 180 days that “identifies that the United States has taken all necessary steps to ensure that Israel possesses and maintains an independent capability to remove existential threats to its security and defend its vital national interests.”   The amendment includes a Sense of Congress that “It is the sense of Congress that air refueling tankers and advanced bunker-buster munitions should immediately be transferred to Israel to ensure our democratic ally has an independent capability to remove any existential threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program and defend its vital national interests.”  It should be noted that with respect to the Sense of Congress portion of the amendment, Congress has already passed more or less the same thing into law (PL 112-150, which is referenced in the amendment) – the main difference being Roskam’s explicit mention of bunker buster munitions (the same thing is implied but not stated in the existing law).  Walorski (R-IN), a cosponsor of the amendment, spoke in support of it on the House floor, hereADOPTED 5/21 BY VOICE VOTE (as part of En Bloc amendment #7).

(ISRAEL) Gosar (R-AZ): An amendment stating: “Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to fully support Israel’s lawful exercise of self-defense, including actions to halt regional aggression.”  In effect, this appears to be an articulation of support for preemptive/preventive military action by Israel (including, and most prominently, against Iran). ADOPTED 5/21 BY VOICE VOTE (as part of En Bloc amendment #7).

(IRAN/SYRIA AUMF) Gibson (R-NY) & Garamendi (D-CA):  An amendment adding a Rule of Construction to the NDAA, stating that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Syria or Iran.”  ADOPTED 5/21 BY VOICE VOTE (as part of En Bloc amendment #6).

(SYRIA/RUSSIA) DeLauro (D-CT), Granger (R-TX), Ellison (D-MN), Connolly (D-VA), Huizenga (R-MI):  As summarized for the Rules Committee: “Prohibits the Department of Defense from entering into a contract or subcontract with Russia’s state-arms dealer Rosoboronexport unless the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State and Director of National Intelligence, certifies that the firm ceased transferring weapons to Syria, Russia pulled out of Crimea, Russian forces have withdrawn from the eastern boarder of Ukraine, and that Russia is not otherwise actively destabilizing Ukraine. Requires that the certification would be reviewed by the Defense Department Inspector General.” ADOPTED 5/21 BY VOICE VOTE (as part of En Bloc amendment #6).

(SYRIA/EGYPT/IRAQ) Engel (D-NY):  As summarized for the Rules Committee: “Requires the Secretary of Defense to report on activities of the Department of Defense in regards to protecting cultural property abroad.”  The “whereas” clauses note threats/harm to cultural equities in Syria, Egypt, and Iraq in the context of upheaval in those countries. ADOPTED 5/21 BY VOICE VOTE (as part of En Bloc amendment #6).

(AUMF) Schiff (D-CA) & Garamendi (D-CA):  As summarized for the Rules Committee: “Sunsets the 2001 AUMF effective 12 months from date of enactment of the bill.” FAILED by a roll call vote of 191-233, with 7 not voting.

2. Mideast-related Amendments NOT “Made in Order” or Withdrawn

(OVERSIGHT OVER IRAN DEAL) Franks (R-AZ):  As summarized for the Rules Committee: “Allows Congress to hold hearings and take a Vote of Disapproval after any deal the Administration makes with Iran regarding their nuclear program.”  NOTE: This amendment is identical to the amendment that Senator Corker (R-TN) sought to introduce in the SFRC’s scheduled markup this week of S. 462 (discussed in Section 2, above).   The Obama Administration strongly opposed the language.  NOTE: It is expected that this text will be introduced as a freestanding bill imminently.

(IRAN) Doggett (D-TX):  amendment would have removed Iran language in the bill added in the House Armed Services Committee markup by Lamborn (R-CO), Sec. 1264, discussed above, and added a new Sense of Congress on Iran.   As summarized for the Rules Committee, it would have replaced that language with a Sense of Congress that “a comprehensive agreement with Iran relating to Iran’s nuclear program should substantially increase the security of the people of the United States and include significant and verifiable constraints sufficient to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Expresses the Sense of Congress that existing sanctions related to Iran’s other proscribed activities will continue to be strictly enforced until Iran ceases such activities.”  NOT MADE IN ORDER

(IRAN) Doggett (D-TX):  This amendment would have removed Iran language in the bill added in the House Armed Services Committee markup by Lamborn (R-CO), Sec. 1264, discussed above, and added new state of U.S. policy regarding Iran.  As summarized for the Rules Committee, it would have replaced that language with a new requirement that “a comprehensive agreement with Iran relating to Iran’s nuclear program should substantially increase the security of the people of the United States and include significant and verifiable constraints sufficient to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Requires that existing sanctions related to Iran’s other proscribed activities continue to be strictly enforced until Iran ceases such activities.” WITHDRAWN

(IRAN/MEK)  Poe (R-TX):  As summarized for the Rules Committee: “Allows members of MEK to resettle in the United States by removing them from the Tier III terrorist organization list.”  In fact, the text appears to give the Secretary of State the authority “exclude the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the definition of terrorist organization in section” (as a discretionary matter, rather than based on whether the MEK legally still qualifies as an FTO).  Under the Poe amendment, a decision to use this authority to remove the MEK from the list would be immune to any judicial review.  The text says nothing about resettlement of MEK members.  NOT MADE IN ORDER

(AUMF) Lee (D-CA) et al As summarized for the Rules Committee: “Requires a report on operations pursuant to the 2001 AUMF, gives Congress the opportunity to review those activities and repeals the authority for AUMF activities not specifically reauthorized.” NOT MADE IN ORDER

(AUMF) Lee (D-CA) et al As summarized for the Rules Committee: “Repeals the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” NOT MADE IN ORDER

(US MILITARY AID) Ellison (D-MN): As summarized for the Rules Committee:  “Prohibits funds authorized by the bill to be used to provide tear gas, small arms, light weapons, ammunition, or other items for crowd control purposes for foreign security forces that use excessive force to repress peaceful expression, association, or assembly in countries undergoing democratic transition.NOT MADE IN ORDER

(EGYPT AID) Ellison (D-MN) As summarized for the Rules Committee:  “States that funds authorized by the bill may be made available to the Government of Egypt only if the Secretary of State certifies that 1) Egypt has held free and fair elections and 2) does not have in its custody any American citizen being held as a political prisoner. The bill includes a presidential national security waiver.” NOT MADE IN ORDER

(SYRIA) Conyers (D-MI) et al As summarized for the Rules Committee:  “Prohibits the Department of Defense from using funds to transfer or facilitate the transfer of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) to any actor in Syria or to any other recipient unless that recipient agrees that it will not transfer such systems or facilitate the transfer of such systems to any actor in Syria.”  NOT MADE IN ORDER

(IRAN/SYRIA AUMF) Johnson (D-GA):  As summarized for the Rules Committee: Clarifies that nothing in the bill constitutes an Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iran or Syria.NOT MADE IN ORDER

Floor consideration

During 5/21 floor consideration of HR 4435, Rep. Doggett (D-TX) delivered a powerful statement in support of Iran diplomacy and expressing concern about the language contained in Sec. 1264 (discussed at the top of this section).  Video of him delivering the statement is here.  Here is the text of what he said:

Mr. Speaker, there are few greater threats to the security of American families than those which could arise from the failure of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Parts of this bill seek to disrupt the administration's tough, persistent diplomacy. Some would even assign to Israel the job of starting what could become World War III. Even the Bush-Cheney administration rejected that approach.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard hard-liners may ultimately doom these negotiations. Our responsibility is to ensure that hard-liners here don't do the obstruction for them.

Our arsenal of democracy includes more than bombs. It includes tough negotiations and strong sanctions to reach a carefully monitored, verifiable agreement that will protect our families and our allies.

Given the high cost of failure, we certainly cannot afford to surrender to defeatists, who capitulate on the negotiations before they are even completed. It is too soon to wave the white flag and give up in favor of war.

The obstinate objections raised last year to the interim agreement were proven to be unjustified. The International Atomic Energy Agency has determined that Iran has taken verifiable actions to halt the progress of its nuclear program.

Let's give peace a chance.

During 5/20 consideration of HR 4435, Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX) spoke on the floor about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stating:  

…Let us also get re-engaged in the discussions on the Palestinian peace discussions, with the discussions going forward with Israel and Palestine, in spite of the fact that there are some very difficult things that we have to overcome. I believe it is important that we stand ready and are ready, that our negotiations are going forward to secure this Nation.

4. Hearings 

5/22: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled “The Gulf Cooperation Council: Deepening Rifts and Emerging Challenges”.  Witnesses were: David Andrew Weinberg, FDD (statement); and Simon Henderson, WINEP (statement); and Stephen Seche, Former U.S. Ambassador Yemen (statement).  Video of the hearing is available here.  Subcommittee Chair Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) opening statement here.

5/22: House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing entitled “Protecting Religious Freedom: U.S. Efforts to Hold Accountable Countries of Particular Concern.”  Panel 1 witness was Robert George, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (statement).  Panel 2 witnesses were Kenneth Bowers, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States (statement); Amjad Khan, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA (statement); and Pastor Bob Fu, ChinaAid Association (statement).

5/21: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a two-panel hearing entitled, “Authorization For Use Of Military Force After Iraq And Afghanistan.”  Video of the hearing is available here.  Panel 1 witnesses were Mary Mcleod, Principal Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State (statement); and Stephen Preston, General Counsel, Department of Defense (statement).  Panel 2 witnesses were Harold Hongju Koh, Former State Department Legal Adviser (statement); and Michael Mukasey, Former U.S. Attorney (statement).   

5/21: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled, “The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria: Views from the Ground”.  Video of the hearing is available here.  Witnesses were: Andrea Koppel, Mercy Corps (statement); Holly Solberg, CARE (statement); Pia Wanek, Global Communities (statement);  Zaher Sahloul, Syrian American Medical Society (statement);  and Bernice Romero, Save the Children (statement).  Subcommittee Chair Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) opening statement here.

5.  Members on the Record

Green (D-TX) 5/21:  Expressing support for Israel, support for Iran talks, and support for new Iran sanctions should they become necessary

Kildee (D-MI) 5/21: Calling on Iran to free Amir Hekmati (his constituent)

Holding (R-NC) 5/20: Calling for Congress to “increase our oversight of the dealings with the regime in Tehran, especially as the July 20 deadline [for an agreement] rapidly approaches”

Schiff (D-CA) 5/20: Tribute to Israel’s Independence Day

Wolf (R-VA) 5/19: Commending American Christian Leaders for Standing in Solidarity with Christians and Other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 5/16: Press release slamming Palestinian President Abbas for visiting Venezuela

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Israel (D-NY) 5/16: Press release welcoming agreement to extend Iraqi Jewish Archives Exhibit in U.S.

Portman (R-OH) 5/16: Press release - Portman Meets with the American Jewish Committee

6.  From the Press

Foreign Policy Initiative 5/22: FPI Bulletin: Will Congress Genuinely Debate What an Iran Nuclear Deal Should Look Like?

Haaretz 5/21: U.S. Senate confirms Stanley Fischer as Fed governor

The Forward 5/21: Congress Move To Ease Visa Rules for Israel Hits Snag Over Spying Reports

Jewish Press 5/16: More Members of Congress Visiting Judea and Samaria  - report on the visit by Reps. Harris (R-MD) and DeSantis (R-FL), “who toured the region with the Yesha Council on a Yes! Israel Mission last week. The two members of the U.S. House of Representatives and their wives visited Gush Etzion, Efra, Hebron, the South Hebron Hills, Jordan Valley, Ariel, Samaria, and the Binyamin Regional Council from May 12 – 15.”  The article was cross-posted on the website of Rep. Harris.)

San Diego Jewish World 5/16: Two GOP Congress members visit Israel, pledge support – more on the Harris (R-MD)/De Santis (R-FL) tour with Israeli settlers

 

 

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