APN Legislative Round-Up: May 8, 2015

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Senate Passes Iran Deal Oversight bill…
3. …As 151 House Dems Endorse Iran Diplomacy   
4. NDAA Takes Center Stage
5. Hearings
6. Members on the Record


Shameless plug:

Lara Friedman in The Hill 4/27: Dear Congress: ‘Pro-Israel’ is not ‘pro-settlements’


1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(UPDATE ON CORKER IRAN DEAL VETO BILL) HR 1191 (formerly S. 615):  On 5/7, the Senate voted to end debate on HR 1191, and then voted to adopt HR 1191, by a vote of 98-1 (the only “no” vote was Cotton, R-AR; Boxer, D-CA, did not vote).  For full details, see Section 2, below.

(UPDATE ON TPA & PRO-SETTLEMENT LEGISLATION IT CONTAINS) S. 995: As reported in the 4/24 edition of the Round-Up, a provision conflating Israel and settlements (and equating boycotting Israel with boycotting settlements) was inserted into both the House and Senate versions of the Trade Promotion Authority Bill (TPA).  Now, it appears that Senate leadership is getting set to bring S. 995 to the Senate floor for debate and a vote, setting up what could turn into a nasty partisan battle over trade policy, with many Democrats opposing the bill, despite White House support for the legislation.  With respect to the Israel-related provision, as of this writing not a single member of Congress, House or Senate, has spoken out to question why Congress is now, 48 years into the occupation, suddenly shifting positions to promote and protect settlements in this trade bill. Also, on 5/5, Sen. Portman (R-OH) gave a report on the Senate floor about his recent Israel trip, during which he promoted his pro-settlement legislation (which is now in the TPA bill) and once again conflated BDS against Israel with policies and activism targeting settlements and occupation (he also endorses Netanyahu’s views on Iran and any Iran deal).

(US CITIZENS IMPRISONED IN IRAN) S. Con. Res. 16: Introduced 5/7 by Risch (R-ID) and 11 cosponsors (bipartisan), “A concurrent resolution stating the policy of the United States regarding the release of United States citizens in Iran.”  5/7 Ordered Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders.

(NDAA ON THE DOCKET) HR 1735:  On 5/5, the House Armed Services Committee reported out HR 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Committee Report is here).  This follows a marathon Committee mark-up 4/29-4/30 (more than 17 hours).  The bill could come to the House floor as early as next week (and more Middle East-related amendments will be on tap).  Also, it should be noted that there is a good chance that this bill will be vetoed by President Obama.  For details of the Middle East-elements of this bill, see Section 4, below.

(ENERGY & WATER APPROPRIATIONS BILL) HR 2028:  On 5/1, the House passed HR 2028, “Making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.” During floor consideration of the bill, the House adopted an amendment offered by Lamborn (R-CO), to increase the funding for the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation program from the current $2 million to $4 million. The House also adopted an amendment offered by Babin (R-TX), “to prohibit the use of funds under the heading ‘Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation’ from being made available to enter into new contracts with, or new agreements for Federal assistance to the Islamic Republic of Iran except for contracts or agreements that require the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear weapons technology.” Another Babin amendment, which sought to prohibit funding being used “to enter into new contracts with, or new agreements for, Federal assistance to the Islamic Republic of Iran except for contracts or agreements that include authority for the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct anytime, anywhere inspections of civil and military sites within the Islamic Republic of Iran,” was ruled out of order. 

(UN KEEP OUT OF ISRAEL’S BUSINESS!) H. Res. 222: Introduced 4/28 by McKinley (R-WV) and three GOP cosponsors, “A resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should come from direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions and without interference from the United Nations.”  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(SYRIA) S. Res. 173: Introduced 5/6 by Reid (D-NV) and 4 cosponsors, “A resolution condemning atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his regime, and for other purposes.”  Brought to the floor and passed 5/6 by Unanimous Consent.

(INVESTIGATE DEATH OF ARGENTINE PROSECUTOR) S. Res. 167: Introduced 5/5 by Rubio (R-FL) and Kirk (R-IL), “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the courageous work and life of Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman, and calling for a swift and transparent investigation into his tragic death in Buenos Aires on January 18, 2015. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Rubio press release on the resolution is here.

(THE BUDGET BILL) S. Con. Res. 11:  On 4/29 the House-Senate conference version of S. Con. Res. 11 was released (for details of the Senate’s “vote-a-rama” on the bill, see the 3/27/15 edition of the Round-Up).  The Senate adopted the Conference version of the bill on 5/5, by a vote of 51-48.  The Conference version of the bill includes a number of Middle East-related (but, remember, non-binding) provisions.  These are:

-   Sec. 4348: Relating to supporting Israel (“The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to United States policy toward Israel and the prevention of anti-Semitism in Europe, which may include preventing the United Nations and other international institutions, including human rights organizations, from taking unfair or discriminatory action against Israel, and supporting efforts to prevent anti-Semitism in Europe…”)

 -  Sec. 4357: Relating to reimposing waived sanctions and imposing new sanctions against Iran for violations of the Joint Plan of Action or a comprehensive nuclear agreement. (“The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to Iran, which may include efforts to immediately reimpose waived sanctions and impose new sanctions against the Government of Iran if the President cannot make a determination and certify that Iran is complying with the Joint Plan of Action or a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear program...”)

Sec. 4358: Relating to supporting United States citizens held hostage in the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran, between November 3, 1979, and January 20, 1981. (“The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to supporting citizens of the United States held hostage in the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran, between November 3, 1979, and January 20, 1981…”).

Sec. 4370: Relating to increasing funding for the relocation of the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (“The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to increasing funding for United States embassies, which may include the relocation of the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem…”).


(PRO-DIPLOMACY WITH IRAN) Schakowsky-Doggett-Price letter: On 5/8, a letter was sent to President Obama, signed by 151 House Democrats, strongly supporting ongoing diplomatic efforts to reach a nuclear agreement that prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  For full details, see Section 3, below. Schakowsky’s press release on the letter is here.

(IRAN INTELLIGENCE GAPS) Rubio et al letter:  On 4/28, Senators Rubio (R-FL), Coats (R-IN), Cotton (R-AR), Collins (R-ME), Risch (R-ID), Lankford (R-OK) and Blunt (R-MO) (all members of the Select Intelligence Committee) sent a letter Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The letter takes Clapper to task for his 2015 worldwide threat assessment, asserting that the report “did not fully represent the threat posed by Iranian support for terrorist proxies and violent Shia militants throughout the Middle East.”  The letter implies strongly that the signers believe the DNI pulled his punches in the report in deference to “ongoing nuclear negotiations and the administration’s evolving policy towards the Iranian regime.” In addition to requesting that the DNI provide a supplementary threat assessment focused solely on “Iran’s support for terrorism and the threat posed by Shia militants,” the letter closes with an even more direct insinuation of political interference in the drafting of the report, noting: “We also request that you inform us whether previous drafts of the unclassified assessment contained information regarding Iran’s support for terrorism; the justification for removing those references; and who made the decision to remove them.” Rubio press release is here.

2.  Senate Passes Iran Deal Oversight bill…

Cloture and then near-unanimous passage:  On 5/7, the Senate voted for cloture (i.e., to end debate) by a vote of 93-6, and then voted 98-1 to adopt HR 1191 (formerly S. 615), after first amending HR 1191 to delete the full text of the House bill and replace it with the text of S. 615. The only “no” vote on HR 1191 was Cotton (R-AR); Boxer, D-CA, did not vote; the six “no” votes on cloture were Cotton (R-AR), Cruz (R-TX), Grassley (R-IA), Lee (R-UT), Moran (R-KS), and Sullivan (R-AK).  The Senate also voted (helpfully) to rename HR 1191 “A bill to provide for congressional review and oversight of agreements relating to Iran's nuclear program, and for other purposes” – clearing up some lingering confusion about what the legislation is actually about (see the 4/24/15 edition of the Round-Up for details of house S. 615 become HR 1191).

These votes closed out a two-week long Senate floor drama during which GOP hardliners introduced more than 80 poison pill amendments.  Most of these appear to have been introduced primarily for grandstanding purposes, given that they were opposed by GOP Senate leadership and by key backers of the bill, including AIPAC (which has been the chief advocate of the Corker bill from the moment it was introduced). An excellent summary of the various amendments is available here.

What Happens Next:  Action on Corker’s Iran oversight legislation now moves to the House, where reportedly GOP hardliners are already preparing to pick up where Cotton (R-AR), Rubio (R-FL), Cruz (R-TX) and other Senate hotheads left off.

Taking on AIPAC:  With this bill, we saw in the Senate, and are now seeing in the House, something taking place that is almost certainly without precedent: Members of Congress openly and without any apology slamming, in the strongest possible terms and often with reference to their own strong support for Israel, legislation that is backed strongly and publicly by AIPAC – slamming it for being insufficiently tough on Iran and insufficiently supportive of Israel.  It should be kept in mind that these attacks are not linked only to changes made to the bill in the SFRC (changes that were substantively minimal), but rather to the bill itself, as it was introduced and remains today.  Clearly, these Members of Congress are confident that taking on AIPAC so directly from a more right-wing, hardline position – and impugning AIPAC’s pro-Israel credentials – will have no ill consequences for them. 

Press reports: Iran Vote Wasn't a Total Victory for Obama (Bloomberg, 5/8); Iran review bill approval sets up partisan battle (Al Monitor 5/7); Senate overwhelmingly passes Iran bill (Politico, 5/7); Senate overwhelmingly approves Iran review bill in 98-1 vote (The Hill, 5/7); Senate Easily Passes Bill for a Voice on Iran Nuclear Accord (NYT, 5/7); Senate OKs bill giving Congress review of Iran nuclear deal (AP, 5/7); Senate Passes Bill Giving Congress Right to Weigh In on Iran Nuclear Deal (Wall Street Journal, 5/7); Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Iran Bill; Boehner Looks to House Action (Roll Call, 5/7); Senate passes Iran nuclear review bill, House up next (Reuters, 5/7)

Senators on the Record:  Did someone say something about grandstanding? Because there was a lot of it on the Senate floor in recent days over this bill.  Indeed, GOP firebrands gleefully sought headlines as they slammed the bill for being too weak, or slammed GOP leaders and Democrats for opposing amendments to make it tougher, even when it was clear that such amendments would kill the bill. Outstanding among even this remarkable batch of grandstanding amendments were those linked to Israel – like the amendment offered by Heller (R-NV), Cruz (R-TX), Rubio (R-FL), Cotton (R-AR), Inhofe (R-OK) and Kirk (R-IL) to force the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a condition for any agreement  the recognition of  Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (Heller press release is here) and several amendments to make implementation of an agreement contingent on Iran recognizing Israel’s right to exist (for fun reporting on this, see: Arab states worry over Senate's 'Jewish State' debate, Al-Monitor 5/5).

Highlights from and links to floor consideration of the bill are included below. Of particular note is the statement from Menendez (D-NJ), appearing to open the door for further legislative action related to Iran, separate from this bill.

 5/7 floor consideration:

McConnell (R-KY), making case for HR 1191, but lamenting that it could not be stronger (“If we didn't face the threats of filibusters or the blocking of amendments or the specter of Presidential vetoes, this bill would be a heck of a lot stronger, I assure you.”)

Coats (R-IN), making case for HR 1191 because, “Passage of the bill before us will result in either forcing critical and absolutely necessary improvements in the deal now being cooked with our Secretary of State and the President and his people or defeating a bad deal if a bad deal is presented to us.”

5/7 floor consideration:

Udall (D-NM), speaking in support of the P5+1’s negotiations with Iran and HR 1191, noting that, “While I do not believe this bill is necessary to have such a role, I do believe it is the best compromise to ensure a congressional oversight role without weakening the President's hand to continue critical negotiations.”  

Menendez (D-NJ), speaking in support of HR 1191, expressing deep concerns about framework agreement, and making the case for further legislative action on Iran separate from HR 1191 – “I would say to my colleagues who feel passionately about some of these amendments they have offered, this isn't the only bill in which we could consider these issues. I stand ready to work with colleagues immediately on pursuing other concerns, such as missile technology, terrorism, their human rights violations, their anti-Semitism, and the Americans who are being held hostage; and to look at either sanctions or enhanced sanctions that may already exist on those elements that we should be considering and which are separate and apart from the nuclear program. I would be more than willing to work with my colleagues to deal with all of those issues.”

Merkley (D-OR), offering a detailed technical defense of Iran negotiations and the framework agreement, as well as discussing the false promise of alternative approaches.

Feinstein (D-CA), likewise offer a detailed defense of framework agreement and explaining for the record why an Iran deal will not be a treaty.

Rubio (R-FL), speaking out to criticize HR 1191 -- “I wanted to come to the floor to speak about the risk Iran poses to the world as a result of the legislation before the Senate at this moment.” And then to suggest that as a result of this bill and an agreement, Israel will be justified in attacking Iran: “…I said at the outset that I think a bad deal almost guarantees war, and here is why. Because the State of Israel--such an important ally to the United States--is not thousands of miles away from Iran. Put yourself in their position for a moment. This small country, with a small population, 9 miles wide at its narrowest point--with a neighbor to the north that openly and repeatedly says it wants to destroy them and is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear capability--feels like their very existence is being threatened. Faced with that, Israel may very well take military action on their own to protect themselves. I think a bad deal exponentially increases the likelihood of that happening.”

Tillis (R-NC), slamming the pending Iran agreement and suggesting --  “We need to worry about what the Prime Minister of Israel said just a few months ago here in this Chamber: This represents a dire threat. Does anyone think that Israel can stand by on their own and allow Iran to continue to be unfettered and potentially move forward with a nuclear program? I don't think so.”

Cornyn (R-TX) 5/7: Praising HR 1191, slamming deal.

5/6 floor consideration: Cruz (R-TX) making case against Corker bill since it won’t block an Iran deal and making case for his amendment (with Toomey) to require affirmative vote by 2/3 of Senate to approve any deal.

5/6 floor consideration: Floor statements from Barrasso, R-WY (supportive of bill, critical of Obama Admin policy); Roberts (R-KY) in support of his amendment to the bill (related to Iranian ballistic missiles), Vitter, R-LA (attacking amendment process) and Cardin, D-MD (defending amendment process)

4/30 floor consideration: Cotton (R-AR) amendment on Jewish state discussed (with Cotton demanding that votes on poison pill amendments).

4/30 floor consideration: Murphy (D-CT), Klobuchar (D-MN) and Carper (D-DE) in support of HR 1191.

4/29 floor consideration: On amendments, including Rubio amendment to require Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, with Rubio defending his amendment and Cardin opposing it (Cardin: “…This agreement we are negotiating with our negotiating partners and Iran is to deal with Iran's nuclear weapon program. I know from my conversations with the Israeli Government that they think that is the most important thing for their existence--the most important thing--that Iran not become a nuclear weapons state. That is what Israel needs, and that is what we are trying to get. The Rubio amendment, although it is not intended to do that, would say: No, that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to negotiate the language, what Iran says about Israel, not their nuclear weapons program, and that the President must achieve that.  When you are negotiating, the more things you put on the table, the weaker position you are in in achieving the most important point, and that is making sure we have a strong agreement that Iran can never become a nuclear weapons state. That is why this amendment will accomplish just the opposite as far as Israel's security is concerned. Yes, it is a poison pill. Yes, it will defeat this bill. That also happens to be true. And, yes, it will mean it will be almost impossible for the President to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran.”)

Cornyn (R-TX) 4/28: Praising HR 1191, slamming deal.

King (I-ME) 4/28: Speaking is support of HR 1191, in support of diplomacy, and honestly about the false promise of alternative offered by opponents of the current effort. Also, directly taking on the amendment to require Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state as precondition for a deal (“I know that as this debate continues there are going to be a series of amendments and a lot of those amendments are going to be appealing. For example, as part of the condition of the deal, Iran shall recognize Israel's right to exist or as part of the negotiation of the deal, Iran must forswear terrorism or the President has to certify that Iran forswears terrorism. Those are desirable, but they will never happen. Iran will not agree to those. So when we propose an amendment such as that, what we are really saying is we don't want an agreement… We can't solve all the problems in the region with this agreement. The purpose of this agreement is to keep Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon. That is what we have to keep our eye on. And if amendments--no matter how desirable, no matter how good they sound, no matter how politically appealing, if those amendments will undercut or effectively eliminate our ability to keep our eye on the main ball, which is to keep them from having nuclear weapons, those amendments will not serve us, our interests, Israel's interests, the Middle East's interests, or the world's interests.”)

Corker (R-RN), Cardin (D-MD), Coats (R-IN), Coons (D-DE), and Shaheen (D-NH) 4/28: In support of HR 1191; Coats slamming Obama Administration policy and slamming pending agreement; Coons calling out Republicans on poison pill amendments (“I believe I have been as outspoken as anybody about Iran's destructive behavior, but I am troubled by some of the amendments being offered to make Iran's human rights record, its support for terrorism, and its relationship with Israel a part of these negotiations. Yes, Iran's human rights record is atrocious. Its support for terrorism threatens the stability of its neighbors and has taken countless innocent lives. Its continued threatening of Israel and its unwillingness to recognize the right of the Jewish State of Israel to exist is cowardly, dangerous, and just plain wrong. Iran must release the four Americans it currently holds hostage. I think everyone in this body would agree these are legitimate concerns for our consideration. Yet, the truth remains that they are outside the scope of the current negotiations around Iran's nuclear program. Congress must resist the temptation to make them a sticking point in those negotiations by including them as amendments to this bill.  Let's be clear. There are already congressionally enacted sanctions on Iran for its behavior in these areas. The deal's parameters, as published April 2, said that ‘U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.’ No one is talking about removing those sanctions. The negotiations are about Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program and the critical importance of preventing Iran from ever building a nuclear weapon.”

Nelson (D-FL) 4/27: In support of HR 1191

Moran (R-KS) 4/27: Slamming the pending Iran deal, supporting HR 1191

Kaine (D-VA) 4/27: Speaking in support of ongoing negotiations and what they have achieved, and in support of HR 1191

3. …as 151 House Dems Endorse Iran Diplomacy

On 5/7, a letter was sent to President Obama, signed by 151 House Democrats, articulating strong support for the ongoing diplomacy between the P5+1 and Iran.  Text of the letter and a list of signers is here (after the list was released, one additional member, Delaney, D-MD, signed on). The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Schakowsky (D-IL), Doggett (D-TX), and Price (D-NC) and backed (and lobbied) by a number of grassroots groups, including APN (our previous action alert can be viewed here; our more recent action alert, calling for thanks and spanks for signers and non-signers, is here).

The letter – signed by one-third of the voting members of the House, including members of the Democratic leadership and Jewish members – sends an unprecedented and resounding message of Congressional backing for the ongoing Iran negotiations and the achievement of an agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, consistent with the Framework Agreement announced last month.

The release of the Schakowsky-Doggett-Price letter coincided with a period of intense negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran over the final details of an agreement, the deadline for which is June 30.  The letter’s positive, pro-diplomacy message should encourage and energize negotiators as they enter the final stretch in this long and arduous negotiations effort.  

The letter’s publication also coincided with passage in the House of HR 1191 (for details see Section 2, above).  As the Round-Up has been tracking for months, some opponents of an achievable nuclear agreement with Iran – both inside and outside of Congress – have made clear that their goal is to block implementation of any deal reached between the P5+1 and Iran. Importantly, under HR 1191, this goal could only be realized if Congress adopts a resolution disapproving of a deal, President Obama vetoes that resolution, and 2/3 of the House and 2/3 of the Senate vote to override that veto.  The Schakowsky-Doggett-Price, while in no way committing its signers to any specific position with respect to a final deal, nonetheless signals that there may well be sufficient support for a deal in Congress to prevent any such veto override.

APN’s statement on the release of the letter is here.


4.  House NDAA Takes Center Stage

On 5/5, the House Armed Services Committee reported out HR 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Committee Report is here).  This follows a marathon Committee mark-up 4/29-4/30 (more than 17 hours).  The bill is expected to come to the House floor next week (when more Middle East-related amendments will be on tap); it should be noted that there is a good chance that this bill will be vetoed by President Obama (also see this).  Also, the Senate Armed Services Committee is set to take up its version of the NDAA in a closed hearing next week; given that the committee is packed with GOP hardliners, including Cotton (R-AR) (who voted against HR 1191) and several others who voted against cloture on HR 1191 and/or who backed poison pill amendments to that bill, it can be safely assumed that there will be efforts in that closed markup to insert all manner of Iran- and Middle East-related provisions into the Senate version of the text.

The base bill in the House (the Chairman’s Mark), included a number of Middle East-related provisions.  Specifically:

-          Section 1231: Extending an Annual Report on Military Power of Iran – not just for another year (as has been practice) but until 2025.

-          Section 1232: This is a Sense of Congress effectively attacking ongoing diplomacy with Iran and a deal that may result from it.  It includes findings explicitly critical of Iran nuclear negotiations and a Sense of Congress that, among other things, suggests that Iran’s “malign activities” will likely increase under a final deal and reaffirms “the rights of United States allies [read: Israel] to exercise their legitimate right to self-defense against the Government of Iran.

-          Section 1669: Earmarking $41.4 million for the Iron Dome Short-Range Rocket Defense System

-          Section 1670: Earmarking $165 million for Israeli Cooperative Missile Defense Program Co-Development and Potential Co-Production (up to $150 million for David’s Sling and up to $15 million for Arrow 3 upper tier development program).

Middle East-related amendments adopted in during the committee mark-up of the bill (as part of several packages of en bloc amendments) were:

 -          Lamborn (R-CO)/Graham (D-FL) amdt 284r2: Establishes a cooperative program with Israel to develop anti-tunneling systems and increases by $40 million funds for this effort – funded by taking $20 million from funding for the Army for “common bridge transporter recap,” $10 million from the Navy funding for aircraft procurement of spares and repair parts; and $20 million from Army procurement funding for generators and associated equipment.  Graham press release is here, and notes that AIPAC endorsed the amendment in a letter.  The amendment combines language from HR 1349 and HR 1649. Lamborn presser is here (and details other amendments Lamborn introduced and succeeded in having adopted).

-          Lamborn (R-CO) amdt 287: Amends section 1245 of the FY10 NDAA on the Iran Military Power report to include an assessment of transfers to Iran of military equipment, technology, and training from non-Iranian sources.

-          Lamborn (R-CO) amdt 288r1: Requires the Secretary of Defense to report on the military posture required to deter Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, counter Iran's military activities, and protect U.S. military interests in the region.  The amendment requires that not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, “the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report regarding the military posture required in the Middle East to deter Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.” It goes on to stipulate that matters to be included in the report shall include: “a discussion of the military forces, bases and capabilities required to- (1) maintain a military option of preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon; (2) counter Iran's military activities; and (3) protect the United States military and other interests in the region.”

-          Thornberry (R-TX) amdt 307: Modifies part of the Sense of Conrgess in section 2132 (discussed above) to add: “Congress supports efforts to reach a peaceful, diplomatic solution to permanently and verifiably end Iran's pursuit, development, and acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability, and it reaffirms that it is United States policy that Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapons capability and that all instruments of United States power must be considered to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

-          Lamborn (R-CO) 105r1: Requires the Secretary of Defense to provide a report on Turkey's efforts to combat the flow of foreign fighters to Syria through its territory, Turkey's relationship with Hamas, and efforts by Turkey to fight terrorism.

Middle East-related amendments offered for consideration when the bill comes to the floor are:

-          Franks (R-AZ) amdt #18 - States that it is the sense of Congress that any deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program abide by certain terms and conditions [including zero enrichment, etc…].

-          Schweikert (R-AZ)/Hastings (D-FL) amdt #37 - Expresses the Sense of Congress that it is the policy of the United States to Support the Republic of Tunisia and to cooperate with Tunisia by providing the necessary assistance to combat the growing terrorist threat from ISIL and other terrorist organizations.

-          Walorski (R-IN) amdt #80 - Provides transparency and congressional oversight to our deterrence of Iran and force posture in the Middle East (requires Administration to share with Congress any security guarantees associated with Iran’s nuclear programs that the U.S. has made to any country in the Middle East.)

-          Nolan (D-MN) amdt #86, 87, and 88 - Prohibits funds from being used to carry out the Syria and Iraq Train and Equip programs (each slightly different)

-          Yoho (R-FL)/Conyers (D-NY) amdt #112 - Limits on MANPADS for actors in Syria

-          O’Rourke (D-TX) amdt #132 - Require the President to submit a comprehensive strategy for US operations in Iraq and Syria.

-          Engel (D-NY)/Royce (R-CA) amdt #141 - Requires a report to assess the effectiveness and operational requirements of establishing a no-fly zone in Syria.

-          Cooper (D-TN) amdt #163 - Replaces subsection B of section 1670 with a Sense of Congress encouraging US and Israel to enter into a coproduction agreement on missile defense.

-          Ellison (D-MN) amdt #265 - States that authorized funds may be made available to the Government of Egypt only if the Secretary of State certifies that Egypt has held free and fair elections, and does not have in its custody any American citizen being held as a political prisoner.

-          Ellison (D-MN) amdt #266 - States that nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the use of military force against Iran.

-          Lamborn (R-CO) amdt #291 - Adds a limitation on military-to-military exchanges and contacts with Iran.

-          Lamborn (R-CO) amdt #292 - Expresses a Sense of Congress in support of Jordan.

-          Lamborn (R-CO) amdt #295 - Adds language to the underlying Iran Sense of Congress regarding the sale of S-300’s and the importance of terrorism related sanctions.

-          Lamborn (R-CO) amdt #309 - Adds a requirement for a report on Qatar’s efforts to combat terrorism.

-          Rogers (R-AL) amdt #316 - Makes a series of technical corrections to sections 1669 and 1670 concerning US-Israeli missile defense cooperation.


5.  Hearings

4/30: The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “United States European Command Programs and Budget.”  Testimony submitted for the hearing by General Philip M. Breedlove (USAF Commander, U.S. European Command/ Supreme Allied Commander, Europe) went into great detail on Israel & EUCOM operations.

4/30: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing entitled, “Regional Impact of U.S. Policy Towards Iraq and Syria.”  Witnesses were Seth Jones, RAND (testimony), Gen. Jack Keane, Institute for the Study of War (testimony), and Tamara Cofman Wittes, Brookings (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

4/28: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade held a hearing entitled, “ISIS: Defining the Enemy.” Witnesses on panel I of the hearing were Robert Ford, former US Ambassador to Syria (statement), and Walid Phares, Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counterterrorism (statement).  Panel II consisted, controversially, of Maryam Rajavi, billed as the “President-Elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran” and appearing by teleconference (statement).  Not noted in the hearing announcement is the fact that Rajavi is the leader of the MEK, which until recently was designed by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization (and was only removed from the list after a high profile campaign that enlisted, among others, some former members of Congress, including former Rep. Tancredo, who penned an oped for the Hill praising the committee for inviting Rajavi).  See: Congressional invite to MEK sparks furious backlash (Al Monitor, 4/28); MEK uses congressional spotlight to push regime change in Iran (Al Monitor, 4/29); Why Is Congress Listening to an Ex-Terrorist Iranian Cult Leader? (Slate, 4/30); Seeking to understand Islamic State, Congress hears from foe of Iran (Washington Post, 4/29); and Poe’s Financial Ties To MEK May Explain Maryam’s House Testimony (LobeLog, 4/28)


6.  Members on the Record

Tillis (R-NC) 5/8: Attacking Obama’s Iran policy and slamming the pending Iran nuclear deal (“Obama has turned his back on decades of assurances from Presidents of both parties that Iran would not acquire nuclear weapons. He has willfully ignored 40 years of hostility from Tehran. If the President does not recognize that we are at war, the mullahs certainly do”).

Lowey (D-NY) 5/7: On formation of most right-wing, anti-democratic government in Israel’s history, and in which not a single party supports the two-state solution: “I congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu on his successful formation of a new coalition.  I look forward to working with the new Israeli government to advance our common interests and protect our shared security needs. As the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure Israel continues to receive our support and to strengthen the steadfast relationship between our two great countries.”

Portman (R-OH) 5/6: Portman Welcomes [Israeli] Defense [Ministry] Investment Boosting Lima Plant

Rubio (R-FL) 5/6: Rubio Calls For Probe Into Death Of Prosecutor Investigating Iran's Role In 1994 Terror Attack

Hurd (R-TX) 5/6: Press release, “Underlining US support from both parties, [Israeli] PM meets second bipartisan Congressional group”

Buchanan (R-FL) 5/5: Press release, “Buchanan Meets with Netanyahu in Israel” (subheading, “Israeli Leader Warns of “Historic Mistake” on Iran, Says Islamic Radicals Want to Create “Master Faith”)

Portman (R-OH) 5/5: Portman on Fox News: We Must Stand with Israel as the Middle East Becomes More Volatile; Portman Met with Netanyahu in Israel

Royce (R-CA) & Engel (D-NY) 5/1: Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel Urge President to Use Sanctions to Deter Russia’s S-300 Missile Sale to Iran

Hastings (D-FL) 5/1: Press release, “Hastings to Make Sixteenth Trip to Israel”

Poe (R-TX) 4/29: Slamming Iran as the “world threat to peace” and opposing the pending Iran nuclear deal

Cruz (R-TX) 4/29: Washington Times oped – “Congress Must Approve of Any Iran Deal”

Coats (R-IN) 4/29: Oped in IndyStar - Send Iran Nuclear Deal to Congress

Thune (R-SD) 4/28: Supporting Corker bill, criticizing pending Iran deal, promising amendment to

Sasse (R-NW) 4/28: Sasse Video: “Four Questions Nebraskans Have about the Iran Deal” [attacks on diplomacy framed disingenuously as questions, that is].