APN Legislative Round-Up: July 31, 2015

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

NOTE: APN has extensive resources on the Iran deal here, including a regularly updated compendium of comments from Israeli security and nuclear experts and the best analysis and commentary on the deal.

Also see this op-ed from APN Board Members Luis Lainer and Richard Gunther in the LA Jewish Journal: We Support the Iran Deal

1. Bills & Resolutions

(OPPOSING BDS AGAINST ISRAEL) H. Res. 402: Introduced 7/29 by Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY), “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding politically motivated acts of boycott, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel, and for other purposes.” Royce press release on the resolution is here; Engel press release is here. NOTE: In contrast to the recent BDS-related language introduced in numerous bills focused on U.S. trade policy, H. Res. 402 does not include any language conflating boycotts/divestment/sanctions efforts targeting Israel with those targeting the settlements and occupation – no mention of Israel and “territories controlled by Israel” or similar formulas of conflation. Nor does H. Res. 402 inaccurately accuse the EU or its member governments of engaging in BDS against Israel.  In addition, the resolution reaffirms Congress’ “strong support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states, a democratic, Jewish State of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace, security, and mutual recognition” – language that may ring hollow to many, but which nonetheless pushes back against what feels like the strengthening pro-settlements, pro-Greater Israel current in Congress. On all of these counts, Royce and Engel deserve credit. The resolution is consistent with APN’s longstanding policy of opposing BDS targeting Israel and for this reason APN supports H. Res. 402.  Full background on APN’s position on BDS as well as on activism targeting settlements and the occupation is available here.

(MOTION TO PROCEED ON IRAN DEBATE) H. J. Res. 61 (likely): Keep an eye on H. J. Res. 61, currently entitled the “Hire More Heroes Act of 2015.” This resolution is expected to be used in the Senate, possibly as early as next week, as the vehicle for a Motion to Proceed with debate on a resolution of disapproval of the Iran deal (meaning the resolution would be hollowed out a replaced with Senate text, in what I am henceforth calling a “hermit crab” maneuver – employed when the Senate wants to originate its own piece of legislation, but needs a House “shell” to put it in). A motion to proceed is employed by the Senate leader in order to bring up for consideration a bill when he cannot do so by unanimous consent.  Such a motion generally must be dealt with through regular order, meaning it is vulnerable to filibuster (possible but unlikely in this case).

(AUMF AGAINST IRAN) H J RES 62: Introduced 7/29 by Larson (D-CT), “To authorize the use of the Armed Forces of the United States against Iran if Iran commits a serious violation of its commitments or obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Article on the measure in the Hill is here.

(EXTEND CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW PERIOD) S. Res. 238:  Introduced 7/30 by Cruz (R-TX), “A resolution expressing the determination of the Senate that the 60-calendar day period for congressional review of the nuclear agreement with Iran did not begin with the transmittal of the agreement on July 19, 2015, because that transmittal did not include all materials required to be transmitted pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. See the Letters section (below) and in last week’s Round-Up for background on Cruz’s outraged claim that the Obama Administration is withholding from Congress details of secret U.S. “side agreements” with Iran – something the Obama Administration has categorically denied, and outrage that in any case rings hollow, given that Cruz has made clear that he will oppose the deal no matter how much information he has about it.

(TAKE IRANIAN OFFICIALS HOSTAGE AS BARGAINING CHIPS) HR 3259: Introduced 7/28 by Rohrabacher (R-CA), “To grant authority to the President to detain non-diplomatic officials of the Government of Iran in the United States and non-diplomatic officials of the Government of Iran in certain other countries until all United States citizens held by the Government of Iran are released and returned to the United States, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Rohrabacher’s press release on this utterly insane bill is here.

(FUND FOR IRAN HOSTAGES & THEIR FAMILIES) HR 3338:  Introduced 7/29 by Duffy (R-WI) and 23 cosponsors, “To establish a fund to make payments to the Americans held hostage in Iran and their immediate family members, who are identified as members of the proposed class in case number 1:00-CV-03110 (EGS) of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Ways and Means Committee. Duffy’s press release (including bill text) is here.

(NO US AID FOR IRAN’S NUKE PROGRAM!) HR 3273: Introduced 7/29 by Garrett (R-NJ), “To prohibit assistance to Iran to develop, use, or protect any technology or other assets of Iran's nuclear program, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Armed Services. Garrett’s press release on the bill is here.



(DEMAND UPDATE ON IRAN INTEL) Nunes letter to Clapper: On 7/28, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Nunes (R-CA) sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper requesting the Intelligence Community (IC) conduct and provide to the Committee by 9/3/15 three additional assessments related to Iran and the JCPOA – all three framed, it appears, to compel the IC to produce assessments that challenge or contradict the ones previously produced provided to Congress. The letter asks: “First, the IC should conduct an analysis of competing hypotheses of its assessment of its ability to verify the JCPOA. Second, the IC should conduct an analysis of competing hypotheses of Iran’s nuclear intent and capabilities. Third, the IC should conduct an assessment that takes an ‘outside the box’ approach to provoke thought and alternative viewpoints on the full range of analytic issues related to Iran, its nuclear intent and capability and the JCPOA.”

(NEED MORE INFO ON JCPOA) Tester letter to Obama: On 7/29, Sen. Tester (D-MT) sent a letter to President Obama requesting more information about the JCPOA. Specifically, Tester asks how Iranian nuclear research and development will be monitored to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon after the first decade of the agreement, how the administration plans to prevent conventional arms and ballistic weapons technologies from flowing to Iran, and what measures will be in place to ensure that monies unfrozen by the lifted sanctions will not be used in military or terrorist activities against the U.S. and its allies. Press release here.

(MONIZ MUST GIVE ALL DETAILS OF “SIDE AGREEMENTS” [of Iran deal we will oppose, regardless]) Cotton-Pompeo letter to Moniz: On 7/28, Sen. Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Moniz, suggesting in a barely veiled fashion that Moniz withheld information about “side agreements” with Iran during a recent House hearing. The letter calls on Moniz to “clarify the following: 1. Have you read the two side agreements between the IAEA and Iran relating to Parchin and the PMD issue? 2.  If so, when did you read them? 3. Do you, the Department of Energy or anyone inside the United States government have a copy the two agreements?  4.  If you have not read the final agreements, did you read a drafter version of the agreements? 5.  Did you receive a briefing on the contents of the agreements?  If so, from whom?  And when did you receive that briefing?  Who else was present for those briefings?  What were you told? 6. Can you provide a copy of these two side agreements to Congress?” The letter goes on to argue that, “To ask a member of Congress to vote on what will be the most important matter that comes before us this year, without knowing the full contents of the agreements, is unfair.  As elected representatives, we each possess a duty to know what it is we are voting on and to have access to every term and every word in the deal.” This plaintive, self-righteous argument rings more than a little hollow, given that Cotton and Pompeo both made clear from the day the deal was announced (and actually long before that) that they would oppose the Iran deal, regardless of its details.

(MONIZ & SHERMAN MUST GIVE ALL DETAILS OF “SIDE AGREEMENTS” [of Iran deal we will oppose, regardless] Cotton-Pompeo letter to Moniz & Sherman:  Apparently not satisfied with sending a letter to Obama last week, and a letter to Energy Secretary Moniz earlier this week, on 8/30 Sen. Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) sent yet another letter focused on the alleged “side agreements,” this time to Moniz (again) as well as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, demanding answers to 15 questions about who in the U.S. government saw what, when, where, under what circumstances, wearing what color tie, etc.. and again demanding that the “secret side agreements” – that the Obama Administration has made clear do not exist (these are agreements to which the U.S. IS NOT A PARTY – they are between Iran and the IAEA) be turned over to the Senate.  Why? So that the “we can proceed expeditiously with our review of the JCPOA on behalf of the American people.” Which again begs the question, if you are waiting to review the details of the JCPOA, how come you came out the day it was finalized and promised to kill it?

(MILITARY SHOULD OVERSEE JCPOA IMPLENTATION) Hastings letter to Obama: On 7/28, Rep. Hastings (D-FL) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to appoint a high ranking military official to oversee the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action curtailing Iran’s nuclear capabilities, should this agreement be entered into force.

(US-EGYPT STRATEGIC DIALOGUE - FOCUS ON POLITICAL REFORM, HUMAN RIGHTS)  Cardin et al letter to Kerry: On 7/27, Senators Cardin (D-MD), McCain (R-AZ), Kaine (D-VA), Rubio (R-FL), Coons (D-DE), Kirk (R-IL), and Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to Secretary Kerry ahead of the upcoming U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue, urging that “political reform, human rights, and fundamental freedoms” be made a central element of the agenda.


2. Hearings

8/5: The Senate Banking Committee will hold a 2-panel hearing entitled, “The Implications of Sanctions Relief under the Iran Agreement.” Panel 1 scheduled witnesses are: Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Acting Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin.  Panel 2 scheduled witnesses are: Juan Zarate, FDD/CSIS; Mark Dubowitz, FDD; Matthew Levitt, WINEP; and Nicholas Burns, Harvard Kennedy School.

8/4: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “JCPOA: Non-Proliferation, Inspections, and Nuclear Constraints.” Scheduled witnesses are: David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security; Robert Joseph, National Institute for Public Policy; and Gary Samore, Harvard University - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

7/30: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Sanctions and the JCPOA.” Witnesses were Juan Zarate, FDD (statement) and Richard Nephew, Center on Global Energy Policy (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

7/29: The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “Impacts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on U.S. Interests and the Military Balance in the Middle East.” Witnesses were Secretary of State Kerry (statement); Secretary of Defense Carter (statement); Secretary of the Treasury Lew (no written statement); Secretary of Energy Moniz (statement); and Gen. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff (no written statement). CSPAN video and rough transcript is here.

7/29: The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Witnesses were Mark Dubowitz, FDD (statement) and Nicholas Burns, Harvard Kennedy School (statement).  Video of the hearing is here.

7/29: The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “Potential Implications in the Region of the Iran Deal.” The witnesses were an all-WINEP line-up of Michael Eisenstadt (statement) and Michael Singh (statement).

7/28: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a CLOSED hearing on Iran. No information on witnesses is available.

7/28: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled, “Iran Nuclear Agreement: The Administration’s Case.”  Witnesses were Secretary of State Kerry (statement), Secretary of the Treasury Lew (statement), and Secretary of Energy Moniz (statement). Video of the hearing is here: Part 1, Part 2.

7/28: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing entitled, “Impact of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement” –  a hearing that, perversely, did little to enhance Congress’ understanding of BDS but probably did a great deal to feed the BDS movement and encourage its activists. Witnesses were Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream (statement); Mark Dubowitz, FDD (statement); Eugene Kontorovich, Law Professor at Northwestern and lead blogger for the Washington Post column “the Volokh Conspiracy” (statement); and Matt Duss, Foundation for Middle East Peace (statement).  Video of the hearing is here. The hearing served primarily as a forum for witnesses and some members of Congress to double down on ongoing efforts to exploit fears of BDS in order to conflate Israel and the settlements – with the goal of shifting U.S. policy to legitimize and protect settlements. The only voice speaking against this conflation was Duss, who was rewarded with an extraordinary personal attack from the Vice Chair of the Subcommittee, Rep. Russell (R-OK). Russell – reading off talking points – went after Duss’ family members and former colleagues, in effect accusing Duss of being an anti-Semite based on allegations about and out-of-context statements made by others. Russell then invited each of the the other panelists to endorse his attack on Duss, which all three did.  Committee Chairman DeSantis (R-FL) did nothing to stop the attack, nor did he offer Duss time to respond. Russell subsequently issued a press release gloating about the attack and calling Duss an anti-Semite.

Note: I commented on the attack on my friend and colleague Matt Duss in this article in the Huffington Post.  My full comments [only part of which were used] were as follows:

In the 15 years I have been covering the Hill, I have never witnessed something like this. For a member of Congress to treat an invited witness with such utter contempt and disrespect is a new low, even for this Congress.

If the Congressman disagreed with the witness’ statements, he had every right to challenge him. For the Congressman to launch a sleazy ad hominim attack like this - and a McCarthyistic one at that, by bringing up Matt's family members and former colleagues - is beyond the pale.

There is plenty of shame to go around here. Shame on the congressman for his outrageous behavior. Shame on the Chairman for not stopping this unseemly attack or giving Matt the opportunity to respond. Shame on the panel members for acting as a smirking amen chorus to the attack. And shame on the person or group who fed the congressman the scurrilous talking points that were the basis of the attack.

7/28: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade held a hearing entitled, “The Iran-North Korea Strategic Alliance.” Scheduled witnesses are:  Ilan Berman, American Foreign Policy Council (statement); Claudia Rosett, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (statement); Larry Niksch, Center for Strategic and International Studies (statement); and Jim Walsh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (statement). Video of the hearing is here.


3. Members on the Record

On Iran: Virtually every member of Congress has made (and continues to make) statements – in the Congressional Record, in press release, in media appearances, on Twitter – about the 7/14 Iran nuclear deal. There is simply no way to cover them all here.  What can be said, briefly, is that statements from GOP members of Congress remain, for the most part, negative; statements from Democrats in Congress are for the most part positive (some very positive, some more cautiously so), with many Democrats in essence saying they are hopeful but are (reasonably) withholding final judgment until they have had time to review the deal.  A simple Google search of a specific Member of Congress’ name + “Iran Deal” will clarify where most members stand at this time.