APN Legislative Round-Up: December 5-16, 2015

1. Bills & Resolutions
2. Hearings
3. On the Record

NOTE: Apologies for the erratic Round-Up schedule. Travel etc. Next edition will be mid-week next week.

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

(SETTLEMENTS = ISRAEL) HR 644:  Introduced 2/2/15 by Reed (R-NY), the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015” aka the Customs Bill. [See previous editions of the Round-Up for background on this bill.] Last week, House and Senate conferees met and agreed on a joint version of HR 644. As noted in the previous Round-Up, both the House and Senate versions of the bill included language conflating Israel and settlements in the West Bank, with the House version being much worse.  Conferees decided to go with the House version (with almost no changes); the House adopted this verion on 12/11 by a vote of 256-158 and sent it on to the Senate for action. Assuming the bill passes the Senate (which it will), this means President Obama will likely issue a signing statement when he signs the bill into law, given that the legislation represents a flagrant effort by Congress to legislate U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank – which not only contradicts 48 years of U.S. policy, but is a breach of the Executive’s exclusive authority under the Constitution to confer recognition (as recently confirmed by the Supreme Court in the Jerusalem passport case). Roskam (R-IL) spoke on the House floor to express his joy at the conferees adoption of his pro-settlements language, here.  Portman (R-OH), one of the lead sponsors of the Senate version of the same legislation, applauded the conferees adoption of his pro-settlements language, here.

(CONSOLIDATED APPROPS) HR 2029: On 12/15, the House Rules Committee released the amendment to HR 2029 that will be the FY16 Consolidated Appropriations bill, as agreed by House and Senate leaders.  This bill rolls all the pending appropriations bills into one (2009 pages!), and includes both Foreign Operations Approps and Defense Approps.  A full discussion of the Middle East elements of the bill will follow in the next Round-Up.  In the meantime, highlights of the consolidated bill are:

  • - $487,595,000 for Israel for Israeli Cooperative Programs (DOD), including Iron Dome, the SRBMD program, Israeli Missile Defense Architecture, and the Arrow system (with some of these funds available for use as FMF) [Note: the Senate summary states that Congress added $40 million to the President’s request “for a cooperative program assisting the Government of Israel for improving tunnel detection systems, in order to find and counter terrorist networks.”]
  • -$10 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) for Israel
  • - $3.1 billion in foreign military financing (FMF) for Israel, disbursed in a lump sum to Israel within 30 days of the bill becoming law, and of which $815,300,00 can be spent outside the U.S.
  • - Extension of the existing loan guarantee program for Israel, which was due to expire on Sept. 15, 2015, until Sept. 15, 2019
  • - Up to $150 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for Egypt, with much of that earmarked and with conditions
  • - $1.3 billion in FMF for Egypt, with conditions
  • - With respect to Iran, use of funds from various categories to: prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon; support a quick response to Iranian violations of the JCPOA; support implementation of non-nuclear sanctions; and promote democracy.
  • - Not less than $1.275 billion for Jordan from various categories, of which not less than $204 million is for budget support and $100 million is for water sector support.
  • - A litany of conditions, restrictions, and oversight requirements on funding for the West Bank and Gaza
  • - A far-reaching report on UNRWA

(TARGETING IRAN) HR 4258: Introduced 12/15 by Roskam (R-IL) and 3 cosponsors, the “Quarantining the Ayatollah's State-Sponsored Aggression and Militancy (QASSAM) Act.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Financial Services.

(TARGETING IRAN & THE IRGC) HR 4257: Introduced 12/15 by Nunes (R-CA) and 19 cosponsors, “To protect the American and Iranian peoples as well as the global economy from Iran's systematic abjuration of international legal standards on human and civil rights, its support for international terrorism, and the corrosive economic malfeasance of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Rules, Ways and Means, and Financial Services. Nunes’ press release on the bill is here.

(EXPLOITING ISIS FEARS TO UNDERMINE THE JCPOA?) HR 158:  Introduced 1/6/15 by Miller (R-CA) and having 93 cosponsors, the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015.” Amended and passed in the House on 12/8/15; the text of HR 158 was then included in the Consolidated Approps bill, HR 2029, discussed above. This bill has raised serious concerns and objections, for several reasons: concerns that it will penalize people who travel to certain countries for legitimate reasons (humanitarian aid workers, journalists); concerns that it will turn some categories of U.S. citizens into second-class citizens for purposes of travel (visa regulations are grounded in reciprocity; if the U.S. effectively exempts from the visa waiver program EU nationals who also hold citizenship in, for example, Iran, Europe will almost certainly impose similar restrictions on U.S. citizens who fall into the same category); and concerns that it represents a violation of the JCPOA, in effect imposing a new sanction that will discourage travel to and business with Iran.  Lee (D-CA) spoke out against the measure on the House floor on 12/8, and Conyers (D-MI) entered into the record letters opposing the bill from the Arab-American Civil Rights League (ACRL), American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). He also entered into the record a joint statement signed by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Asian Law Caucus, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Human Rights Watch, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Just Foreign Policy, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, National Immigration Law Center, National Network for Arab American Communities, Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities (STAND), and SustainUS. For more, see: Will changes to US Visa Waiver Program torpedo Iran deal implementation? (Al-Monitor 12/11/15); Iran nuclear deal: EU aides fear US visa restrictions breach pact  (Financial Times)

(LET STATES BAR SYRIAN REFUGEES) HR 4197 and S.2363: Introduced 12/9 by Poe (R-TX) and 35 all-GOP cosponsors in the House, and Cruz (R-TX) and Shelby (R-AL) in the Senate, the “State Refugee Security Act of 2015.”  Referred to the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary.

(MABROUK TUNISIA!) S. Res. 330: Introduced 12/7 by Coons (D-DE) and having 3 cosponsors, “A resolution congratulating the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet for winning the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.”Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(LAWSUIT AGAINST IRAN) S. Res. 333: Introduced 12/10 by McConnell (R-KY) and Reid (D-NV), “A resolution to direct the Senate Legal Counsel to appear as amicus curiae in the name of the Senate in Bank Markazi, The Central Bank of Iran v. Deborah D. Peterson, et al. (S. Ct.).”  On 12/10, submitted in the Senate, considered, and agreed to without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent.

(SYRIA CHEMICAL WEAPONS) H. Res. 346: Introduced 6/25 by Yoho (R-FL) and having 38 cosponsors, “Condemning the use of toxic chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.” Amended and passed 12/9 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and reported out.


(IRAN MISSILE TEST) Deutch-Kennedy letter to Obama: On 12/8, Reps. Deutch (D-FL) and Kennedy (D-MA) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to hold Iran accountable for violating United Nations Security Council Resolutions that prohibit ballistic missile testing. Press release here.

(IRAN MISSILE TEST) Ayotte-Kirk letter to Obama: On 12/8, Sens. Ayotte (R-NH) and Kirk (R-IL) sent a letter to President Obama to ask how the administration plans to respond to Iran's most recent ballistic missile test.


2. Hearings

12/17: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The Status of JCPOA Implementation and Related Issues.” Witnesses will be: Stephen Mull, Department of State’s Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation; Tom Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation; and Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, USAF (Ret), Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator.

12/16: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing entitled, “Egypt Two Years After Morsi (Part II).” Witnesses will be: David Schenker, WINEP [statement], Eric Bjornlund, Democracy International [statement], and  Steven Cook, CFR [statement].


3.  On the Record

Coons (D-DE) 12/15: Floor statement - “Congress must not waver – not for one day – in our oversight of the implementation of this agreement”

Grassley (R-IA): Floor statement railing against Iran and the JCPOA (“I hope President Obama and his administration finally wake up and quickly recognize Iran's track record of noncompliance. Iran cannot and should not be rewarded with sanctions relief. The international community should not reward Iran with sanctions relief while Iran doubles down on its confrontational and uncooperative behavior. They should not be given hundreds of billions of dollars while continuing to defy and deceive the international community.”)

Sullivan (R-AK) 12/15: Floor statement railing against Iran and the JCPOA, calling for (among other things) legislation to prevent the “President from lifting sanctions until Iran is no longer designated a state sponsor of terrorism and until Iran releases our five citizens who are languishing in their jails

Barrasso (R-WY) 12/15: Going after climate change agreement, and taking the opportunity to take a shot at Obama and the JCPOA

Roskam (R-IL) 12/14: Roskam Statement on Ongoing Wave of Terror Against Israelis

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 12/11: Floor statement, “Don’t Fund UNESCO Because It Has Recognized a Non-Existent Palestinian State” [urging Congress not to give in on this, even though Netanyahu is on board with US funding UNESCO again]

Gohmert (R-TX) 12/11: Suggesting (among other things) that an American Muslim who has never been indicted is nonetheless categorically a supporter of terrorism, and suggesting that Obama took advice from this alleged supporter of Islamic terror when formulating his Israel policy [the policy endorsing two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace with borders based on the 1967 lines – because everyone knows that this policy is the wet dream of radical Islamic extremists the world over…]

Wilson (R-SC) 12/10: “The President should change course to actually destroy ISIL” [and including attacks in Israel on list of outages committed by ISIL].

Cruz (R-TX) 12/10: Speech at Heritage Foundation, slamming Obama for (among other things) betraying Mubarak, screwing up Syria (and offering Bibi as a model for the right policy), and dealing with the Iranian regime.

LaMalfa (R-CA) 12/10: Floor speech: “Iran has Violated the Nuclear Deal”

Dold (R-IL) 12/10: Floor speech: “Iran is Untrustworthy”

Tillis (R-NC) 12/10: Slamming Obama over Iran, Camp Liberty (MEK), ISIS, taking in “unvetted” Syrian refugees (sigh), and for or dealing with Iran, etc..

Toomey (R-PA) 12/9: Slamming the JCPOA: “…It looks pretty clear to me that the Iranians are creating the ability to completely deny any obligation on their part to honor the terms of the agreement. It looks pretty obvious to me that that is what is going on here…it is time the President of the United States realizes and acknowledges that there is no agreement here. There is not a deal. Any reason one would think of at this point that Iran is going to honor this agreement that is not really an agreement I think is extremely naive at best…”

Brown (D-OH) 12/9: Asking the GOP to stop blocking key Obama nominees, and specifically Adam Szubin, acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes at the Treasury Department, who has played and continues to play a key role with respect to the Iran nuclear deal (“Nobody is in a better position in our government--nobody--than Mr. Szubin, and I want him confirmed so he can do his job better. It would prevent developing additional capacity to strike war targets around the world. He is working to hold Iran --regardless of how one voted on the Iran nuclear deal, he is going to hold Iran to its commitments under the nuclear deal and lead a campaign against the full range of Iran's other destructive activities.”). To no avail.

Smith (R-TX) 12/9: Arguing that the “liberal national media” poses “one of the greatest threats to our country.” In what way? “Consider how little follow-up there has been of the politicizing of the IRS, the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, the illegal immigration amnesties, the secret terms of the Iran deal, and the videos of unborn babies' organs being sold. In short, media bias affects almost every issue that Americans care about.”

Collins (R-GA) 12/9: Slamming Obama for many reasons, including on Iran: “…They just tested nuclear missiles [sic] again in violation of two U.N. directives, just did it. Where is the outrage? There is none.”

Dold (R-IL) 12/9: “…today I rise to recognize the Jewish National Fund, an organization that works tirelessly to advocate for the safety and security of the people of the State of Israel…”

Poe (R-TX) 12/8: The US is not doing enough to get the MEK out of Iraq (“and that’s just the way it is”)

Menendez (D-NJ) 12/8: Slamming Iran for violating UNSCRs and urging Obama to “act decisively, to pursue both in the Security Council and apart from the Security Council, with our P5+1 allies, sanctionable items that can be outside of the nuclear portfolio, that can send a very strong message to Iran that ‘Don't think you can get away with these types of actions and have no consequence.’” And calling for the reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act. “I look forward to pursuing a robust response to Iran. For all of my colleagues who supported the agreement, this is actually something we should be in chorus together on to ensure that Iran has a very clear message that ‘We intend to push back on you. You cannot violate the international law.’ By doing so, hopefully we will see the performance of an agreement that is supposed to control their nuclear program in a way that does not risk the world security. That is what is at stake in this regard.”

Gardner (R-CO) 12/8: Gardner on Iranian Belligerence: “Inaction is no longer an option”

Zeldin (R-NY) 12/7: “Today’s reports by senior U.S. officials confirming that Iran has violated two UN resolutions is further evidence that there really is no deal between the United States and Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran is already violating the agreement. Iran will not abide by the JCPOA. It's not too late yet for the administration to come to terms with this reality and move forward in a better direction for American security and the security of the free world.”

Cruz (R-TX) 12/6: Happy Chanukah; Modern-day Maccabees Must Lead the Fight for Religious Freedom