APN Legislative Round-Up: July 8, 2016

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

NOTE: July 14 will mark the one-year anniversary of the JCPOA. It is likely no coincidence that this week and next week, Iran is a big topic of discussion and grandstanding around Iran.

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

 Iran-related bills/resolutions

 [See Section 2, Hearings, for details of action in committee on other Iran-related legislation]

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 5631: Introduced 7/6 by McCarthy (R-CA) and no cosponsors, “To hold Iran accountable for its state sponsorship of terrorism and other threatening activities and for its human rights abuses, and for other purposes.” The bill seeks to expand existing sanctions and impose new far-reaching Iran sanctions – linked to the IRGC, Iran ballistic missile program, Iran’s support for terrorism, and human rights abuses. Referred to the Committees on: Foreign Affairs; Financial Services; Judiciary; Oversight and Government Reform; Ways and Means; and Intelligence.

(NO EX-IM AID TO IRAN) S. 3138: Introduced 7/7 by Rubio (R-FL) and 3 GOP cosponsors, “A bill to prevent Iran from directly or indirectly receiving assistance from the Export-Import Bank of the United States.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Note: This is the Senate version of HR 5608, introduced 6/28 by Roskam (R-IL). Rubio press release is here.

(NEW JCPOA OVERSIGHT BODY) HR 5677:  Introduced 7/7 by Ruiz (D-CA) and no cosponsors, “To establish the United States-Israel joint commission to address Iranian compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(STOPPING IRANIAN ILLICIT MARITIME ACTIVITY) HR 5678: Introduced 7/7 by Ruiz (D-CA) and no cosponsors, “To authorize assistance and training to increase maritime security and domain awareness of foreign countries bordering the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, or the Mediterranean Sea in order to deter and counter illicit smuggling and related maritime activity by Iran, including illicit Iranian weapons shipments.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(IRAN – RELEASE AMERICAN DETAINEES) H. Res. 808: Introduced 7/6 by Royce (R-CA) and 8 co-sponsors, “Calling on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Iranian-Americans Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer Namazi.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release here.


Major must-pass legislation w/ Mideast Elements

(IRAN AMDTS TO FY17 FINANCIAL SERVICES APPROPS BILL) HR 5485: On 7/7, this bill was brought to the House floor for amendments and debate. As noted in last week’s Round-Up, five Iran-related amendments were made in order by the Rules Committee (see this memo from NIAC analyzing the very problematic implications of each of these amendments).  All of these amendments were adopted by Voice Vote on the House floor with very little in the way of debate – floor consideration of the Lance amendment is here; floor consideration of the other 4 amendments is here. To review:

  • Lance (R-NJ) (now H. Amdt.1255) Prohibits funds from being used to give Iran access to the U.S. dollar. Lance’s press release touting passage of the amendment is here.
  • Roskam (R-IL) (now H. Amdt. 1262):  Prohibits any funds from being used to authorize a transaction by a U.S. financial institution (as defined under section 561.309 of title 31, Code of Federal Regulations) that is ordinarily incident to the export or re-export of a commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • Roskam (R-IL)  (Now H. Amdt. 1263): Prohibits any funds from being used to issue a license pursuant to any Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) memo regarding section 5.1.1 of Annex II to the JCPOA, including the OFAC memo titled, “Statement of Licensing Policy For Activities Related to the Export Or Re-Export to Iran of Commercial Passenger Aircraft and Related Parts and Services’’ and any other OFAC memo of the same substance.  
  • DeSantis (R-FL) (now H. Amdt.1266, offered on the floor by Zeldin, R-NY): Prohibits funds made available by the Act to be used to pay final judgments, awards, compromise settlements, or interest and costs specified in the judgments to Iran using amounts appropriated under section 1304 of title 31, United States Code, or interest from amounts appropriated under such section.
  • DeSantis (R-FL)  (now H. Amdt. 1267, offered on the floor by Zeldin, R-NY): To prohibit funds made available by the Act to be used to circumvent the conditions of Section 104 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.

(FY17 NDAA) S. 2943: On 7/7, the House voted to delete the entire Senate version of S. 2943, the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act, and replace it with the previously adopted House version of the bill (HR 4909). For details of the Middle East elements in the House version of the bill (as adopted), see the May 20 edition of the Round-Up. For similar analysis of the Senate version of the bill (as adopted) see the June 17 edition of the Round-Up. The bill now awaits a House-Senate conference to iron out differences between the two versions.

(FY17 FOROPS – HOUSE AND SENATE) HR XXXX: On 7/6, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operation voted to adopt its draft version of the FY17 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill and report it to the full committee (without any amendments). For full details of the original draft, see last week’s Round-Up.  The full Appropriations Committee markup of the bill is scheduled for 7/12. NOTE: It is already July in an election year, which means that all of this work on ForOps (and other approps bills) may soon be for naught. As reported in this week’s update from the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign:

“…with fewer than 30 days left on the legislative calendar before the election, House and Senate leaders are already discussing a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would keep the government open through the election. This week, conservatives in the House and Senate began pushing for a six-month CR that would fund the government through March. This would effectively end the appropriations process for the year and rely on the new President and Congress to finalize FY17 spending bill. Others, however, are advocating for a three-month CR that would allow Congress to finalize spending bills during the lame-duck session. Congressional leadership has yet to decide a way forward.”

Everything Else

(TELLING EU TO GET TOUGHER ON HIZBALLAH) S. Res. 482: Introduced 6/6 by Shaheen (D-NH) and having 20 cosponsors, “A resolution urging the European Union to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and to increase pressure on the organization and its members to the fullest extent possible.” Agreed to in the Senate 7/6 by Unanimous Consent. [A House version, H. Res. 750, was scheduled for mark-up 6/24 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but that markup was postponed – no new date as of this writing].


(NATO WAR ON ISIS) H. Res. 814: Introduced 7/7 by Young (R-IN) and 2 cosponsors, “Calling on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and conduct a military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs


(GAO – ENSURE JCPOA TRANSPARENCY!) Costello et al letter: On June 30 (not released until this week), Reps. Costello (R-PA), Lamborn (R-CO), McCaul (R-TX), Poe (R-TX, Gibson (R-NY, Pittenger (R-NC), Rouzer (R-NC), Weber (R-TX), and Zeldin (R-NY) sent a letter to the Comptroller General of the General Accounting Office (GAO) calling on the GAO to “review the executive branch process for identifying entities that are potentially sanctionable under the provisions of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act and Executive Orders 12938 and 13382 for engaging in activities with Iranian sectors connected to space launch vehicles and missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” The letter notes that the GAO should limit the scope of its review “to activities that occurred after the implementation of the JCPOA.” The press release touting the letter states: “As the Administration continues its implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, any future business dealings connected to potentially illicit Iranian activity should be transparent. The goal of such transparency is twofold: to mitigate illegal dealings and to ensure the public knows where these funds are going.”


2. Hearings

7/14: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The Iran Nuclear Agreement: One Year Later.” Scheduled witnesses as of this writing are: Mark Dubowitz (FDD) and Richard Nephew (Columbia University).

7/14: The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a hearing entitled “Hearing on S. 2040, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.” No witnesses have yet been announced. It should be recalled that White House strongly opposes this legislation (background here and here).

7/14: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing entitled, U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Syria: Minimizing Risks and Improving Oversight.” Scheduled witnesses are: Thomas Melito, Government Accountability Office; and Ann Calvaresi Barr, USAID Inspector General.

 7/13: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats will hold a hearing entitled, “Turkey’s Democratic Decline.” Scheduled witnesses are: Henri Barkey, The Wilson Center; Fevzi Bilgin, Rethink Institute; and Alan Makovsky, Center for American Progress.

7/12: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Human Rights Under Siege Worldwide.” The hearing announcement singles out for special mention as human right violators three countries: Iran, Russia, and Syria. Scheduled witnesses (who notably do not include a single representatives of a major human rights organization) are: Mark Lagon, Freedom House; Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Institute; Amanda Schnetzer, the George W. Bush Institute; and Mark Bromley, the Council for Global Equality.

7/12: The full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the FY17 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

7/11: The House Rules Committee will meet to deal with three (completely partisan) Iran-related pieces of legislation: H.R. 4992—United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016; HR 5119—No 2 H2O from Iran Act; and HR 5631—Iran Accountability Act of 2016.

7/7: The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Implications of U.S. Aircraft Sales to Iran.”  Witnesses were: Mark Dubowitz, FDD (testimony); Eric Lorber, Financial Integrity Network (testimony); and Zachary Goldman, NYU Center on Law and Security (testimony). Video of the hearing is available here. The committee memorandum framing the hearing is here. The memo notes that the hearing was called in order to: “examine  how  aircraft  exports  to  Iran  may  be  financed, the ramifications of such financing for U.S. efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism, and Iran’s use of civilian aircraft for military purposes. In addition, the hearing will include discussion of matters related to the following legislative proposals: H.R.___: To prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury from authorizing certain transactions by a U.S. financial institution in connection with the export or re-export of a commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran Members of the Committee; H.R. ____: To prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury from issuing certain licenses in connection with the export or re-export of a commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran; and H.R. 5608: “No Ex-Im Financing for Iran Act,” sponsored by Congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois.” In case the thrust of the hearing was not already clear in advance, Chairman Hensarling’s (R-TX) opening statement is here, entitled, “Let’s hope Boeing rethinks their decision’ on Iran deal.” HFAC Chairman Royce’s (R-CA) press release on the hearing is here.

7/6: As noted in last week’s Round-Up, as of last Friday the House Foreign Affairs Committee appeared to be of two minds about the topic of this hearing. According to a press release from Chairman Royce (R-CA), the hearing was entitled “Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Barriers to Peace” and was intended to “give members an opportunity to examine the challenges of Israeli-Palestinian peace and the role the U.S. can play to facilitate direct negotiations.” According to the hearings page on the Committee’s website, the hearing was entitled “Financially Rewarding Terrorism in the West Bank,” implying a very different focus. As it turns out, witnesses were also confused about the focus of the hearing. This gave rise to some awkward moments, as witnesses and members found themselves at cross-purposes in a hearing that, as expected, was mostly an exercise in Congressional anti-Palestinian grandstanding, either actively supported by or, in some cases, at the expense of, the witnesses. Those witnesses were: David Pollock, WINEP (whose testimony was originally titled, “Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Barriers to Peace” and then apparently re-titled but not re-drafted to match the other hearing title; as a result, his testimony was a complete non sequitur to the opening statements from Royce and Engel, D-NY. To the extent that he addressed the original hearing topic, Pollock offered a laundry list of what I will henceforth be calling “zombie anti-peace memes” – for the most part tired, empty husks of arguments/recommendations that are long dead and discredited, but that, whenever pressure on Israel increases due to indefensible Israeli policies, rise from the grave, marching down the halls of Congress, arms outstretched chanting “brains…brains…brains”); Yigal Carmon, MEMRI (testimony the focus of which makes clear that Carmon was in no way confused about what the Committee wanted to discuss); and Robert Wexler, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace (testimony that was clearly written to address the originally-announced hearing topic). Video of this mess of a hearing is here.  MidEast subcommittee chair Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-FL) statement is here.


3. On the Record

 Kirk (R-IL) 7/7: Kirk Statement on German Intel Report on Iran’s Continuing Efforts to Buy Nuclear & Missile Technology

Tillis (R-NC) 7/7: Statement entitled “Boycotting the BDS” (among other things comparing the BDS movement to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah)

Cruz (R-TX) 7/6: Eulogizing Elie Wiesel, and exploiting the moment to grandstand against the JCPOA (“When Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress, it was one of the great privileges of my life to host Elie Wiesel and join him on a panel, together discussing the profound threat imposed by a nuclear Iran.”

Donnelly (R-IN) 7/6: Donnelly Focuses on Counterterrorism Efforts on Bipartisan Trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Israel

Lieu (D-CA) 7/5: Congressman Lieu statement on Murder of 13-year-old American Israeli Girl

McCain (R-AZ) 7/2: Statement By Senators Mccain, Graham, And Donnelly On Meeting With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu