APN Legislative Round-Up: September 16, 2016

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

As noted in the intro to last week’s Round-Up, Congress returned to session with what was billed as the first-ever anti-BDS event on Capitol Hill. In reality, the event – organized by an organization representing West Bank settlers – was about conflating settlements and Israel, legitimizing settlements, and, fundamentally, pushing for a one-state solution (a solution that does not include a Palestinian state).  That event was reported on deceptively (as if it were really about fighting BDS) and in largely laudatory by the Israeli press and the U.S. Jewish press.

This week, BDS and the Hill were back in the news, as right-wing media noticed over the weekend that a pro-BDS organization was advertising its own Hill event, scheduled for 9/15. What followed was outrage from Jewish community groups, including the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, and at least one member of Congress, Toomey (R-PA). It was also followed by an effort to find out what Congressional office was responsible for getting the group a room on the Hill (information that is not normally public). Eventually, that member was outed as Jackson-Lee (D-TX), who claimed that a former staffer was responsible for scheduling the event and that she had known nothing about it. She subsequently pulled her name off the event, effectively canceling the room. The same right-wing paper that “broke” the story followed up with a report that Minority Leader Pelosi had forced cancellation of the event.  The event was subsequently re-located to a private building nearby.

The experience of these two events highlights two things. First, it highlights the extraordinary ground that settlers have gained in Congress in recent years by attaching themselves to the BDS issue (as documented comprehensively in the Round-Up, particularly with respect to the successful effort to conflate settlements and Israel in the TPA and Customs bills). Today, it is clear that most in Congress see settler one-staters as entirely “kosher,” and some in Congress are happy to treat them as the standard bearers of what is truly pro-Israel. At the same time, it highlights the degree to which supporters of BDS – some of whom also support one-state, for which they are labeled “anti-Semites” – have successfully been defined as so far beyond the pale that their voices may not even be heard, and members of Congress have been put on notice that anyone who suggests or acts otherwise will pay a high political cost. [Note: APN opposes BDS against Israel. APN also opposes the conflation of settlements and Israel, and supports activism targeting settlements. APN also objects to any actions that, in seeking to challenge BDS, conflict with the constitutionally-protected right to free speech.]


1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(JCPOA “TRANSPARENCY”) S. 3329: Introduced 9/14 by Perdue (R-GA) and Lankford (R-OK) and having no other cosponsors, “A bill to ensure transparent enforcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Perdue’s press release (including PDF of bill text) is here.

(NO $$ FOR IRAN) HR 5931: On 9/14, this bill was marked up and reported out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and will reportedly be on the floor for a vote next week.  HR 5931 was introduced 9/6 by Royce (R-CA) and as of this writing has 63 cosponsors (all GOP), “To provide for the prohibition on cash payments to the Government of Iran, and for other purposes” (aka, the “Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act “). The Committee’s press release on the markup is here); full details of the markup, including video, are here.

(FOLLOW THE MONEY IN IRAN) HR 5461: On 9/13, this bill was reported out of Committee (report) and placed on the House calendar, and will reportedly be on the floor for a vote next week.  The bill was introduced back on 6/13 by Poliquin (R-ME) and Hill (R-AR) (and has no other cosponsors), the “Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act” (aka, “To require the Secretary of the Treasury to submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees on the estimated total assets under direct or indirect control by certain senior Iranian leaders and other figures, and for other purposes”). It was marked up in the House Financial Services Committee 6/15, where it was agreed to by a recorded vote (roll call) of 39-20 (mostly along party lines), but it was not reported out of the Committee until now (3 months later). The Committee report includes a Minority view (the view of Committee Democrats), which concludes: “Given that producing the report required in this bill would have a negative impact on Treasury's limited resources; divert energy and resources away from investigations related to sanctions; add confusion to the Office of Foreign Assets Control's regulated public; potentially undermine continued support for the JCPOA within Iran; and the report's lack of usefulness as a compliance tool, we oppose this bill.”

(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION ON SPACE & SCIENCE) HR 5989: Introduced 9/9 by Kilmer (D-WA) and having 3 cosponsors (bipartisan), “To provide for continuing cooperation between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Israel Space Agency, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Press release on the bill is here.

(MORE $$$ FOR ISRAEL IN NEW MOU) H. Res. 729: On 9/13, the House suspended the rules and passed H. Res. 729 by a vote of 405-4 [and just in the nick of time, since the MOU was signed on 9/14. The bill was introduced 5/13 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and having 273 cosponsors, “Expressing support for the expeditious consideration and finalization of a new, robust, and long-term Memorandum of Understanding on military assistance to Israel between the United States Government and the Government of Israel.” On 7/14, this resolution was marked up and passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and reported out. The Senate version, S. Res. 508, did not make it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (and now has been overtaken by events). Duckworth noted for  the record that she is a cosponsor of the resolution and would have vote “Yes” if she had been present. Transcript of the 9/13 floor discussion of the measure is here.

(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION ON CYBERSECURITY) HR 5843: This bill was marked up/amended in the House Committee on Homeland Security on 9/13 and reported out. The bill was introduced 7/14 by Langevin (D-RI) and Ratcliffe (R-TX), “To establish a grant program at the Department of Homeland Security to promote cooperative research and development between the United States and Israel on cybersecurity.”

(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION ON CYBERSECURITY) HR 5877: This bill was marked up/amended in the House Committee on Homeland Security on 9/13 and reported out. The bill was introduced 7/14 by Ratcliffe (R-TX) and Langevin (D-RI) “To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 to promote cooperative homeland security research and antiterrorism programs relating to cybersecurity, and for other purposes.”

(CONDEMNING IRAN’S TREATMENT OF BAHA’I) H. Res. 220: This bill was marked up by the Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on 9/15. The bill was introduced more than a year ago – on 4/23/15 – by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and 5 cosponsors, “Condemning the Government of Iran's state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.”

(STABILITY IN LEBANON & SYRIA CONFLICT) S. Res. 553: Introduced 9/13 by Shaheen (D-NH) and Perdue (R-GA) and having no other cosponsors, “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the challenges the conflict in Syria poses to long-term stability and prosperity in Lebanon.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(US BANKS & IRAN) HR 5983: Introduced 9/9 by Hensarling (R-TX) and 5 cosponsors, the “Financial CHOICE Act of 2016.” Among other things, Subtitle C of this Act states that: “If an appropriate Federal banking agency believes a specific customer or group of customers is, or is acting as a conduit for, an entity which…is an agency of the government of Iran, North Korea, Syria, or any country listed from time to time on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list” an appropriate Federal banking agency may formally or informally “request or order a depository institution to terminate a specific customer account or group of customer accounts or to otherwise restrict or discourage a depository institution from entering into or maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer or group of customers.” Referred to the Committees on Financial Services; Agriculture; Ways and Means; the Judiciary; Oversight and Government Reform; Transportation and Infrastructure; Rules; the Budget; and Education and the Workforce.  Marked up by the House Financial Services Committee on 9/13, where it was adopted and reported out by a party-line vote of 30-26 (one Republican voted “no”).


(NO OBAMA ACTION ON MEPP AT UN) Gillibrand letter: Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) is seeking cosigners on a letter urging President Obama to block any action on Israeli-Palestinians issues at the United Nations. While framed in the context of the upcoming UN General Assembly session, the message is much broader, seeking to convince Obama to block action in the Security Council: “We urge you to continue longstanding U.S. policy and make it clear that you will veto any one-sided UNSC resolution that may be offered in the coming months. Any such resolution, whether focused on settlements or other final status issues, will ultimately make it more difficult for Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict.” While the Gillibrand letter is not (yet) listed on AIPAC’s lobbying page, it appears in substance to be consistent AIPAC’s lobbying message on this issue (preventing action at the UN is one of AIPAC’s top lobbying priorities at this time). APN rejects this argument and is urging senators not to sign this letter. APN has long urged President Obama to support or lead action in the UN Security Council on Israel-Palestine (for more, see here).

(NO $$ FOR IRAN) Hatch letter: On 9/13, Sen. Hatch sent a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of the Treasury, Eric Thorson, demanding answers – no later than October 12 – to a laundry list of questions related to U.S. payments to Iran. Press release is here.

(NO $$ FOR IRAN) Wilson letter: On 9/12, Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson (R-SC) sent a letter to Adam Szubin, the Acting Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, demanding answers about risks posed by funds transferred to Iran. Press release is here.

(NO $$ FOR IRAN) Rubio letter: On 9/10, Sen. Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to President Obama alleging that the President’s actions on Iran “have endangered all Americans at home and abroad and increased the threat to some of our closest allies, especially the state of Israel.” It demands “immediate answers” to a laundry list of questions regarding U.S. payments to Iran. Press release is here.


2. Hearings

9/22: The House Homeland Security Committee’s Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled, “Identifying the Enemy: Radical Islamist Terror.” This will follow an event 9/20 at AEI featuring Chairman McCaul (R-TX) and AEI’s Danielle Pletka, entitled “Winning the war against Islamist terror: A conversation with Chairman Michael McCaul”.

9/21: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The Consequences of Cash to Iran.” Scheduled witnesses (as of this writing) – representing a breathtakingly homogeneous view on Iran policy, the JCPOA, etc – are: Juan Zarate, FDD; Pastor Saeed Abedini (Formerly Detained in Iran); and Michael Doran, Hudson Institute.

9/21: The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance will hold a hearing entitled, “Terror Financing Risks of America’s $1.7 Billion Cash Payments to Iran.” Scheduled witnesses (so far) are: Michael Mukasey, Former Attorney General of the United States; and Eric S. Edelman, JINSA & Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

9/21: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and National Interest will hold a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Administration's FY 2017 Refugee Resettlement Program.”

9/21: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “15 Years after 9-11: The State of the Fight Against Islamic Terrorism.” Scheduled witnesses are: James Jeffery (WINEP); Brian Jenkins (RAND); and Lt. Col. Bryan C. Price (West Point).

9/14: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee held a hearing entitled, “Turkey After the July Coup Attempt.” Witnesses were: Nina Ognianova, Committee to Protect Journalists (statement); Alan Makovsky, Center for American Progress (statement); Ahmet Yayla, International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (statement); and Aaron Stein, Atlantic Council (statement). Video of the hearing is here. [The testimony is recommended reading for anyone following Turkey events].


3. On the Record

Statements in support of new U.S.-Israel MOU and/or in support of resolution on new MOU

 Israel (D-NY)

Boyle (D-PA)

Deutch (D-FL)

Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

Nadler (D-NY)

Engel (D-NY)

Boustany (R-LA)

Hoyer (D-MD)

Wenstrup (R-OH)

Delaney (D-MD)

Coons (D-DE)

Kaine (D-VA)

Donnelly (D-IN)

Gillibrand (D-NY)


Statements Suggesting the MOU Is Not Good Enough

Corker (R-TN) – “While it is ultimately up to Congress to decide the level of appropriation, I am very pleased the military aid package has been successfully completed.”

Blumenthal (D-CT) – “…The agreement must be regarded by Congress as a floor, not a ceiling – and should be supplemented by additional support year to year.”

Graham (R-SC) – “…Congress is not a party to this agreement nor is this agreement binding on future Congresses. Congress has an independent duty to make a decision about the proper level of support for Israel or our other allies. To suggest this MOU will bind future Presidents and Congresses for the next decade is constitutionally flawed and impractical.” [According to press reports, senior Israeli officials negotiating the MOU asked Graham to back off]

Rubio (R-FL) – “…I do not support the Obama Administration’s efforts to limit the role of Congress in providing additional security assistance to Israel. Congress must be able to adjust the levels of our assistance in the years ahead to match security challenges as they evolve.”

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – “…It is important for Congress to conduct its oversight authority and examine the MoU closely in order to ensure that this agreement is mutually beneficial and meets the needs of both the U.S. and Israel.”


On other Issues

Zeldin (R-NY) 9/14: $1.7 Billion Cash Ransom Payment to Iran Wasn't Owed & Shouldn't Have Been Paid

Thune (R-SD) 9/14: Floor statement slamming the Obama Admin’s foreign policy, including on Iran

Cornyn (R-TX) 9/14: Floor statement on “Foreign Policy and the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.” [excerpt: “on national security issues, President Obama has spent most of his time cutting a deal with the foremost state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, and prioritized our relationship with this enemy over longstanding allies like Israel and Gulf States.”]

GOP Senate floor colloquy (another one) led by Daines (R-MT) 9/14: Bashing Obama Admin foreign policy, including on Syria, Iran, and Israel, ft. Ernst (R-IA), McCain (R-AZ), Daines (R-MT), Sullivan (R-AK); and Gardner (R-CO).

LaMalfa (R-CA) 9/14: Floor statement, “Iran Money for Hostages”

GOP Senate Freshman floor colloquy led by Daines (R-MT) 9/13: Bashing Obama Admin foreign policy, including on Syria, Iran, and Israel, ft. Daines (R-MT), Rounds (SD), Capito (R-WV), Sullivan (R-AK), Lankford (R-OK), Gardner (R-CO).

Cotton (R-AR) 9/13: Statement on the Syrian Ceasefire Agreement

Royce (R-CA) 9/13: House Stands with Israel (on MOU and more)

Barrasso (R-WY) 9/13: Bashing Obama Admin foreign policy, including on Syria, Iran, and Israel

Coats (R-IN) 9/13: JPost oped -  End US aid to Palestinian terrorists

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 9/13: Floor statement: “Iran has not changed its stripes.”

Holding (R-NC) 9/13: Floor statement: “Our Dealings with Iran Are a Threat to National Security”

Poe (R-TX) 9/13: Floor statement: “The Clanking Bags of Filthy Lucre to Iran” (“And that is just the way it is.”)

Tillis (R-NC) 9/12: Statement on successful relocation of Iranian dissidents from Camp Liberty

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 9/12: Using floor consideration of US-Israel MOU resolution to slam the JCPOA and the Obama Admin’s Iran policy

McCain (R-AZ) 9/12: Statement By SASC Chairman John McCain On Ceasefire Agreement In Syria

McCain (R-AZ) 9/9: Statement on successful relocation of Iranian dissidents from Camp Liberty

Lamborn (R-CO) 9/9: Statement at faux anti-BDS event on the Hill last week (real focus: legitimizing settlements)

Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY) 9/9: Statement on Completion of Camp Liberty Resettlement