APN Legislative Round-Up: November 18, 2016 (Lame Duck)

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


Note to Round-Up readers:  In these difficult times, a couple of things to highlight this week, from elected officials who do, indeed, care about rational policies in the Middle East and do, indeed, understand the U.S. national security interests at stake:

Feinstein (D-CA) 11/18: Feinstein Welcomes Israel’s Decision to Delay Action on Susiya [including series of correspondence between Feinstein and PM Netanyahu]: “Today I’m releasing correspondence with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the hope that he will carefully consider Susiya’s fate. I fear that a decision to demolish the village and remove families from their own land will be judged as utterly inconsistent with Israel’s core values. If Israel retains a desire to be a Jewish, democratic state, it must treat Palestinians with the same dignity and human rights as Israel’s citizens.”

Feinstein (D-CA) 11/16: Feinstein on Israeli Bill to Legalize West Bank Settlements: “I strongly believe the only way to preserve Israel as a Jewish, democratic state is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by its side. I’m afraid any hope for two independent states would be lost if this legislation passes. My concerns are compounded by recent calls from some in the Netanyahu government to abandon the two-state solution completely. To preserve the possibility of peace, the Netanyahu government must reject this legislation that forever legalizes West Bank settlements and take steps to demonstrate its commitment to a two-state solution.”

Leahy (D-VT) 11/16: Quoted in the New York Times, on pending Israeli legislation to legalize illegal settler outposts across the West Bank: “One of the most effective ways that ISIS and other terrorist groups have attracted recruits is by tarring the United States with Israel’s expanding occupation of the West Bank…This legislation to retroactively legalize illegal settlements will be welcomed by those murderous groups as further evidence that America’s closest ally in the region is bent on destroying a peaceful solution, including the possibility of a Palestinian state.”

And also, some shameless plugs:

Times of Israel 11/18: Illiberal Support for Israel: Antithetical to Jewish Values & Israel’s Interests
Lara Friedman’s Statement before the UNSC 10/13; follow-up article in Haaretz defending APN’s appearance at the UNSC

1. Bills & Resolutions & Letters

(WE <HEART> SETTLEMENTS & WILL PROTECT THEM!) HR 6298: [As predicted in the last edition of the Round-Up] Introduced 11/14 by Roskam (R-IL) and Vargas (D-CA), “Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act of 2016.” Referred to House Financial Services. This is the House version of S. 3465, introduced by Portman (R-OH) and Senators Cardin (D-MD) just before Congress went into its pre-election recess. Like the Senate version, and as with all the other efforts these two congressmen (and their senate counterparts) have promoted on this issue (exhaustively reported on in previous Round-Ups – for a summary of their efforts in 2015, see here), this new measure has virtually nothing to do with BDS against Israel but is entirely about protecting and legitimizing Israeli settlements. This bill seeks to do so by fundamentally changing U.S. law to, in effect, make it illegal to comply with any boycott of settlements linked to action by the UN or any other body. The legislation is explicitly designed to undermine/derail action by the UN to identify companies linked to settlements (UN action that has zero to do with BDS targeting Israel).  The (totally unsurprising) introduction of this bill proves that even after the 2016 elections, there is at least one thing on which bipartisan cooperation is still possible in Congress. The fact that this one thing is antithetical to the genuine interests of Israel and the U.S. national security interests related to Israel? Hard to see that as good news. [And don’t say we haven’t been warning you about this – every freakin’ day – for the past two years.] Roskam press release is here.

(EXTEND IRAN SANCTIONS ACT) HR 6297: Introduced 11/14 by Royce (R-CA) and having 10 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Iran Sanctions Extension Act.” Brought to the floor for consideration under Suspension of the Rules 11/15, passed by a vote of 419-1. NOTE: This was a “clean” extension of ISA, which means that it was basically uncontroversial and could move quickly and in a bipartisan manner. HFAC post (before the vote) is here; HFAC press release after the vote is here. Floor consideration of the bill is here. On 11/17, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) stated on the Senate floor that he expected the Senate to pass the measure overwhelmingly this session. A huge number of members issued statements applauding passage of HR 6297 (and claiming credit for it, and claiming with their vote to be single-handedly saving the U.S. from an Iranian nuclear attack). The Round-Up is not going to even try to include links to every one of those statements. If you are curious about a member, odds are they said something, but you can just check their website yourself to see.

(BLOCKING BOEING SALES TO IRAN) HR 5711: Introduced 7/11 by Huizenga (R-MI) and Sherman (D-CA), “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.” Marked up 7/13 by Financial Services Committee and reported out by a vote of 33-21 (party-line except for Sherman, D-CA and Vargas, D-CA). Financial Services Committee press release is here.  Passed by the House 11/17 by a party-line vote of 243-174 (8 Democrats voted in favor, zero Republicans voted against). Floor consideration of the bill is here. Floor consideration of the resolution bringing HR 5711 to the floor is here.

(BLOCKING U.S. COMMERCIAL DEALINGS WITH IRAN) HR 5715: Introduced 7/11 by Roskam (R-IL) and 10 cosponsors (only Democrat is Sherman, D-CA), the “No Ex-Im Assistance for Terrorism Act.” Marked up 7/13 by Financial Services Committee and reported out by a vote of 32-21 (party-line except for Sherman, D-CA and Vargas, D-CA). Financial Services Committee press release is here. Reported out of committee on 11/14 and placed on the House Calendar.

(NO $$$ FOR JCPOA IMPLEMENTATION) H J Res 99: (Not previously reported) Introduced 9/28 by King (R-IA), “Making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2017, and for other purposes.” Includes the following provision: “Sec. 121. None of the funds made available by this joint resolution may be used to fund the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran and submitted to the Congress on July 19, 2015, or any side deals to the nuclear agreement (including all related materials and annexes) between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran.” Referred to House Budget Committee.

(TO STOP THE SLAUGHTER IN SYRIA) HR 5732: Introduced 7/12 by Engel (D-NY) and having 17 cosponsors, “To halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, encourage a negotiated political settlement, and hold Syrian human rights abusers accountable for their crimes.” Marked up 7/14 by HFAC and reported out. Engel-Royce press release is here.  Passed by the House 11/15 by a voice vote. Floor consideration is here.

(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION ON CYBERSECURITY) HR 5843: 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.” Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security. Press release here. Reported out of committee 11/15 with a report; placed on the House Calendar.

(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION ON CYBERSECURITY) HR 5877: 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.” Press release here. Reported out of Homeland Security Committee 11/15 with a report; discharged by the Foreign Affairs Committee 11/15; placed on the House Calendar.

(FIGHTING ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE) S.3478: Introduced 11/17 by Rubio (R-FL) and Kaine (D-VA), the “Combatting European Anti-Semitism Act”  [pdf of text is here]. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Kaine/Rubio press release here.  This legislation demonstrates that yes, there is another issue on which, even post-election, members of Congress can work together in a bipartisan fashion. Great news! What about anti-Semitism in the U.S.? Don’t hold your breath. Other than that small issue, this is excellent legislation. And it provides a great model for the introduction of anti-Islamophobia legislation down the road, especially the finding calling out as unacceptable “Accusing  Jews  as  a  people  of  being  responsible  for  real  or  imagined  wrongdoing  committed  by  a  single  Jewish  person  or  group,  the State  of  Israel,  or  even  for  acts  committed  by  non-Jews.” But again, don’t hold your breath.  [NOTE: This bill is the Senate version of HR 6208, a bipartisan measure introduced back on 9/28 (press release is here).]

(HONORING SHIMON PERES) H. Res. 928: Introduced 11/17 by Cicilline (D-RI) and 47 cosponsors, “Honoring the life of Shimon Peres.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.


2. Letters

(US ROLE IN YEMEN) Lieu letter: On 11/2, Rep. Lieu (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretaries Ash Carter and John Kerry seeking clarity regarding a recent statement made by a senior U.S. Administration official about U.S. support of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen. The official stated that U.S. support of the Coalition does not include “target selection and review.” Lieu press release is here.

(NOT SATISFIED WITH ANSWERS ABOUT $$ TO IRAN) Pompeo-Rubio Follow-Up letter: On 10/28, Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) and Sen. Rubio (R-FL) sent a follow-up letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, condemning the AG’s response to their 10/7 letter for failing to give them the answers they wanted, and again demanding answers. Press release is here.

(SYRIA CRISIS) Kinzinger et al letter: On 10/28, Rep. Kinzinger (R-IL) and 5 House colleagues sent a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to take action in Syria.  Press release is here.

(CUT TIES TO UNESCO) Rubio-Kirk et al letter: On 10/26, Senators Rubio (R-FL), Kirk (R-IL), Perdue (R-GA), and Isakson (R-GA) sent a letter to President Obama urging him “to suspend ties with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) following its adoption today of another shameful, anti-Israel resolution denying any connection between Jews, Christians and holy sites in Jerusalem, such as the Temple Mount and Western Wall.” [Since the U.S. has already cut off all funding to UNESCO for the sin of admitting the Palestinians – something UNESCO had no power to prevent – it is not clear what “suspend ties” would consist of, except perhaps U.S. diplomats at the UN putting their fingers in the ears and chanting “I can’t hear you” over and over.] Press release is here.

(NO LIFTING IRAN SANCTIONS!) Ayotte/Rubio et al letter: On 10/25, Sens. Ayotte (R-NH) and Rubio (R-FL) and 13 colleagues sent a letter “pressing Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to answer questions regarding the Obama Administration prematurely lifting sanctions against an Iranian bank the Treasury Department once described as the ‘financial linchpin of Iran's missile procurement network,’ and the Obama Administration making it easier for Iran to conduct U.S. dollar transactions and international business.”

(SLAMMING UNESCO) Ros-Lehtinen/Cruz Letters: On 10/11 and 10/25, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Sen. Cruz (R-TX) led two separate letter to UNESCO members opposing resolutions in UNESCO dealing with Jerusalem. The two also apparently sent a separate the US Ambassadors to the UN and to UNESCO  “urging them to use the full voice, vote, and influence of the United States to defeat the measure” – apparently forgetting that since the U.S. effectively pulled out of UNRWA to punish it for admitting the Palestinians as a member, as required by a law that Congress refuses to change, the U.S. effectively gave up all influence in that body.

(IRAN-YEMEN CONNECTION) Ayotte letter:  On 10/21, Sen.  Ayotte (R-NH) sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Clapper “regarding recent missile attacks on the USS Mason and Iran's potential material and financial support for the Houthi rebels reportedly responsible for the attacks. In the letter, the Senate Armed Services Committee member expresses concern that the $1.7 billion cash ransom payment the Obama administration provided to Iran may have directly or indirectly facilitated or funded the attack against a U.S. Navy vessel.”

(SLAMMING UNESCO) Roskam/Lieu Letter: On 10/21, Reps. Roskam (R-IL) and Lieu (D-CA) sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), urging him to condemn the recent UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem. Press release is here.

(SLAMMING UNESCO) Roskam letter: On 10/14, Rep. Roskam (R-IL) sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging him to denounce UNESCO’s recent resolution on Jerusalem.

(SLAMMING UNESCO) Kirk-Rubio letter: On 10/13, Senators Kirk (R-IL) and Rubio (R-FL) urged the Obama Administration “to oppose and condemn another attempt by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to attack the State of Israel. The proposed UNESCO measure seeks to deny Jewish and Christian ties to holy sites in Jerusalem.” [A shame that since the US has basically pulled out of UNESCO already, we don’t have much influence there…] Press release is here.

(YEMEN WAR CRIMES) Lieu letter: On 10/13, Rep. Lieu (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary John Kerry “in light of troubling news that State Department lawyers knew the U.S. could be liable for war crimes in Yemen.” Press release is here.

(NO LICENSES TO SELL PLANES TO IRAN) Perdue et al letter: On 10/13, Senators Perdue (R-GA), Isakson (R-GA), Cornyn (R-TX), Cruz (R-TX), and Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Acting Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Adam Szubin, demanding “answers about its decision to approve licenses for the sale of nearly 200 commercial aircraft to Iran Air, an airline the U.S. government sanctioned years ago for transporting rockets and missiles on behalf of Iranian entities known to support terror and regional instability like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).” Press release is here.

(STILL DEMANDING ANSWERS ON $$$ TO IRAN) Gardner et al letter: On 10/12, Sens. Gardner (R-CO),  Cruz (R-TX), Ayotte (R-NH), and 15 colleague sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dunford “regarding the Obama Administration’s $1.7 billion secret ransom payment to Iran. In the letter, Senator Gardner and his colleagues express concern that the Obama Administration did not notify top U.S. military officials of the secret payment and the fact that Iran is using these funds to bolster its military.” Press release is here.

(STILL DEMANDING ANSWERS ON $$$ TO IRAN) Lankford-Inhofe letter: On 10/12, Senators Lankford (R-OK) and Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Dunford regarding their recent testimony before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran, and the fact that top military officials were not notified before the payment was made. Press release is here.

(SLAMMING UNESCO) Cruz/Ros-Lehtinen et al letter On 10/11, Sen. Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to members of the Executive Board of UNESCO “urging opposition to an item in UNESCO's provisional agenda, a resolution that would diminish the historic and verified Jewish and Christian ties to the Old City of Jerusalem in an effort to delegitimize Israel. Thirty-nine of Sen. Cruz’s and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s colleagues in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives joined them in sending the letter.” Press release is here.

(STILL DEMANDING ANSWERS ON $$$ TO IRAN) Isakson-Perdue letter: On 10/11, Sens. Isakson (R-GA) and Perdue (R-GA) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, regarding their recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. As noted in the press release, “the senators raise serious concerns regarding the administration’s $1.7 billion cash ransom payment to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is designated by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

(NO WTO FOR IRAN) Roskam et al letter: On 10/7, Reps. Roskam (R-IL), Reichert (R-WA), Vargas (D-CA), and Meng (D-NY) wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urging him to oppose Iran’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization. Press release is here.

(STILL DEMANDING ANSWERS ON $$$ TO IRAN) Pompeo-Rubio letter: On 10/7, Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) and Sen. Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch demanding answers to a list of questions “surrounding the Treasury Department’s assertion that it had ‘received the appropriate approvals from the Department of Justice’ for its $1.3 billion payment to Iran.”  Press release is here.


3. Hearings

11/17: The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing entitled, “Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen.” Witnesses were: James Jeffrey (WINEP); Philip Solondz (Oxfam USA);  Michael Bowers (Mercy Corps); Krista Zimmerman (Save the Children); and Sunjeev Bery (Amnesty International USA). Video is here.  Press release from Rep. Lieu (D-CA) is here.


4. On the Record

Feinstein (D-CA) 11/18: Feinstein Welcomes Israel’s Decision to Delay Action on Susiya [including series of correspondence between Feinstein and PM Netanyahu]

Larsen (D-WA) 11/17: Larsen Blasts "No U.S. Financing for Iran Act" as Job Destroyer (“This bill is the first step of this new administration and this Republican Congress to destroy manufacturing and manufacturing jobs in this country…By prohibiting the Department of the Treasury from authorizing transactions of commercial aircraft to the Republic of Iran, H.R. 5711 writes a check to our competitors in Europe.”)

Huizenga (R-MI) 11/17: House passes Huizenga legislation to protect taxpayers, block U.S. financing for Iran aircraft

Roskam (R-IL) 11/17: Congress Blocks Boeing Iran Financing

Hensarling (R-TX) 11/17: House Votes to Block U.S. Financing for Iran Aircraft Sales

Cramer (R-ND) 11/17: House Votes Hold Iran and Syria Accountable for Illegal Actions

McCarthy (R-CA) 11/17: American Taxpayers Shouldn’t Subsidize Sales to Terrorist Supporters

Feinstein (D-CA) 11/16: Feinstein Opposes Israeli Bill to Legalize West Bank Settlements

Gohmert (R-TX) 11/16: Standard rant, including urging Trump to scrap the JCPOA & calling for the Muslim Brotherhood and CAIR to be designated as terrorist organizations

Pittinger (R-NC) 11/17: ‘Beyond Me’ how Obama okay with providing new airplanes for terrorists

Rothfus (R-PA) 11/17: Rothfus Supports Bill to Prohibit Export of U.S. Aircraft to Iran

Loudermilk (R-GA) 11/17: Congress Begins Rolling Back Disastrous Iran Deal

Hartzler (R-MO) 11/16: Hartzler votes to keep Iran in check

Smith (R-NJ) 11/16: No U.S. Financing for Iran

Lee (D-CA) 11/15: Honoring the extraordinary life of [longtime APN Board Member] Stanley Sheinbaum

Ryan (R-WI) 11/15: Statement Ahead of Vote on Bipartisan Syria Sanctions

Johnson (R-OH) 11/15: As part of a colloquy entitled “National Bible Week,” speaking on how the U.S. commitment to Israel is grounded in the Bible

Royce (R-CA) 11/15: House passes two sanctions bills, sending foreign policy message on Iran and Syria

Kinzinger (R-IL) 11/15: Floor statement in strong support of H.R. 5732, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016

Engel (D-NY) 11/15: Engel & Royce Syria Sanctions Bill Passes House

Engel (D-NY) 11/15: Floor Remarks on Syria Sanctions Bill

Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL)  11/15: Statement on the Passage of the Iran Sanctions Extension Act

Neugebauer (R-TX) 11/15: Honoring the Life of Taylor Force

Hensarling (R-TX) 11/10: House Voting to Prevent Sale and Export of U.S. Aircraft to Iran

***AND THE WINNER OF THE BEST PRESS RELEASE HEADLINE OF THE WEEK GOES TO….  Fischer (R-NE) 11/3: Fischer Celebrates First Shipment of NE Beef to Israel***

Lieu (D-CA) 11/1: Congressman Lieu Statement on U.S. Call for an End To Airstrikes in Yemen

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 10/28: United States Rejoining UN Human Rights Council Legitimizes Its Detrimental Agenda, Human Rights Abusers

Hoyer (D-MD) 10/26: Statement on UNESCO Resolution to Deny Importance of Jerusalem to Jewish & Christian Faiths

Cruz (R-TX) 10/26: Sen. Cruz Admonishes UNESCO’s Vote to Expunge Jerusalem’s Jewish Identity

Cruz (R-TX) 10/14: Sen. Cruz Op-Ed in The Washington Times: 'America’s Missed UNESCO Opportunity [blaming the Obama Admin for failing to rally support against the UNESCO resolution, notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. has already effectively dropped out of UNESCO]

Israel (D-NY), et al 10/20: Jewish Members of Congress Denounce UNESCO resolution denying Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem

Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) 10/18: Statement on UNESCO Vote on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem

Lieu (D-CA) 10/18: Congressman Lieu Statement on Saudi-Led Coalition’s Admission of Intentional Air Strike on a Funeral in Yemen

Ayotte (R-NH) 10/18: Following Ransom Payment to Tehran, Iran Unjustly Sentences U.S. Citizens Siamak & Baquer Namazi

Royce (R-CA) 10/18: Chairman Royce Statement on Unjust Conviction of Iranian-Americans

Lieu (D-CA) 10/18: Congressman Lieu Statement on UNESCO Jerusalem Resolution

McCain (R-AZ) 10/17: Statement on Video Released by Iranian Hard-Liners

Zeldin (R-NY) 10/17: Standing With Our Greatest Ally Israel

Lamborn (R-CO) 10/14: It's Time to Shut the Doors of UNESCO

Gillibrand (D-NY) 10/14: Gillibrand Statement On UNESCO Board

Rubio (R-FL) 10/13: Rubio: Latest Anti-Israel Effort a Reminder of Why Americans Distrust the U.N. So Much

Cruz (R-TX) 10/13: Sen. Cruz Issues Statement on UNESCO's Anti-Israel Vote

Sasse (R-NE) 10/13: Sasse Condemns UNESCO’s Anti-Israel Resolution

Hastings (D-FL) 10/13: Statement on Anti-Semitic UNESCO Resolution Ignoring Jewish Ties to Jerusalem

Royce (R-CA) and Young (R-IN) 10/13: Oped in the Hill: To Keep America Safe, U.S. Sanctions Programs Must be Bolstered

Kirk (R-IL) 10/13: Kirk Statement on Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels’ Attempted Missile Attacks Against U.S. Navy Ship

Lamborn (R-CO) 10/12: Congressman Lamborn Stands with Israel against UNESCO resolution seeking to deny Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and other significant sites.

Kirk (R-IL) 10/11: Kirk Statement on Administration’s Latest Unilateral Concessions to Iran’s Terror Regime

Ayotte (R-NH) 10/11: Treasury Department Announcement Will Help Enrich World's Worst State Sponsor of Terrorism

Hoyer (D-MD) 10/10: Statement on the Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem

Hoyer (D-MD) 10/7: Statement on Violence in Syria

Speaker Ryan’s blog 10/7: The Obama administration has gone ballistic to appease Iran

Blumenthal (D-CT) 10/6: Blumenthal Announces New Bill to Hold State Sponsors of Terrorism Accountable

Blumenthal (D-CT) 10/5: Blumenthal Leads Senators in Calling for Clean Reauthorization of Iran Sanctions Act as Expiration Looms (letter from Blumenthal and colleagues to Majority Leader McConnell here).

Zeldin (R-NY) 10/4: Rep. Lee Zeldin Returns from Presidential Delegation Visit to Israel for Funeral Service of Former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres

Pompeo (R-KS) 10/3: Pompeo Says Secretary of State Kerry is Ignoring the Evil Actions of Hezbollah

Pittinger (R-NC) 9/30: Congressman Pittenger on President Obama’s Secret Deal to Lift Sanctions on Iranian Ballistic Missiles

Ryan (R-WI) 9/30: Statement on Secret Ransom Agreements with Iran