Legislative Round-Up: May 12, 2017

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived

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

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(SYRIA & IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 1677: Introduced 3/22 by Engel (D-NY) and 12 original cosponsors (bipartisan), and currently having 108 cosponsors, the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017.” Marked up in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 5/3 (details in last week’s Round-Up). Reported out of Committee 5/11, with a written report. On that same day, the bill was discharged from all other committees of jurisdiction, paving the way for the bill to be taken up on the House floor. The legislation opens the door for extensive new sanctions with respect to Iran; the report insists, however: “This legislation does not violate the United States' commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and does not interfere with the U.S.'s ability to adhere to that agreement. Indeed, the previous Administration repeatedly asserted that the Iran agreement would not impact the ability of the United States to counter Iran's destabilizing activities. This legislation includes flexibility for the President to ensure that sanctions against individuals or entities that provide support for the Syrian regime are in the national security interest of the United States…”

(RELIGIOUS FREEDOM) S. Res. 162 & H. Res. 319 [not identical]: Introduced in the Senate 5/11 by Lankford (R-OK), Coons (D-DE) and Rubio (R-FL), “A resolution reaffirming the commitment of the United States to promoting religious freedom, and for other purposes.” Introduced in the House 5/11 by Hultgren (R-IL) and 4 cosponsors (bipartisan), “Reaffirming the commitment of the United States to promoting religious freedom globally, and for other purposes.” In both resolutions, Egypt earns special focus for its failure to protect its Coptic minority, and Iran earns special mention for its treatment of Christians and Baha’i. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Foreign Affairs Committee (text of S. Res. 162 is also here; text of H. Res. 319 is also here).


(NO EDITING OUT “ISRAEL”!) Engel letter to SecState: On 5/8, Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson in which, in the words of his press release, he “assailed the State Department decision to remove mentions of Israel from the video posted by the American embassy in Saudi Arabia announcing President Trump’s visit to the region.” 

(GIVE US INFO ON OBAMA’s IRAN PRISONER SWAP) Chaffetz-DeSantis letters to Tillerson & to Sessions: On 5/4, Reps. Chaffetz (R-UT) and DeSantis (R-FL) sent letter to Secretary of State Tillerson and Attorney General Sessions requesting that answers to a list of questions, as well as specific documents, regarding the Obama Administration’s prisoner exchange agreement with Iran. The letters requires that this information be supplied no later than 5pm on 5/19.

(GIVE US INFO ON OBAMA’s IRAN PRISONER SWAP) Isakson-Perdue letter: On 5/4, Senators Isakson (R-GA) and Perdue (R-GA), and 11 cosigners, sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson, Attorney General Sessions, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting (in the words of their press release) “information [answers to a list of questions] on the prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran that was secretly negotiated by Obama administration officials leading up to the Iran nuclear agreement.”

(NO $$ FOR PALESTINIAN PRISONERS) Tenney-Suozzi letter: On 5/2 [not previously reported in the Round-Up], Reps. Tenney (R-NY) and Suozzi (D-NY), along with 36 co-signers, sent a letter urging SecState Tillerson “to address official payments made by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Washington D.C. on Wednesday” and urging the administration “to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is discouraged from continuing this practice in the future.”


2. Hearings

5/11: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held an open hearing to examine “Worldwide Threats.” Witnesses were: DNI Daniel Coats (opening statement); CIA director Michael Pompeo; NSA director Adm. Michael Rogers; Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe; DIA Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart; and Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Robert Cardillo. DNI Coats’ opening statement included a summary of issues related to the Middle East & North Africa (pp21-24) including a full page on Iran (p. 23). It also discussed Turkey (p. 20).

5/10: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women's Issues held a hearing entitled, “Emerging External Influences in the Western Hemisphere.” Witnesses were: Emanuele Ottolenghi, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (testimony) and Eric Farnsworth, Council of the Americas (testimony). Notably, Ottolenghi’s testimony focused exclusively on Hezbollah and Iran. Video of the hearing is here.


3. On the Record

Jenkins (R-WV), 5/11: Israeli Independence Day

Corker (R-TN) 5/10: Corker Reacts to New Footage from Aftermath of Chemical Attack in Syria: “Horror”; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Says Syrian President Assad Should Be “Locked Up for Life

Deutch (D-FL) 5/9: Ranking Member Deutch Slams Turkish President, Calls on Trump to Cancel WH Meeting

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 5/8: Gottheimer and Mast Announce U.S. - Israel Joint Missile Defense Act [the bill was intro’d 4/28 (covered in last week’s Round-Up); not clear why they waited until 5/8 to “announce” it]

Lamborn (R-CO) 5/8: Statement lamenting the death of Benny Elon (far-right-wing Israeli rabbi/politician who advocated, among other things, the “transfer” of Palestinians)

Zeldin (R-NY) 5/8: Rep. Zeldin Calls on CUNY to Rescind Commencement Speaker Invite to Sarsour [Interestingly, on 5/3, 5 of Zeldin’s GOP colleagues, plus one Democrat, introduced H. Res. 307, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives relating to protecting freedom of speech, thought, and expression at institutions of higher education.” Presumably Zeldin will not be cosponsoring…]

Young (R-IN) 5/5: Young Continues to Press Saudi Government on Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis