Legislative Round-Up: May 14, 2018

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

(WISH LIST OF VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING ANYONE COULD THINK OF FOR ISRAEL) HR 5141: Introduced 3/1 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Deutch (D-FL), and currently having 220 cosponsors, the “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.” Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House committees on Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, and Science, Space, and Technology. Marked up, amended, and ordered reported out by HFAC on 5/9/18 (details/video is here; amendment is here); HFAC agreed to seek consideration under suspension of the rules (so watch for it to come to the floor anytime). Member statements on HFAC passage of HR 5141 (including self-congratulations for seeing their own initiatives included in this grab-bag bill): Ros-Lehtinen, Donovan (R-NY), Cicilline (D-RI), Crist (D-FL). As noted in the 3/9/18 edition of the Round-Up, “This bill [even after the HFAC amendment] reads like a comprehensive AIPAC & IDF wish list of everything – short of mutual defense pact, or maybe a seat for Israel in the Cabinet – raising the question (if it passes into law): what will be left to ask for in next year’s AIPAC conference? The mind reels.” Both bills are now listed as lobbying priorities on AIPAC’s website. Excellent reporting/analysis from Bryant Harris in Al-Monitor: Congress prioritizes smart bombs for Israel despite US shortages

(HAPPY BDAY ISRAEL) H. Res. 835: Introduced 4/18 by Foxx (R-NC) and 3 bipartisan co-sponsors (Sires, D-NJ; McCaul, R-TX; and Lowey, D-NY) (61 total cosponsors), “Supporting robust relations with the State of Israel bilaterally and in multilateral fora upon seventy years of statehood, and for other purposes.” The resolution marks Israel’s 70th birthday and (among other things) calls on UN member states to, “to support Israel’s candidacy for the United Nations Security Council” and urges “diplomatic recognition of the state of Israel and robust engagement with Israel from all United States allies and from governments across the globe” [code for pressing for normalization of relations with Israel by Arab nations]. It also reiterates support for a negotiated two-state solution (something that should not be taken for granted in the current political environment). Passed by the House 5/10/18 by voice vote. McCaul statement is here.

(HAPPY BDAY ISRAEL) S. Res. 502: Introduced 5/9 by Hatch (R-UT) and Booker (D-NJ), this is the Senate version of H. Res. 835, discussed above. Referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hatch-Booker press release is here.

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 4744: Introduced 1/9/18 by McCaul (R-TX) and having 46 cosponsors, the “Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act,” aka, “To impose additional sanctions with respect to serious human rights abuses of the Government of Iran, and for other purposes,” aka the “Iran Accountable on Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Act.  Passed by the House on 4/26 by a roll call vote of 410-2. Received in the Senate 5/7 and referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.


(DON’T KILL THE JCPOA) Senate Ranking Members’ letter: On 5/7, the ranking members/vice chairs of 12 key Senate committees sent a letter to President Trump urging him not to kill the Iran nuclear deal. The letter was signed by Feinstein, D-CA (Judiciary); Reed, D-RI (Armed Services); Brown, D-OH (Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs); Warner, D-VA (Intelligence); Leahy, D-VT, (Appropriations); Durbin, D-IL (Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense); Murray, D-WA (Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions); Sanders I-VT, (Budget); Carper, D-DE (Environment & Public Works); Udall, D-NM (Indian Affairs); Klobuchar, D-MN (Rules & Administration); Cantwell, D-WA (Energy & Natural Resources). Press release is here.

(FUNDING FOR SYRIA STABILIZATION) Booker-Kaine-Cardin letter: On May 10, Senators Booker (D-NJ), Kaine (D-VA), and Cardin (D-MD) (all members of the SFRC) sent a letter to President Trump questioning his decision to freeze $200 million in funding for stabilization efforts in Syria. The letter warns that the decision “risks undermining the gains we have made against ISIS and prolonging the conflict.  Providing sufficient funding to the stabilization effort is critical to ensuring that ISIS does not regain its foothold in areas that coalition and Syrian partner forces have made great sacrifices to liberate.”

(TAYLOR FORCE IMPLEMENTATION) State Dept report to SFRC: On May 3, the State Department sent a letter to SFRC Chairman Corker (R-TN) containing a report, as required under the Taylor Force Act (which passed into law as a discrete section added to the HR 1625, the FY18 Consolidated Appropriations Act). As required by that law, the report laying out criteria the Department will use to determine what assistance to the Palestinian Authority must be cut off under the new law (the report states that the Secretary will use criteria “such as” those listed in the report).  The report was due within 15 days of the HR 1625 becoming law (it was signed by the President on 3/23, meaning it was late). The listed criteria are: “The intended primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance”, “Whether the Palestinian Authority is the direct recipient of the assistance”, “Whether the assistance involves payment to Palestinian Authority creditors”, “The extent of ownership or control the Palestinian Authority exerts over an entity or individual that is the primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance”, and “Whether the assistance or services provided directly replace assistance or services provided by the Palestinian Authority.”


2. Hearings & Markups

May 9, 2018: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a markup of several bills, including HR 5141, “To make improvements to certain defense and security assistance provisions and to authorize assistance for Israel, and for other purposes.” See Section 1 (above) for details).

May 8, 2018: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing entitled, “Confronting the Iranian Challenge.” Witnesses will be: Lincoln Bloomfield, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs (statement); Stephen Rademaker, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control and for International Security and Nonproliferation (statement); and Jane Harman, Woodrow Wilson Center & Former Member of Congress (statement). Video is here.


3. On the Record

NOTE: Many, many members of Congress issued statements reacting to President Trump’s decision to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal – some positive, some negative, depending mainly (but not entirely) on party affiliation. Many of those statements are catalogued here and here. To see what a specific member said, check their website. Likewise, lots of members weighed in (mainly on Twitter) cheering the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and a few sounding notes of concern. A search of Twitter can find these; the list below includes statements posted online as of 2:30pm EST on 5/14/18.

Black (R-TN) 5/14: The United States Stands with Israel

Brooks (R-IN) 5/14: Brooks Statement on American Embassy Relocation to Jerusalem

Wasserman-Shultz (D-FL) 5/14: 70th Anniversary of Israeli Independence Statement

Yoho (R-FL) 5/14: Yoho Statement on U.S. Embassy Opening in Jerusalem

Lee (R-UT) 5/14: Sen. Lee Celebrates Embassy Move to Jerusalem

Royce (R-CA) 5/14: Royce Statement on Opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Feinstein (D-CA) 5/14: Feinstein: Trump Administration Must Show Support for Two-State Solution (statement on opening the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and protests in Gaza)

Rubio (R-FL) 5/14: VIDEO: Rubio Applauds Opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Cruz (R-TX) 5/12: Sen. Cruz to Attend Opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Perdue (R-GA) 5/11: Senator David Perdue: Jerusalem Is Unquestionably Israel’s Capital

Heller (R-NV) 5/11: Heller, Graham, Lee, and Cruz Heading to Israel for Opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Suozzi (D-NY) 5/11: Rep. Suozzi Works To Defend Israel From Hezbollah Missiles & To Disrupt Dangerous Iran-Russia Partnership [celebrating amendments in committee to the NDAA]

Royce (R-CA) 5/11: Statement on Syria [“…We must work with our partners and use all the tools of diplomacy – including financial pressure and U.S. assistance – to help change conditions on the ground. The administration should start by immediately resuming stabilization funding, including to the White Helmets, who are providing life-saving aid to thousands of civilians.”]

Hoyer (D-MD) 5/10: Hoyer Statement on Iran's Rocket Strikes Against Israel

Smith (R-NJ) 5/10: Statement on cosponsoring HR 5141 (discussed in Section 1, above)

Cruz (R-TX) 5/10: Sen. Cruz Addresses Zionist Organization of America, Applauds U.S. withdrawal from Iran Deal, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s presentation on Iran’s nuclear program, and decision to move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

Rubio (R-FL) 5/9: Rubio Responds to Iranian Rocket Attacks Against Israel

Murphy (D-FL) 5/9: Murphy Secures Key Provisions for Country, Central Florida in Annual Defense Bill (incl: “The defense bill includes language drawn from H.R. 5126, the Deterring and Defeating Rocket and Missile Threats to Israel Act, a bipartisan bill that Murphy introduced in February to help deter attacks against Israel and to ensure that Israel can defend its citizens in the event its adversaries choose the path of war.”)

Curbelo (R-FL) 5/9: Curbelo Comments on Iranian Missiles Launched into Israel