Legislative Round-up: August 24, 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, Resolution, & Letters
2. On the Record

NOTE: Jewish News Syndicate – Al Jazeera, among other foreign news outlets, targeted under new defense bill (press release from Daniel Pipes/Middle East Forum is here).

1. Bills & Resolutions, & Letters

(FY19 DOD APPROPS BILL) HR 6157: Introduced 6/20 by Granger (R-TX), “Making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes.” Passed by the Senate 8/23 by a vote of 85-7.
Middle East-related details of the House version of the bill (passed June 28) and accompanying report were covered in the June 22 edition of the Round-Up. On 6/26 the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense marked up the Senate version of the FY19 DOD Approps bill (video here); on 6/28, the measure was marked up by the full Senate Approps committee, in the form of S. 3159 (Committee report is here; video of markup is here). The Committee-adopted bill included Section 8065, earmarking $500 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs, with sub-earmarks as follows: $70 million for “procurement of the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats…”; $187 million “for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program” of which $50 million is sub-sub-earmarked for , “co-production activities of SRBMD systems in the United States and in Israel…”;  $80 million for “an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture” with this entire amount sub-sub-earmarked for “co-production activities of Arrow 3 Upper Tier systems in the United States and in Israel…”; and $163 million for “the Arrow System Improvement Program including development of a long range, ground and airborne, detection suite…”
On 8/16, Senate floor consideration of HR 6157 began. This consideration included an amendment in the nature of a substitute submitted by Appropriations Committee Chairman Shelby (R-AL), seeking to replace the full text of HR 6157 with the text of S. 3159, as well as 149 amendments to Shelby’s amendment. Middle East-related amendments included:

  • Amendments by Merkley (D-OR) and Murphy (D-CT) seeking to stop US funding for Saudi Arabia-led military actions in Yemen (NOT CONSIDERED/VOTED ON). Murphy’s statement on his amendment is here. Murphy press release on GOP objections to voting on his amendment is here.
  • Kennedy (R-LA) offered a bizarre, apparently grandstanding amendment barring assistance to government of Iran unless specifically appropriated for that purpose (bizarre because literally no one inside or outside of this or any recent US government has suggested giving such assistance). Kennedy talking points on his amendment (which read like they were written by a child) are here.  AGREED TO BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT.
  • Graham (R-SC) and 5 bipartisan cosponsors offered an amendment to add a new title to the bill entitled “Defending American Security From Kremlin Aggression.” The title includes a requirement for a report on Russia’s activities in Syria covering (among other things) Russia’s willingness and capacity to end Iranian activities in Syria, and “assessment of the specific commitments made by officials of the Government of the Russian Federation to officials of the Government of Israel with respect to the Golan Heights and the presence of the forces, militias, paramilitaries, and other armed groups” operating in Syria (NOT CONSIDERED/VOTED ON).

(REPORT ON KSA’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORDS) S. Res. 613: Introduced 8/22 by Merkley (D-OR) and 6 cosponsors (5-D, 1-I, 0-R), “A resolution requesting a report on the observance of and respect for human rights and fundamental freedom in Saudi Arabia.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
(YAY, ANWAR SADAT!) S. 266: Introduced 2/1/17 by Hatch (R-UT) and having 71 cosponsors, the “Anwar Sadat Centennial Celebration Act.” Passed by the Senate 8/22/18 by Voice Vote.
(CUT IRAN OFF FROM GLOBAL BANKING SYSTEM: Cruz et al letter to Mnuchin: On 8/22, Sen. Cruz (R-TDX) along with 15 GOP Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin urging him “to take all necessary steps to ensure the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) disconnects the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and all other designated Iranian financial institutions” and stating that “All banks represented on the board of SWIFT must be held accountable if they circumvent American sanctions and empower the Iranian regime.” Press release is here.
(NO HONORS FOR FORMER DIPLOMATS WHO DIDN’T SUPPORT ISRAEL) Pascrell letter to Pompeo: On 8/15, Rep. Pascrell (D-NJ) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo expressing dismay at the fact that an auditorium in the State Department is named in honor of Ambassador Loy Henderson, a longtime US diplomat (1922-1957) who served, among other things, as US ambassador in Iraq, India, and Iran. Pascrell conveys his dismay that such a man would be honored in any way by the State Department, given that Henderson was opposed to the creation of the State of Israel. Press release is here.
(CONDEMNING KSA ARRESTS OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVISTS) Frankel et al letter to Pompeo: On 8/14, Reps. Frankel (D-FL) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and 12 members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to call for the prompt release of at least a dozen women’s rights activists who have been arrested and arbitrarily detained by Saudi Arabia. Press release is here.

2. On the Record

Smith (R-NJ) 8/22: [On codel to Ethiopia] “Smith will also push for freedom for Menashe Levy, an Israeli citizen imprisoned in Ethiopia who has been beaten and denied proper medical care in prison.
Leahy (D-VT) 8/22: Leahy Floor Statement On Arrests Of Women Activists In Saudi Arabia
Warner (D-VA) 8/22: Vice Chairman Warner on Facebook Announcement (that it had removed 652 fraudulent Iranian-backed pages, groups, and accounts from Facebook and Instagram)
Cole (R-OK) 8/20: More Pressure On Iran
Menendez (D-NJ) 8/17: Menendez on Trump Administration’s Decision to End Syria Stabilization Assistance
Poe (R-TX) 8/17: Floor statement, “We Must Stand Up To Iran's Proxies In Iraq”
Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Gottheimer (D-NJ) 8/16: Fitzpatrick, Gottheimer Host Bipartisan Roundtable on US-Israel Relations with Israeli Ambassador
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 8/14: Tweet – “What a shame that #Colombia’s @JuanManSantos chose to recognize non-existent ‘Palestine’ in his final days in office. This action only undercuts the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Cruz (R-TX) 8/13: NDAA Fortifies Texas’ Position as a Pillar of America’s Defense [Includes provisions on Israel, Iran, Lebanon, human shields, etc.)
Grothman (R-WI) 8/10: Grothman Condemns Terror Group Hamas for Attack on Innocent Israeli Civilians
Cruz (R-TX) 8/10: Sen. Cruz: ‘America Stands Unequivocally With Our Israeli Allies as They Exercise Their Right to Self-Defense and Fight to Defend Their Citizens From Hamas’s Attacks’
Lance (R-NJ) 8/10: Lance: Iron Dome Saving Lives Right Now in Israel