Legislative Round-up: September 21, 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 & Letters

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 6774: Introduced 9/12 by Bishop (R-MI) and Conaway (R-TX), and having 12 cosponsors, the “Iran Payments Accountability Act of 2018.” Referred to the Committee on Intelligence (Permanent Select) and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Bishop press release is here and notes: “The Obama Administration delivered $1.7 billion dollars, along with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, to the Iranian regime – the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. My constituents, and Americans across the nation, have every right to know how and where these dollars were used. Specifically, the American people have a right to know if these funds were used to foment terrorism, military activity, or other criminal acts. That’s why I introduced the Iran Payments Accountability Act to provide transparency and empower the State Department to secure repayment from Iran if these funds are traced to terrorist organizations or illicit activities.”

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) S. 3431: Introduced 9/12 by Perdue (R-GA), Cruz (R-TX) and Rubio (R-FL), “A bill to impose sanctions with respect to certain militias in Iraq that are backed by the Government of Iran.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Cruz press release is here.

(DOD APPROPS/$$ FOR ISRAEL) HR 6157: On 9/13, the House-Senate conferees agreed on the conference version (i.e., the compromise accepted by both chambers) of HR 6157, the “Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019.” On 9/18, the Senate adopted the conference report by a vote of 93-7. Once the House passes the same version of the bill, it will go to the president for signing. As noted in previous Round-Ups, both the House and Senate versions of the bill included extensive funding for Israel as well as some Iran provisions. All of these are preserved in the conference version. Briefly, they are:

- Section 8070, appropriating $500 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs, sub-earmarked as follows: $70 million for Iron Dome procurement; $187 million for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, of which $50 million is for co-production activities; $80 million for co-production activities of Arrow 3 Upper Tier systems; and $163 million for the Arrow System Improvement Program.

- Section 8131, stipulating that, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to purchase heavy water from Iran.”

- Section 8139, stipulating that, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise      made available by this Act may be obligated or expended for assistance to the Islamic Republic of Iran unless specifically appropriated for that purpose.”

(NO IRAN/SYRIA WAR WITHOUT AUMF) H. Res. 1069: Introduced 9/13 by Gabbard (D-HI) and Jones (R-NC), “Requiring the President to seek congressional authorization prior to any engagement of the United States Armed Forces against any adversary.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release is here. Among other things, the resolution states that, the President is required to “seek [note: does not say “obtain”] congressional authorization prior to any engagement of the United States Armed Forces against Syria, Iran, or Russia.”

(WISH LIST OF VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING ANYONE COULD THINK OF FOR ISRAEL) S. 2497: Introduced in the Senate 3/5 by Rubio (R-FL) and Coons (D-DE), and currently having 69 cosponsors, the “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.” NOTE: See past Round-Ups for coverage of S. 2497 and its companion, HR 5141. On 8/1, S. 2497 was passed by the Senate by a voice vote. On 9/12, the measure was passed with an amendment by the House under suspension of the rules, also by a voice vote, inserting the text of HR 5141 (on which no action had been taken in the House) and re-naming the bill the “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.” The bill now goes back to the Senate, which can either accept the House amendment or seek a conference. House floor consideration of the bill is here - which was less actual consideration of the bill and more a list of members taking the opportunity to praise Israel and reiterate America’s unconditional, limitless, bipartisan support, and to praise Ileana Ros-Lehtinen - Royce (R-CA), Engel (D-NY), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Deutch (D-FL), Smith (R-NJ), Frankel (D-FL), Hastings (D-FL), Wasserman Shultz (D-FL), Torres (D-CA). HFAC’s press release touting passage of the bill is here. Other members issuing statements supporting passage of the bill: Crist (D-FL, highlighting inclusion of his bill establishing US-Israel partnership to combat drones), Hastings (D-FL), Lance (R-NJ, with a statement entitled, “If We Don’t Stick Up For Israel, Who Will?), Boyle (D-PA, touting “House Passes Boyle Bill Strengthening U.S.-Israel Cooperation on High-Tech Weapons”), Rosen (D-NV), and Grothman (R-WI).

(ANTI-SEMITISM/ISRAEL) HR 1911: Introduced 4/5/17 by Smith (R-NJ) and having 86 cosponsors, the “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2018.” Passed by the House 8/13 under suspension of the rules, by a vote of 393-2. HFAC press release touting passage of the bill is here. Floor consideration of the bill is here, with comments from Royce (R-CA), Engel (D-NY), Smith (R-NJ – whose remarks focused on the “new anti-Semitism” that “can be heard in the demand of the BDS movement--boycott, divestment sanctions--which always singles out Israel” and cited Natan Sharansky’s 3 Ds – “demonization, double standard, and delegitimization…In light of this, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive U.S.  Government approach), Hastings (D-FL), Deutch (D-FL), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL – “…we are seeing anti-Semitism couched and disguised in anti-Israel political rhetoric”), and Roskam (R-IL).

(MAKING IT EASIER TO USE US COURTS TO GO AFTER TERRORISTS) S. 2946: Introduced 5/24 by Grassley (R-IA) and Cruz (R-TX), and having 11 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018” (covered in the 5/25/18 and 7/20/18 editions of the Round-Up). Passed by the Senate 8/22 by a voice vote, and by the House 9/13 by a voice vote (clearing the way for it to be sent to the President. As noted in Cruz’s original press release, the purpose of the bill is to make “needed improvements to the Antiterrorism Act of 1992 to better ensure that American victims of international terrorism can obtain justice in U.S. courts by holding accountable those who commit, or aid and abet, terrorist activity abroad.” Cruz goes on to assert that, “The history of Palestinian and Iranian terrorism against Americans is extensive, going decades and ranging from hijackings to suicide bombings and assassinations,” Sen. Cruz said. “For too long American citizens have been disgracefully denied justice. This bill will ensure that American victims of terrorism are empowered to secure accountability from terrorists and their supporters.” Cruz’s press release specifically cites Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization in explaining the need for the legislation, as does the House Judiciary committee’s press release touting passage of the measure. Note: The House companion bill, HR 5954, was passed 7/23 by a voice vote.


(DON’T CUT AID TO PALESTINIAN PEOPLE) Senate Democrats letter: On 9/21, Senators Van Hollen (D-MD), Feinstein (D-CA), and Coons (D-DE) led a letter signed by 34 Democratic Senators to President Trump, expressing strong opposition to his decision to cut more than $500 million in aid to the Palestinian people – funding that was passed into law to provide clean water, food, education, and critical medical services to families in the West Bank and Gaza. Press release is here; article in the Hill is here.

(REQUEST FOR SYRIA HEARING) Cortez Masto letter: On 9/7, Sen. Cortez Masto (D-NV) sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Crapo (R-XX) and ranking member Brown (D-OH) requesting a hearing on Trump’s Syria policy. In a tweet announcing the letter, Masto wrote: “In light of @realDonaldTrump agreeing to a #Syria strategy, I'm calling on @MikeCrapo @SenSherrodBrown to hold an oversight hearing in the Banking Cmte. I intro'd a bill requiring this strategy. Now, we must ensure it counters Iran, supports Israel's security & truly defeats ISIS”.


2. Hearings

September 13: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled, “Oversight of U.S. Sanctions Policy.” Witnesses were: Manisha Singh, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs (statement), and Marshall Billingslea, Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (statement). Chairman Royce’s (R-CA) opening statement is here; ranking member Engel’s (D-NY) statement is here. Committee recap (i.e., excerpts selected by GOP Committee leadership) is here. Video is here.


3. On the Record

…on killing of an Amcit West Bank settler

Lamborn (R-CO) 9/17: FB Post, “I join Israelis and Americans in mourning the brutal murder of Ari Fuld, an American-Israeli husband and father of four. Ari was murdered by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist. What teenager wakes up and instead of going to school, decides to stab a man to death in cold blood? A teenager who has been taught to respect and honor terrorists, who has attended summer camps named after them, and who is told he and his family will be paid for doing so. This is why we needed the Taylor Force Act. American tax dollars must not support an entity that financially rewards the murder of innocent Israelis and Americans like Ari Fuld. May Ari’s memory be a blessing and comfort to those who loved” him.

Fitzpatrick (R-PA) 9/17: “We grieve at the loss of Ari Fuld, an American-Israeli who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist south of Jerusalem[i.e., in the West Bank]. Our prayers are with his family and his four children. As a defender of Israel, Ari relentlessly advocated for the safety and security of the Jewish People. May his heroic memory be a blessing for all of us. The Palestinian Authority must end its horrendous practice of rewarding terrorists for killing Jews. Incentivizing terror and murder will never lead to peace or be tolerated. The United States will continue to stand with our Israeli allies. Enactment of the Taylor Force Act earlier this year ensures that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not subsidize terrorist attacks on American citizens and our allies.”

Wasserman Shultz (D-FL) 9/16: Tweet – “Deeply saddened to hear of the murder of American-Israeli Ari Fuld. May his memory be for a blessing. Violence and acts of terrorism are abhorrent and put peace further out of reach. Palestinian leadership must do more to prevent people from turning to senseless violence.”

Cruz (R-TX) 9/16: “My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Ari Fuld, an American-Israeli who was murdered today by a Palestinian terrorist. Ari was a devoted husband, a father of four, and a passionate advocate for the security of the Jewish state of Israel. After being stabbed he heroically ran down the terrorist and shot him before he could attack other innocent people. May his memory forever be a blessing.”


…on Trump Admin Actions vis-à-vis Palestinians/PA/PLO

Shakowsky (D-IL) and Yarmuth (D-KY) 9/13: Schakowsky and Yarmuth statement on Administration's actions regarding Israel, Gaza and the West Bank

Feinstein (D-CA) 9/13: Tweet - “Israel must not demolish the Palestinian community of Khan al Ahmar. The only reason to destroy this community is to expand nearby Israeli settlements and split the West Bank in half. The potential for peace depends on what happens to Khan al Ahmar.”

Pocan (D-WI), McGovern (D-MA), Lee (D-CA), McCollum (D-MN), Grijalva (D-AZ), and Jayapal (D-WA) 9/13: House Democrats Condemn Trump Administration’s Actions Harming the Palestinian People

Wilson (R-SC) 9/12: Floor statement, Palestinian Liberation Organization Subsidizes Murder

Zeldin (R-NY) 9/12: Rep. Zeldin Applauds Administration’s Closure of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Office (“The U.S. has no greater ally and strategic partner than Israel, and it is critical that we support a direct and robust peace process that brings lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. However, the PLO has only set back this critical peace process with their unwillingness to engage in any part of it, going so far as to oppose plans that haven’t even yet been drafted. Instead, the PLO has continued to force a wedge between negotiators, now advocating for an International Criminal Court investigation into the United States, Israel and its allies. Any attempt by the ICC, a pro-Palestinian organization, to intimidate the United States or Israel will not be tolerated, and I applaud the Administration for taking a strong stance; threatening the full force of U.S. sanctions.”)

Cruz (R-TX) 9/10: Tweet - “Today, Palestinian leaders still refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, still incite and financially reward terrorism, and still lash out against our lawmakers and diplomats.”

Cruz (R-TX) 9/10: Statement Applauding the Administration’s Decision to Close the PLO Office [“Thirty years ago, Congress correctly declared that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its affiliates were terror groups who had no place keeping an office in the United States. Decades of Palestinian behavior since then has confirmed the wisdom of that judgment. Today, Palestinian leaders still refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, still incite and financially reward terrorism, and still lash out against our lawmakers and diplomats. Until today, presidents from both parties let the PLO keep an office open in Washington D.C., which signaled to Palestinian leaders that violence and intransigence had no costs, and so hindered the cause of peace. I have repeatedly introduced legislation requiring the office's closure, and recently sent a letter to the administration emphasizing that the office was operating illegally and calling for it to be closed. I commend President Trump and his administration for taking the necessary, prudent, and long overdue step of closing down the PLO office.”] 

Leahy (D-VT) 9/10: “A year and 9 months after President Trump’s inauguration we have yet to see anything remotely resembling a credible plan for peace in the Middle East.  Instead, all sides, including the White House, have taken unnecessary and provocative steps that make good-faith negotiations less likely and that have harmed innocent people.  Forcing the PLO office in Washington to close will make the situation worse by cutting off one of the few official channels of communication with the Palestinians.  Cutting off U.S. support for the East Jerusalem Hospital means that thousands of sick people, especially children, who depend on it for care will be at risk. These are the actions of an administration that has failed at diplomacy.”

Dingell (D-MI) 9/10: “Closing the Palestinian Office in Washington will make it harder to engage diplomatically and further erode prospects for a lasting peace in the Middle East. The US must be an honest broker between the Palestinians and Israelis. Closing the PLO office, along with designating Jerusalem as the capital and cutting aid to Palestinian refugees, raises tensions and will make it more difficult to address the root causes of the conflict as a result.”


…on Syria

Menendez (D-NJ) 9/17: Floor statement on Syria [“…I rise today to raise awareness on the danger and urgency of the moment, given the impending humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, Syria, and the refusal of the Trump administration to impose meaningful costs on Russia for protecting Bashar al-Assad and his regime.”]

Kinzinger (R-IL) 9/14: 'We Need a Strategy in Syria' - Kinzinger Op-Ed in Defense One

Gabbard (D-HI) 9/13: Floor speech Condemning Trump Administration's Protection of Al-Qaeda in Syria

Gabbard (D-HI) 9/13: Condemning Trump’s Syria policy

Casey (D-PA) 9/11: Casey Statement on the Situation in Syria

Graham (R-SC) 9/10: Graham: U.S. Has Duty To Act And Prevent Idlib Massacre

Hill (R-AR) 9/7: Speak Out Against the Atrocities in Syria


…on Miscellaneous

Gohmert (R-TX) 9/13: Usual rant, this time including going after former SecState John Kerry for meeting with Iranian officials

Shimkus (R-IL) 9/13: Condemning Iran's Persecution Of Members of the Baha'i Faith

Diaz-Balart (R-FL) 9/12: Iran’s Mullahs Continue to Fund Terror Activities

Young (R-IN) & Shaheen (D-NH) 9/11: Young, Shaheen Op-Ed: The United States has leverage to end the Yemeni civil war. Use it.

Sessions (R-TX) 9/10: “…This week, I was delighted to meet with North Texans representing AIPAC to discuss our critically important bilateral alliance with Israel. Specifically, we discussed two important pieces of legislation, H.R. 1697, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, and H.R. 5141, which would streamline bilateral defense and security assistance for Israel. Throughout our history, the United States has always come to the aid and defense of our allies, and we will do the same for Israel. As your Member of Congress, I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the United States remains committed to the security of the Israeli people.”

McCollum (D-MN) 9/7: Tweet – “Pro-Netanyahu news outlets @JNS_org & @CleveJN must RETRACT their lie about HR 4391. https://bit.ly/2MX1a0D  My bill prohibits US tax dollars to Israel from paying for the abuse & torture of Palestinian children. Not $1 of US aid to Israel is cut by HR 4391. #nowaytotreatachild

Banks (R-IN) 9/7: Re-tweeting AIPAC video, commenting, “The growing existential threats to Israel by contemptible regimes in #Iran and #Syria are undeniable. The U.S. will stand by our ally @Israel to ensure her defenses are incontestable.”

Poe (R-TX) 9/7: Floor statement, “Standing Up for the People of Iran” [highlighting protestors in Iran and calling for the U.S. to “encourage and amplify their heroism. America has the resources and innovative tools to broadcast Iranians’ messages of hope…”