Legislative Round-up: March 15, 2019

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


Shameless plug: Not Breaking News: Trump Administration Does Not Believe in Occupation - my thoughts on the kerfuffle over the missing word “occupied” in the West Bank and Gaza section of the this year’s State Department Human Rights Report (stay tuned for Monday’s follow-up analysis on the role of Congress is erasing “occupation” from U.S. policy).

NOTE: Last week the Round-Up was on strike, as I gave in to sheer exhaustion and exasperation with the sh*tshow over anti-Semitism - the barrage of accusations of offensives, real or perceived, the shameless politicization of the issue by some members, the rush by others to throw colleagues under the bus, etc. The Round-Up is back this week covering the past two weeks on the Hill, but NOT - I repeat NOT - cataloguing the anti-Semitism drama.  if you want to see what specific members said, look it up for yourself.


1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

(WEAPONIZING ANTI-SEMITISM TO QUASH FREE SPEECH) S.852: Introduced 3/14 by Scott (R-SC), along with Casey (D-PA), Rubio (R-FL) and Isakson (R-GA), “A bill to provide for the consideration of a definition of anti-Semitism for the enforcement of Federal antidiscrimination laws concerning education programs or activities.” Referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. This is the re-introduced Anti-Semitism Awareness Act - legislation that seeks to enact in U.S. law a definition of anti-Semitism that is designed to quash free speech critical of Israel on campuses. Scott was also the lead in the last Congress. A compilation of resources related to the First Amendment problems with this bill is available here, including vehement opposition to the legislation from Kenneth Stern, who is the person who literally drafted the definition of anti-Semitism that is at the center of this bill. ***NOTE: THIS BILL WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY BE ONE OF THE LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES FOCUSED ON WHICH AIPAC SUPPORTER ARE LOBBYING WHEN THEY COME TO WASHINGTON LATER THIS MONTH***

(MORE US-ISRAEL MILITARY COOPERATION) HR 1795: Introduced 3/14 by Lieu (D-CA) and Stefanik (R-NY), the “U.S.-Israel Directed Energy Cooperation Act,“ aka, “To authorize the Secretary of Defense, upon request of the Ministry of Defense of Israel and with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, to carry out research, development, test, and evaluation activities, on a joint basis with Israel, to establish directed energy capabilities that address threats to the United States, deployed forces of the United States, or Israel, and for other purposes.”  Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. NOTE: Lieu and Stefanik introduced this same measure last September (HR 6725). Joint press release touting the measure is here.

(CONDEMNING ANTI-SEMITISM, ETC) H. Res. 183: Introduced 3/7 by Raskin (D-MD) and Richmond (D-LA), “Condemning anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values and aspirations that define the people of the United States and condemning anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contrary to the values and aspirations of the United States.” Brought to the floor 3/7 under suspension of the rules and passed by a vote of 407-23-1. Floor consideration is here. And the Daily Caller helpfully published this run-down of statements by House members who voted against H. Res. 183, saving me the trouble.

(BASHING ILHAN OMAR) H. Res. 241: Introduced 3/14 by Steube (R-FL), Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Duncan (R-SC), and Gohmert (R-TX), “Condemning the anti-Semitic comments of Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, as well as the  Committees on Foreign Affairs, and Ethics. Steube’s press release is here. Of the original group of sponsors, all but Sensenbrenner voted “no” on H. Res. 183. On opposing H. Res. 183: Steube, Duncan, Gohmert. The Daily Caller helpfully published this run-down of likely future cosponsors of H. Res. 241, and the arguments they will make for why this resolution is the one that truly cares about anti-Semitism and Jews.

(CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OF ANY CIVIL NUKE DEAL WITH KSA) HR 1541: Introduced 3/5 by Schneider (D-IL) and Meadows (R-NC), “To require a report on Saudi Arabia obtaining nuclear fuel enrichment capabilities.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Schneider and Meadows introduced the same bill last September (press release from that time around is here).

(WE <HEART> DIPLOMACY) H. Res. 220: Introduced 3/13 by Engel (D-NY), along with McCaul (R-TX), Lowey (D-NY) and Rogers (R-KY), “Recognizing the interdependence of diplomacy, development, and defense as critical to effective national security.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. NOTE: Only to foreign countries are named in the resolution: “Whereas diplomacy and development programs are critical tools in supporting key strategic allies like Israel and Jordan.”

(US STANDS WITH MOROCCO) H. Res. 223: Introduced 3/13 by Wilson (R-SC), along with Connolly (D-VA), Yoho (R-FL) and Thompson (D-MS), “Affirming the historical relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Morocco, condemning the recent provocative actions of the Polisario Front and its foreign supporters, and encouraging efforts by the United Nations to reach a peaceful resolution of the Western Sahara conflict.”Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

(US STANDS WITH DEMOCRACY & HUMAN RIGHTS!) H. Res. 221: Introduced 3/13 by Engel (D-NY) and McCaul (R-TX), “Reaffirming the importance of upholding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in United States foreign policy.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. NOTE: Just for fun, try reading this bill and its inspiring, sweeping declarations about U.S. values in its foreign policy. And then ask yourself, how do these declarations line up against U.S. policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians?  

(END US MILITARY ACTION IN YEMEN) S. J. Res. 7: Introduced 1/30 by Sanders (I-VT) and having 19 cosponsors, “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” Passed 3/13 with amendments by vote of 54-46. Floor statement are here. Floor debate including consideration of amendments is here. Text of amendments here. Also see:

Supporting: Menendez (D-NJ), Gabbard (D-HI), Durbin (D-IL), Murphy (D-CT), Cardin (D-MD), Shaheen (D-NH), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Klobuchar (D-MN), Murkowski (R-AK), Moran (R-KS), Feinstein (D-CA), Paul (R-KY), Duckworth (D-IL), Harris (D-CA),

Opposing: McConnell (R-KY), Romney (R-UT), Inhofe (R-OK),

(HAPPY NOWRUZ) H. Res. 238: Introduced 3/14 by Lofgren (D-CA) and 5 Democratic cosponsors, “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(IRAN: RELEASE ROBERT LEVINSON) H. Res. 218/S. Res. 104: Introduced 3/12 in both the House by Deutch (D-FL) and 6 bipartisan cosponsors, and in the Senate by Rubio (R-FL) and Scott (R-FL), “Calling on the Government of Iran to fulfill repeated promises of assistance in the case of Robert Levinson, the longest held United States civilian in our Nation's history.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Deutch et al press release is here. Also see: Deutch Statement to Mark Bob Levinson's 12th Year in Captivity; Rubio press releases are here (including text of the resolution) and here. Menendez press release is here.

(IRAN: RELEASE AMERICAN CITIZENS & RESIDENTS) H. Res.187: Introduced 3/7 by Deutch (D-FL) and 7 bipartisan cosponsors, “Calling for the unconditional release of United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens being held for political purposes by the Government of Iran.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Deutch et al press release is here.

(LET’S NOT BE HELPING ASSAD!) HR 1706: Introduced 3/13 by Engel (D-NY), along with Kinzinger (R-IL), McCaul (R-TX) and Boyle (D-PA), “To limit assistance for areas of Syria controlled by the Government of Syria or associated forces, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Financial Services.

(THREE CHEERS FOR GREECE!) S. Res. 95: Introduced 3/5 by Menendez (D-NJ) and having 27 cosponsors, “A resolution recognizing the 198th anniversary of the independence of Greece and celebrating democracy in Greece and the United States.” Referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. NOTE: The resolution includes 3 clauses highlighting Greece’s good relations with/policies on Israel.



(PROBE TRUMP NUKE DEAL NEGOTIATIONS WITH KSA): Menendez-Rubio letter: On 3/15, Sens. Menendez (D-NJ) and Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, formally asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to open a review into the Trump Administration’s negotiations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as any negotiation by the executive branch since December 2009, regarding a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. Press release is here.

(PRESS KSA re: IMPRISONED VA RESIDENT) Connolly-Kaine letter to Pompeo: On 3/1, Rep. Connolly (D-VA) and Senator Kaine (D-VA) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo urging him to “personally raise with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the issue of our constituent and U.S. legal permanent resident Aziza Al-Youssef's unjust imprisonment and call for her immediate release. We also request that you seek an update on her condition and information regarding whether she has access to appropriate legal counsel.” Press release is here.

(YEMEN CHILD SOLDIERS) Lieu/Malinowski et al letter to Pompeo: On Feb. 15 (not previously reported), Reps. Lieu (D-CA) and Malinowski (D-NJ) led a letter, co-signed by 11 House colleagues, to SecState Pompeo. The letter urges Pompeo to investigate reports that that members of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are recruiting and deploying child soldiers in the conflict, and report the findings back to Congress. Press release is here.


2. Hearings

3/27: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The State Department’s Foreign Policy Strategy and FY20 Budget Request.” The sole witness will be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

3/12: The House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations held a multi-panel hearing entitled, “Public Witness Hearing: State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.” Testifying before the committee specifically on Israel and related issues were: J St’s Jeremy Ben-Ami (statement); AIPAC’s Howard Kohr (statement).Video of the hearing is here.

3/7: The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activities in the Greater Middle East and Africa.” Witnesses were: General Joseph Votel, Commander, U.S. Central Command (statement); General Thomas Waldhauser, Commander, U.S. Africa Command (statement); and Kathyrn Wheelbarger, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

3/7: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Status of American Hostages in Iran.” Witnesses were: Christine Levinson (Wife of Robert Levinson - statement), Babak Namazi (Brother of Siamak Namazi and son of Baquer Namazi - statement), and Omar Zakka (Son of Nizar Zakka - statement). Video is here.

3/6: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen: Addressing Current Political and Humanitarian Challenges.” Witnesses were: Dafna Rand, Mercy Corps (statement); Radhya Almutawakel, Mwatana for Human Rights (statement); Jeremy Konyndyk, Center for Global Development (statement); and Katherine Zimmerman, American Enterprise Institute (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

3/6: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to consider the nomination of General John Abizaid to be Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (testimony), and Matthew Tueller to be Ambassador to Iraq (testimony). Video is here. Chairman Menendez’s (D-NJ) opening statement is here. Senator Sullivan (R-AK) statement in support of Gen. Abizaid is here. Also see: Durbin Meets With President Trump's Nominee To Be U.S. Ambassador To Saudi Arabia

3/4: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed/classified briefing, “Briefing Status of the Global Magnitsky Investigation Related to the Khashoggi Murder.” Briefers were: Manisha Singh, Acting Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, and Andrea Gacki, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.


3. On the Record

Calvert (R-CA) 3/15: Tweet - “The rockets fired yesterday at Tel Aviv are yet another example of why our partnership with Israel to deploy the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system is vital to protecting civilians.”

Wilson (R-SC) 3/15: Tweet - “I stand in solidarity with the people of Israel today as the @IDF attacks Hamas military targets in Gaza in response to the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv last night.”

Perry (R-PA) 3/15: Tweet - “I welcome @StateDept recognition of the Golan Heights as an area ‘under Israeli control’. In Dec, I sent a letter with @RepDLamborn to @SecPompeo stating that it is time for the US to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.” [Letter is here]

Hoyer (D-MD) 3/14: Hoyer Statement on Reports of Rockets Fired at Tel Aviv

Cruz (R-TX) 3/14: Sen. Cruz Issues Statement Condemning Attack on Tel Aviv

Cruz (R-TX) 3/14: Twitter thread on attack on Tel Aviv

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/14: Correcting the record re: nomination for Ambassador to KSA (“It took 23 months before the Trump administration bothered to nominate General Abizaid, leaving a gaping hole in our diplomatic posture to Saudi Arabia and the region. It is possible that this failure of leadership is the result of the President believing that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is capable of doing this job from the White House. Regardless of the reason, Saudi Arabia is not an isolated example…”)

Rubio (R-FL) 3/14: Tweet - “Two rockets were launched at Tel Aviv from #Gaza this evening. This is the threat that Israel faces daily. The world cannot stand idly by & make excuses for Hamas, a terrorist organization that continues to target innocent Israeli civilians.”

Gohmert (R-TX) 3/14: Floor rant in part positioning himself as the defender of Jews against anti-Semitism - in part by bashing George Soros

Frankel (D-FL), Cicilline (D-RI), Wagner (R-MO) and Wild (D-PA) 3/13: Call for Immediate Release of Saudi Women’s Rights Activists as First Trials Begin

Cruz (R-TX) 3/13: Cotton, Cruz, Gallagher Urge Bill Passage [recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights] After Reports of Hezbollah in Golan

Cardin (D-MD) 3/13: Floor speech on International Women’s Day, highlighting KSA’s mistreatment of women activists

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/13: Floor speech on International Women’s Day, highlighting KSA’s mistreatment of women activists

Frankel (D-FL) 3/13: Recognizing of Loujain al-Hathloul, a Saudi women's rights activist and political prisoner who stands trial today in Saudi Arabia.

Leahy (D-VT) 3/13: Floor speech on Repression In Saudi Arabia

Wyden (D-OR) 3/12: Floor speech expressing concern for Enes Kanter (a Turkish basketball player who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers) and his family, and warning Turkish president Erdogan that the world is watching

Graham (R-SC) 3/11: Graham Meets with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

Risch (R-ID) 3/11: Chairman Risch Statement Following Yemen Briefing with Martin Griffiths

Gohmert (R-TX) 3/8: Bashing Democrats over alleged anti-Semitism

Scalise (R-LA) 3/8: Denouncing anti-Semitism, calling for Rep. Omar to be removed from HFAC (and praising Israel, “One of the things I love most about going to Israel as a Catholic is that so much of the history of my faith of Jesus Christ is represented there in Israel, where you can walk the streets of Jerusalem and literally walk in the steps of Jesus. The fact is that Jewish people in Israel respect that diversity; they respect people of all faiths. And that is one of the proud, crowning achievements of the Jewish state of Israel.”)

Hoyer (D-MD) 3/8: Responding to Scalise (above), defending response to Rep. Omar and noting that GOP Reps had previously offered anti-Semitism amendment (to Yemen bill), for which Democrats unanimously voted, and then GOP voted against the bill. [the entire, lengthy exchange between Hoyer and Scalise is well worth reading to understand how the issue of anti-Semitism is being weaponized on the Hill].

Maloney (D-NY) 3/8: In recognition of Passage of the House Resolution Against Anti-Semitism, Bigotry, and Hatred

Jackson Lee (D-TX) 3/8: Denouncing Anti-Semitism

Wilson (R-SC) 3/7: Denouncing incitement in Saudi school books (and touting HR 554)

Jackson Lee (D-TX) 3/7: Condemning Anti-Semitism & Anti-Muslim Discrimination (on H. Res. 183)

Zeldin (R-NY) 3/7: Rep. Zeldin Denounces Democratic Whip Clyburn Comments Minimizing Holocaust

McCaul (R-TX) and Engel (D-NY) 3/7: McCaul & Engel Joint Statement on Detained American in Saudi Arabia

Zeldin (R-NJ) 3/6: Demanding that Democrats take Rep. Omar off HFAC

McConnell (R-KY) 3/6: Bashing Rep. Omar and Democrats over alleged anti-Semitism

Jaypal (D-WA) 3/6: Supporting her amendment to HR 1 to restrict lobbying be some foreign countries (“How does Saudi Arabia maintain its relationship with the United States? It shouldn't surprise anyone that Saudi Arabia spent about $27 million on U.S. lobbying and public relations in 2017 alone. Individuals affiliated with the Trump administration like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn have also taken substantial sums of money from foreign countries to lobby the American Government.”)

Udall (D-NM) 3/6: “We know the President has business and financial ties with Russia and Saudi Arabia, and this may well explain his strange closeness with Vladimir Putin and Muhammed bin Salman. Transparency and divestiture are the only ways to avoid conflicts of interest and corruption. These issues go to the heart of what it means to be an American.”

Rubio (R-FL) 3/5: Rubio Challenges Pelosi to Take Real Action in Support of Israel (by passing S. 1)

Kaine (D-VA) 3/5: Kaine Statement On Closure Of U.S. Consulate In Jerusalem (“This one-sided move is the latest U.S. misstep to make peace harder to reach. The Palestinians deserve independent representation with our diplomats in both Jerusalem and Washington. A one-state solution will not work.”) [NOTE: There is not a single statement about the closure of the Consulate in the Congressional Record; this Kaine statement is the only thing that comes up searching all House/Senate member websites].

Udall (D-NM) and Durbin (D-IL) 3/4: WaPo oped - Trump is barreling toward war with Iran. Congress must act to stop him.

Zeldin (R-NY) 3/4: Rep. Zeldin Urges House Dem Leadership to Bring H. Res. 72 Condemning anti-Israel & anti-Semitic Hatred Infiltrating U.S. Politics, College Campuses and Congress to Floor This Week [resolution bashing Reps. Tlaib and Omar by name]

Zeldin (R-NY) 3/1: Rep. Zeldin Statement on Release of UNHRC Israel Report (“This one-sided, highly biased and woefully inaccurate report fails to take into account key facts…”)