Legislative Round-up: March 29, 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

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

A. AIPAC Policy Conference Priorities

On the morning of March 24th, the start of AIPAC’s 2019 Policy Conference, AIPAC helpfully tweeted its lobby agenda.

(BASHING BOYCOTTS) S. Res. 120: Introduced 3/25 by Cardin (D-MD) and Portman (R-OH), “A resolution opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel.” Portman/Cardin press release is here; Portman tweet is here. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. As of 3/29, the bill has 26 cosponsors (almost 50/50 Democrat/Republican). The House version, H. Res. 246 [the two texts are virtually identical], introduced 3/21 by Schneider (D-IL), Nadler (D-NY), Zeldin (R-NY), and Wagner (R-MO), as of 3/29 has 77 cosponsors, also almost 50/50 Democrat/Republican). Press release from Schneider et al is here; Wagner press release is here.

The AIPAC page laying out its arguments for the resolution is here. That page helpfully situates those arguments in the context of Congressional passage in 2015 of the Trade Promotion Authority, which included language that was ostensibly about fighting boycotts of Israel, but in actual fact was about, as a matter of law, conflating Israel and settlements (by defining Israel to mean Israel and “Israel-controlled territories”) and then making it U.S. policy, by extension, to defend/support/promote settlements (for more background, see analysis here and here).

Word on the street in DC is that this resolution is being presented as a “win” for progressives. This is debatable, to say the least. While it’s true the resolution is better than binding bills we’ve seen in past, as I previously noted, for AIPAC & friends this is a tactical shift, not strategic walk-back. To understand, let’s compare the good & bad in the resolution (also laid out on Twitter on 3/28):

  • GOOD: It doesn’t include binding provisions that would quash free speech. Yippee! Violating the 1st Amdt rights of Americans to insulate Israel from criticism/pressure is not ok! But….BAD: The res is a far-reaching, unambiguous indictment of anyone who boycotts Israel (or settlements - we’ll get back to that). Folks who support it are in effect legitimizing the same simplistic narrative that is being used to justify laws quashing free speech.
  • Also BAD: Folks who support it are going to be called hypocrites if they subsequently vote against legislation trying to fight what they have in effect labeled an evil scourge. Rubio, R-FL, already starting attacking Dems for exactly this last week.  Also BAD: This res will fuel arguments that anyone, incl members of Congress & candidates, who supports, tolerates, or even brushes up against BDS is anti-Israel & anti-Semitic — and the argument that those who back this Res who don’t denounces them as such are hypocrites.
  • GOOD: It doesn’t explicitly call boycotts of Israel/settlements “anti-Semitic” But… BAD: There is no way you could read this res & not conclude that the intent is to label boycotts/boycotters of Israel anti-Semites.
  • GOOD: It doesn’t explicitly conflate Israel & settlements. But… BAD: It implicitly conflates Israel & settlements, opposing boycotts of US companies “engaged in commercial activities that are legal under US law.” Why not just say “that do business in Israel?” Because the intent is to also indict boycotts aimed at settlements/occupation.
  • GOOD: It affirmatively supports peace, negotiations, 2SS, mom, and apple pie.  But…BAD: The formulaic recitation of hollow pro-peace language, at a time when the US & Israeli govts are all but proclaiming Greater Israel, is being used as shameless political cover for throwing progressives who care about Palestinians under the bus (& backing over them).

It seems some progressives think that, on balance, this resolution is still a good middle ground that will neutralize BDS as a political weapon against them. They are deluding themselves; worse still, they are setting themselves, and everyone who cares about free speech or the Palestinians, up for worse attacks. Because this resolution will outrage people who understand that it is just another way to delegitimize free speech and who recognize that it will be another thing weaponized to justify efforts to quash First Amendment rights at both the federal & state levels. And by egging on these attacks & delegitimizing those who care about Palestinians, it will further fracture the progressive base on an issue related to Israel...which in turn will only feed more attacks from those who, cynically exploiting BDS as a false metric, will argue progressives are bad on Israel and tolerate/engage in anti-Semitism.

In short, this resolution is an own-goal of epic proportions, at a moment when Dems are already far behind in the game & have several players playing injured due to ugly fouls committed against them.

UPDATE - (WISH LIST OF ALL THINGS ISRAEL COULD WANT, PLUS ATCA “FIX”) HR 1837: Introduced 3/21 by Deutch (D-FL) and Wilson (R-SC), and so far having a total of 47 cosponsors,“To make improvements to certain defense and security assistance provisions and to authorize assistance for Israel, and for other purposes.” This is the 2019 version of AIPAC’s 2018 conference ask, HR 5141 (which was also included in S. 1, which as of this writing still shows up on AIPAC’s website as a legislative priority), “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.” Notably, the AIPAC website still shows S. 1 as its Senate companion to HR 5141 and as its lobby priority in the Senate. Text of HR 1837 is still not online, but  according to the AIPAC summary (and based on last year’s bill) HR 1837 is the answer to the age-old question, what do you give a country that is already seems to be getting everything you could possibly offer in terms of assistance, including an unconditional, guaranteed $3.8 billion in cash annually, plus huge funding for all kinds of defense programs? The answer (as summarized by AIPAC):

  • Authorize U.S. security assistance for Israel for 10 years, as called for in the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance [in effect assuring Israel that the $3.8 billion in annual, unconditional assistance for the next 10 years under Israel’s “Memorandum of Understanding” signed under the Obama Administration is guaranteed by Congress].
  • Extend authorization for the U.S. War Reserve Stockpile in Israel by five years and authorize an additional $1 billion in stocks. [In effect giving Israel continuing and much increased access to another de facto form of U.S. aid that doesn’t get counted as U.S. aid, and further enabling, and investing the U.S. in, Israeli military actions. As David Schenker explained in 2014: “When WRSA was created, the stockpile was conceived as weapons systems and ammunition for rapid deployment to American forces in the region, and contained $100 million worth of U.S. military materiel. At Israel’s behest, over the years Congress has significantly plussed-up the program, and successive U.S. administrations have executed the legislative authorization. Next year, that value of WRSA-I should reach $1.2 billion. As funding for the stockpile has increased, the purpose of WRSA has likewise evolved. Today, WRSA-I is intended to meet primarily Israeli, not American, military contingencies.”]
  • Authorize the president to transfer precision guided munitions to Israel. [Notwithstanding the fact that, reportedly, the U.S. is already short of PGMs].
  • Extend authorization for loan guarantees to Israel by four years [this long-standing program is another form of unaccounted-for U.S. financial assistance for Israel, providing Israel with an ongoing, U.S.-guaranteed line of credit].
  • Authorize $55 million in new and expanded “cooperative programs” over 5 years in an array of areas [funding that will be in addition to Israel’s regular $3.8 billion in cash military assistance].

In addition, as noted in last week’s Round-Up (and completely unmentioned in AIPAC’s online summary of the bill), HR 1837 reportedly includes the “Justice for United States Victims of Palestinian Terrorism,” which seeks to “fix” ATCA (the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act) by (a) removing the language that used U.S. aid as a hook to enable Americans to sue the PLO/PA, and (b) by adding in new language to create an additional hook that intended to someday - if the PLO office is ever allowed to re-open in the U.S. - to force Palestinians to decide between a presence in the U.S. and membership in UN agencies (a scenario that feels increasingly unlikely, given the trajectory of U.S. and Israeli policy, both of which are racing toward declaring the Palestinians a non-people and their national leaders/organizations, by definition, illegitimate).

B. Other legislation

(MORE IRAN SANCTIONS) S.925: Introduced 3/28 by Cornyn (R-TX) and Sinema (D-AZ), along with 3 other GOP cosponsors, “A bill to impose additional sanctions with respect to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

UPDATE (SANCTIONING EVERYONE WHO TOUCHES HAMAS) HR 1850: As noted in last week’s Round-Up, this bill (textl is still not online, but a summary is here) was introduced 3/21 by Mast (R-FL), Gottheimer (D-NJ), Engel (D-NY) McCaul (R-TX), as the “Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Financial Services. last week’s Round-Up. Notably (and surprisingly) it was NOT listed by AIPAC as a legislative priority and as of this writing does not appear as such on AIPAC’s website. Yet, as of 3/29 it has 15 bipartisan cosponsors (suggesting that someone is lobbying it).

(WE <HEART> ISRAEL-EGYPT PEACE TREATY) H. Res. 258: Introduced 3/27 by Connolly (D-VA) and Wilson (R-SC), “Affirming United States support for the continued implementation of the Treaty of Peace between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(WE <HEART> ISRAEL-EGYPT PEACE TREATY) S. Res. 121: Introduced 3/25 by Boozman (R-AR) and Enzi (R-WY),  “A resolution congratulating Israel and Egypt on the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(NO F-35s FOR TURKEY) S .922: Introduced 3/28 by Lankford (R-OK), Shaheen (D-NH), Van Hollen (D-MD), and Tillis (R-NC), “A bill to limit the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey.” The bill would prohibit the transfer of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey until the U.S. government certifies that Turkey will not accept delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press release is here.

(RIGHT OF RETURN FOR IRAQI MINORITIES) H. Res. 259: Introduced 3/27 by Fortenberry (R-NE) and Eshoo (D-CA), “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the repatriation of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq to their ancestral homelands.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release is here.

 

Letters

(STAND WITH ISRAEL v. IRAN & SYRIA) AIPAC letter: Another AIPAC legislative priority is a joint House-Senate letter to President Trump, led by Engel (D-NY) Risch (R-ID), McCaul (R-TX) and Menendez (D-NJ) (as of this writing it is unknown how many members have co-signed the letter so far). The letter urges the President to implement a strategy to “limit the presence of terrorists and extremists, counter the activities of our adversaries, an strengthen Israel’s security.” The recommended strategy includes: (1) doubling down on Israel’s right to self-defense, which according to the letter should include, looking for ways to “augment our support in the context of the current 10-year Memorandum of Understanding” and ways “to ensure that Israel has access to the resources and material it needs to defend itself against threats on its northern border.” It should also include continuing “to oppose international efforts to isolate and weaken Israel [code for both BDS and pressure on settlements”; (2) Increasing pressure on Iran and Russia with respect to activities in Syria, including with more sanctions; and (3) Increasing pressure on Hezbollah, especially via sanctions.

(SUPPORT FUNDING FOR ISR-PAL P2P PROGRAMS) Hastings/Engel et al letter: On March 28, Reps. Hastings (D-FL) and Engel (D-NY) led a letter, signed by 35 House colleagues, sent to HFAC/SFOPS Subcommittee Chair Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Member Rodgers (R-KY). The letter thanks the subcommittee for its support for programs that “promote people-to-people coexistence and reconciliation around the world” and urges the subcommittee to “again provide $12 million in such funding for projects focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” In addition, the letter urges the committee to include language that “will enable these important programs to continue in light of the interpretation of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), which has led to an end to those projects working with Palestinian beneficiaries.

 

2. Hearings

4/3: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism [note: I have no idea when they added that last bit into the name - quite telling that they did] will hold a hearing entitled, “Assessing U.S. Policy Priorities in the Middle East.” Scheduled witnesses so far are: Elisa Catalano Ewers, CNAS, and Dan Benaim, CAP.

3/27: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “The State Department’s Foreign Policy Strategy and FY20 Budget Request.” The sole witness was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (statement). Engel’s (D-NY) opening statement is here. Opening statement from McCaul (R-TX) is here. Press release from Curtis (R-UT), entitled “Curtis on US- Israel Relationship in Foreign Affairs Hearing with Secretary Pompeo” is here. Video is here.

3/27: The House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations held a hearing entitled, “Department of State Budget Request for FY 2020.” The sole witness will be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (statement). Lowey (D-NY) opening statement is here; Rogers (R-KY) opening statement is here. Video is here.

 

3. On the Record

(A) AIPAC

AIPAC has posted transcripts of many (not all) speeches delivered during the Policy Conference here, including:

Also, a lot of members of the House and Senate tweeted about their time at AIPAC and/or their meetings with AIPAC attendees. This list is likely not comprehensive, but is taken from the member tweets re-tweeted by AIPAC this week :

 

Republicans:

Allen (R-GA)

Armstrong (R-ND)

Bacon (R-NE)

Balderson (R-OH)

Bost (R-IL)

Buchanan (R-FL)

Budd (R-NC), Budd (R-NC)

Burchett (R-TN)

Cotton (R-AR)

Cruz (R-TX), Cruz (R-TX)

Curtis (R-UT)

Duncan (R-SC)

Ernst (R-IA)

Estes (R-KS)

Fleischmann (R-TN)

Gaetz (R-FL)

Gonzales (R-PR)

Gooden (R-TX)

Green (R-TN), Green (R-TN)

Hoeven (R-ND)

Hudson (R-NC)

Joyce (R-OH)

Kustoff (R-TN)

Lamborn (R-CO)

McSally (R-AZ), McSally (R-AZ)

Miller (R-WV)

Mooney (R-WV)

Moran (R-KS)

Portman (R-OH)

Riggleman (R-VA), Riggleman (R-VA)

Roby (R-AL)

Rogers (R-AL)

Rounds (R-SD)

Schweikert (R-AZ)

Scott (R-FL)

Smucker (R-PA)

Walker (R-NC)

Waltz (R-FL), Waltz (R-FL)

Watkins (R-KS)

Wicker (R-MS)

Womack (R-AR)

Young (R-IN)

 

Democrats:

Brindisi (D-NY)

Crist (D-FL)

Cunningham (D-SC)

Deutch (D-FL)

Espaillat (D-NY)

Garcia (D-TX)

Gottheimer (D-NJ), Gottheimer (D-NJ), Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Harris (D-CA)

Hoyer (D-MD)

Klobuchar (D-MN)

Lee (D-NV)

Lowey (D-NY)

Luria (D-VA)

Meng (D-NY)

Pallone (D-NJ)

Peters (D-CA)

Rice (D-NY)

Schneider (D-IL)

Sherman (D-CA)

Sinema (D-AZ), Sinema (D-AZ)

Titus (D-NV)

Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL)

 

Some members also made floor statements or issued press releases related to AIPAC:

Green (R-TN) 3/27: ISRAEL: AMERICA'S INDISPENSABLE ALLY [and I <heart> AIPAC]

Pelosi (D-CA) 3/26: Pelosi Remarks at AIPAC 2019 Policy Conference

McCarthy (R-CA) 3/26: At AIPAC “AIPAC Should Be Celebrated, Not Boycotted”

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/26: Menendez Delivers Keynote Remarks at AIPAC Conference

Granger (R-TX) 3/26: Rep. Granger at AIPAC

Riggleman (R-VA) 3/26: Congressman Denver Riggleman Speaks at AIPAC Conference

Hoyer (D-MD) 3/25: Hoyer statement clarifying his AIPAC remarks [suggesting that he did not mean to throw Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Omar (D-MN) and Tlaib (D-MI) under the bus; or maybe he figured out that bad-mouthing three young, brown female elected members of Congress is not a good look for a senior Democratic white male colleague]

Hoyer (D-MD) 3/24: Hoyer Delivers Remarks at AIPAC Annual Policy Conference [and seemingly gleefully throws Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Omar (D-MN) and Tlaib (D-MI) under the bus]

 

B. Everything else

Scott (R-SC) & Casey (D-PA) 3/26: Scott, Casey Introduce Anti-Semitism Awareness Act [NOTE: This bill, S. 852, was actually introduced on 3/14 - it looks like Scott & Casey issued this belated press release appears to be an effort to raise the profile of the bill during the AIPAC conference. The press release highlights endorsements from the JFNA, the ADL, CUFI, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Burchett (R-TN) 3/26: Anti-Semitism [equating Rep. Omar’s remarks - without naming her - to Tree of Life synagogue massacre]

Perry (R-PA) 3/26: Commending the United States' recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Graham (R-SC) 3/26: WSJ op-ed, “Trump’s Golan Decision Is Moral and Strategic”

Calvert (R-CA) 3/25: Tweet, “Last night’s rocket attack from Hamas on innocent Israeli civilians is reprehensible. We stand firmly behind Israel and it’s right to defend itself in the wake of this senseless violence.”

Deutch (D-FL) 3/25: Tweet, “Another rocket attack on Israel, this one landing on a home injuring those inside including children. Israel has the right to defend itself against terror attacks, and the US stands with our ally.”

McCarthy (R-CA) 3/25: Tweet, “The United States condemns Hamas’ despicable rocket attack on women and children. We stand with the state of Israel as it defends itself and its people.”

Rice (D-NY) 3/25: Tweet, “Horrified by this morning's rocket attack in Israel. I'm sending my prayers to all those who were injured. The US stands by our ally in the face of this violence and we must reaffirm our commitment to lasting peace in the region.”

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 3/25: Tweet, “Horrified by yet another rocket attack from Hamas aimed at innocent civilians in Israel. The United States supports our ally Israel and its right to defend itself from terrorist groups like Hamas in Gaza.”

Marshall (R-KS) 3/25: “Mr. Speaker, this past week, President Trump and Secretary Pompeo took a bold step to affirm Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. I support this administration and our long-time friend and ally, Israel, in this fight to protect their homeland…”

Abraham (R-LA) 3/24: Abraham shows support for Israel following rocket attacks

 

comments powered by Disqus