Legislative Round-up: June 28, 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 - General
  2. FY20 NDAA - Senate
  3. FY20 NDAA - House
  4. Hearings
  5. On the Record
  1. Bills,  Resolutions, & Letters - General

 

(FY20 SFOPS) HR 2740: Officially introduced 5/20 by Lowey (D-NY) in the form of HR 2839, the “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020,” subsequently subsumed into FY20 Appropriations “minibus” in the form of HR 2740, which was passed by the House 6/19 by a vote of 226-203. For full Mideast-related details of the base bill, see the 5/17/19 edition of the Round-Up. For details of floor amendments made in order, see the 6/7/19 edition of the Round-Up. For a listing of all amendments (regardless of whether they were ruled in order) see here. Notably, the Rules Committee’s Report on the minibus notes two Israel-related motions:

 

  •  Woodall (R-GA) offered a motion to make in order an amendment submitted by Zeldin (R-NY) and Barr (R-KY) stating that “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be made available to any nongovernmental organization, contractor, or grantee that participates in a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel.” For background, see the 6/7/19 edition. That motion was defeated by a party-line vote of 4-7.
  • Lesko (R-AZ) offered a motion to make in order an amendment submitted by Foxx (R-NC) to prohibit funds from being provided to assist in the investigation, arrest, detention, extradition, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court of any Israeli citizen or permanent resident of Israel. That motion was defeated by a party-line vote of 4-8.

 

(IRON DOME 4 USA!) HR 3186: Introduced 6/10 by Sherrill (D-NJ) and two GOP cosponsors, the “U.S.-Israel Indirect Fire Protection Act of 2019.” Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services. The bill would authorize the Secretary of the Army to procure two Iron Dome batteries (pursuant to existing law re: deployment of interim missile defense capability) and authorizes $9.337 million to do so. Sherrill press release is here

 

(PROMOTING ISRAEL-GREECE-CYPRUS TRILATERAL PARTNERSHIP, SMACKING DOWN TURKEY) S.1102: Introduced 4/10 by Menendez (D-NJ) and Rubio (R-FL), “A bill to promote security and energy partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019.” On 6/25, ordered reported out of the SFRC with an amendment (in the nature of a substitute).

 

(CONDEMNING ANTISEMITISM) S. Res. 189: Introduced 5/2 by Cruz (R-TX) and by now having 56 cosponsors (41 GOP, 14 Democrats), “A resolution condemning all forms of antisemitism.” Agreed to in the Senate 6/13 by Unanimous Consent. As noted previously, the good news about this resolution is that it doesn’t explicitly use synagogue attacks as an excuse to attack critics/criticism of Israeli policies; the bad news is that it (a) fails completely to call out the actual source of lethal anti-Semitism in the U.S. (no mention of America’s white supremacists/Nazi problem), and (b) implies that tactics used by the Nazis and others in the past to target Jews, as Jews — “attacks on the livelihood of Jews including prohibitions on land ownership, campaigns to boycott, confiscate or destroy Jewish businesses, and denial of the ability of Jews to practice certain professions” — are still in practice today (suggesting in effect that opposing Israeli settlements in the West Bank is anti-Semitic – based on the funhouse mirrors narrative that such opposition reflects an anti-Semitic denial of the right of Jews to own land anywhere; and that using boycotts as a form of political free speech to challenge Israeli policies is by definition anti-Semitic, etc…). From the start Cruz exploited the resolution for grandstanding/point-scoring purposes (see his 5/2 tweet asserting a false equivalence intended to distract focus from the sources of lethal attacks against US Jews while demonizing the media and delegitimizing criticism of Israel); he kept that up with his press release celebrating passage of the resolution and in his floor statement (in which he grandstands at the expense of Democrats and conflates boycotts of Israel and settlements with antisemitism).

 

(CONDITION LEBANON SECURITY $$ ON COUNTERING HEZBOLLAH) S. 1886 and HR 3331: Introduced 6/18 in the Senate by Cruz (R-TX) and Cramer (R-ND), and in the House by Zeldin (R-NY) and Luria (D-VA), the “Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon's Military Act of 2019.” Referred respectively to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Joint press release is here; Luria press release is here. In effect, this bill would withhold 20% of US funding for security assistance for the Government of Lebanon until the President could certify that the Lebanese military is actively rooting out all individuals linked to Hezbollah.

 

(TRUMP: CONDEMN KHASHOGGI MURDER & DEFEND JOURNOS):  H. Res. 472: Introduced 6/27 by Speier (D-CA) and 33 all-Democratic cosponsors, “Requesting the President to strongly condemn Jamal Khashoggi's killing, hold accountable individuals identified as culpable, and condemn imprisonment of and violence against journalists around the world.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Speier press release is here.

 

(ACCOUNTABILITY FOR AMIA ATTACK) H. Res. 441: Introduced 6/13 by Deutch (D-FL) and having 26 cosponsors, “A resolution condemning the attack on the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in July 1994 and expressing the concern of the United States regarding the continuing, 25-year-long delay in the resolution of this case and encouraging accountability for the attack.” On 6/20, the House Foreign Affairs Committee agreed to seek consideration under suspension of the rules. Deutch press releases on the resolution are here and here.

 

(SLAMMING IRAN & HOUTHIS FOR YEMEN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS) H. Con. Res. 50 & S. Con. Res. 21: Introduced 6/27 by Hurd (R-TX) and McCaul (R-TX), and in the Senate by Cotton (R-AR) and 6 GOP cosponsors, “Strongly condemning human rights violations, violence against civilians, and cooperation with Iran by the Houthi movement and its allies in Yemen.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively. Hurd press release is here; Cotton press release is here.

 

(DISAPPROVING OF WEAPONS SALES W/O CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT): On 6/20, the Senate passed the following Joint Resolutions, en bloc, by a  vote of 51-45:

 

  1. J. Res. 27:  disapproval of the proposed transfer to the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Australia certain defense articles and services.
  2. J. Res. 28:  disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the United Arab Emirates of certain defense articles and services.
  3. J. Res. 29: disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia certain defense articles and services.
  4. J. Res. 30: disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the United Arab Emirates of certain defense articles and services.
  5. J. Res. 31: disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia certain defense articles and services.
  6. J. Res. 32:  disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia certain defense articles and services.
  7. J. Res. 33 disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the United Arab Emirates of certain defense articles and services.
  8. J. Res. 34: disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the United Arab Emirates of certain defense articles and services.
  9. J. Res. 35: disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the United Arab Emirates of certain defense articles and services.
  10. J. Res. 36: disapproval of the proposed transfer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Italian Republic of certain defense articles and services.
  11. J. Res. 37: disapproval of the proposed export to the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Republic of France of certain defense articles and services.
  12. J. Res. 38: disapproval of the proposed export to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of certain defense articles and services.
  13. J. Res. 39: disapproval of the proposed export to the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom of certain defense articles, including technical data and defense services.
  14. J. Res. 40: disapproval of the proposed export to India, Israel, Republic of Korea, and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of certain defense articles, including technical data and defense services.
  15. J. Res. 41: disapproval of the proposed export to the Government of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of technical data and defense services.
  16. J. Res. 42: disapproval of the proposed export to the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of certain defense articles, including technical data and defense services.
  17. J. Res. 43: disapproval of the proposed transfer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia certain defense articles and services.
  18. J. Res. 44: disapproval of the proposed retransfer of certain defense articles from the United Arab Emirates to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
  19. J. Res. 45: disapproval of the proposed transfer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia certain defense articles and services.
  20. J. Res. 46: disapproval of the proposed transfer to the United Arab Emirates certain defense articles and services.
  21. J. Res. 47: disapproval of the proposed transfer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia certain defense articles and services.
  22. J. Res. 48: disapproval of the proposed transfer to the United Arab Emirates certain defense articles and services.

(CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OF ARMS SALES) S. 1945 (text is here): Introduced 6/24 by Menendez (D-NJ) and 6 bipartisan cosponsors, “A bill to amend section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2776) to preserve congressional review and oversight of foreign arms sales, and for other purposes,” aka “Saudi Arabia False Emergencies (SAFE) Act.” On 6/25, the bull as ordered reported out of the Committee on Foreign Relations without amendment favorably. Menendez et al press release is here.

 

(KSA RECORD IN YEMEN) S. Res. 243: Introduced 6/10 by Murphy (D-CT) and 4 bipartisan cosponsors, “A resolution requesting information on Saudi Arabia's human rights practices in Yemen pursuant to section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. 

 

(DISAPPROVING OF ARMS SALES TO KSA & UK) H. J. Res. 61: Introduced 6/12 by Cicilline (D-RI) and 13 Democratic cosponsors, “Providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed export to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of certain defense articles and services.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. 

 

(DISAPPROVING OF ARMS SALES TO KSA & UAE) H. J. Res. 62: Introduced 6/12 by Lieu (D-CA) and 18 cosponsors (1 GOP), “Providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed transfer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of certain defense articles and services.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Engel Press release touting the resolution is here. Note: Lieu offered a version of this same resolution as an amendment (H. Amdt. 371) to HR 2740, the FY20 Defense Approps bill (discussed in Section 2, below). That amendment was agreed to by a vote of 237-191

 

(DISAPPROVING OF ARMS SALES TO the UAE, UK, & FRANCE) H. J. Res. 63: Introduced 6/12 by Malinowski (D-NJ) and 15 Democratic cosponsors, “Providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed export to the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Republic of France of certain defense articles and services.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

(DISAPPROVING OF ARMS SALES TO KSA, UK, SPAIN & ITALY) H. J. Res. 64: Introduced 6/12 by Spanberger (D-VA) and 12 Democratic cosponsors, “Providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed transfer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Italian Republic of certain defense articles and services.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

(UM, TURKEY, CAN WE TALK?) H. Res. 372: Introduced 5/10 by Engel (D-NY) and now having 21 bipartisan cosponsors, “Expressing concern for the United States-Turkey alliance.” On 6/10, agreed to in the House by voice vote under suspension of the rules. Floor consideration is here; Engel press release touting passage of the resolution is here.

 

(THREE CHEERS FOR TURKISH DEMOCRACY IN ACTION!) H. Res. 449: Introduced 6/19 by Keating (D-MA) and Wilson (R-SC), “Expressing support for a genuinely democratic repeat mayoral election in Istanbul, Turkey.” Referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee.  

 

(THREE CHEERS FOR TUNISIA!) H. Res. 458: Introduced 6/24 by Deutch (D-FL) and 3 bipartisan cosponsors, “Reaffirming the strong partnership between Tunisia and the United States and supporting the people of Tunisia in their continued pursuit of democratic reforms.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Deutch press release is here

 

(TRANSITION & VIOLENCE IN SUDAN) H. Res. 432: Introduced 6/10 by Kildee (D-MI) and  65 bipartisan cosponsors, “Condemning the attacks on peaceful protesters and supporting an immediate peaceful transition to a civilian-led democratic government in Sudan.” On 6/20, the House Foreign Affairs Committee agreed to seek consideration of the resolution under suspension of the rules.

 

(SUPPORTING RIGHT OF RETURN FOR [SOME] MIDEAST REFUGEES/DISPLACED] H. Res. 259: Introduced 3/27 by Fortenberry (R-NE) and having 71 bipartisan cosponsors, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the repatriation of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq to their ancestral homelands.” On 6/20, marked up in the House Foreign Affairs and ordered reported (with an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute) by Voice Vote.

 

(WE <HEART> THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS) S. Res. 206: Introduced 5/14 by Booker (D-NJ) and Young (R-IN) [and since then gaining no additional cosponsors], “A resolution marking the 70th anniversary of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, expressing concern about significant violations of international humanitarian law on contemporary battlefields, and encouraging United States leadership in ensuring greater respect for international humanitarian law in current conflicts, particularly with its security partners.” On 6/25, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ordered the resolution reported favorably, with an amendment.   

 

Letters

 

(NEED LEGAL OPINIONS ON USE OF FORCE AGAINST IRAN) Engel/Deutch letter to DOS: On 6/25, Rep. Engel (D-NY), Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Deutch, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism, sent a letter to State Department Acting Legal Advisor Marik String calling on the State Department to produce any legal analysis dealing with the 2001 and 2002 war authorizations and possible military action against Iran. Press release is here.

 

(INVESTIGATE “EMERGENCY” DETERMINATION) Engel et al letter to State IG: On 6/20, Rep. Engel (D-NY) let a letter, co-signed by 25 Democratic colleagues from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to Department of State Inspector General Steven Linick. The letter asks Linick to investigate “the process and legal justifications underlying the emergency determination made under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) for the sale or transfer of over $8.1 billion in defense articles and services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates contained in 22 specific licensing cases.

 

(EXPLAIN NEW US TROOPS IN MIDEAST, PLEASE!) Kaine/Lee letter to Trump: On 6/18, Senators Kaine (D-VA), Lee (R-UT), Merkley (D-OR), Sanders (I-VT), Murphy (D-CT), and Paul (R-KY) sent a letter to President Trump asking for an explanation for the decision to deploy additional troops to the Middle East and for information about their mission, and expressing concerns about escalating tensions that could lead to a war between the United States and Iran. The letter also underscores that the Trump Administration does not have the authority to start a war with Iran without authorization from Congress. Press release is here.

 

(MUST AL JAZEERA REGISTER UNDER FARA?) Zeldin et al letter to DOJ: On 6/18, Rep. Zeldin (R-NY) led a group of GOP members from both the House and Senate in a lengthy letter to Attorney General Barr, making the case that Al Jazeera is not a news outlet but is a foreign agent of the government of Qatar, and must be required to register and report as such. The letter concludes by presenting the AG with a list of questions he is required to answer regarding what the DOJ is doing to go after Al Jazeera. Press release is here.

 

(MORE IRAN SANCTIONS, PLEASE!) Cotton et al letter to Trump: On 6/17, Senators Cotton (R-AR), Rubio (R-FL), Cruz (R-TX), Hawley (R-MO), Wicker (R-MS), Rounds (R-SD), Braun (R-IN), and Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to President Trump urging him to impose new sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, based on authorities in the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act. Press release is here.

 

(NO IRAN STRIKES W/O CONGRESSIONAL AUTH) Eshoo et al letter: On 6/11, Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) led a bipartisan group of 55 members urging HASC leaders to include language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibiting U.S. offensive military operations against Iran. Press release is here.

 

(BAN HAMAS!) House GOP letter to Twitter: On June 11, Reps. Zeldin (R-NY), Lamborn (R-CO) and Wilson (R-SC), Co-Chairmen of the House Republican Israel Caucus, led a letter, signed by a total of 16 members, calling on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to ban designated FTOs, most notably Hamas and its officials, from Twitter, and to remove all content “promoting terrorist activity.” The letter suggests that failure to do so could run Twitter afoul of U.S. laws regarding material support for terror, and closes with a clearly implied threat: “We hope Twitter will take action without the need for additional Congressional oversight and legislative action." Press release is here.

 

  1. FY20 NDAA - Senate

 

(FY20 NDAA - Senate) S. 1790: Introduced 6/11 by Inhofe (R-OK), the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020,” with a report from the Senate Armed Services Committee (S. Rept. 116-48). As of this writing the measure is being considered by the Senate. Notably, on 6/27 the Senate adopted (by voice vote) SA 764, which is in effect an amendment in the nature of a substitute from Inhofe, turning SA 764 into the actual text that is under consideration.

 

Key Middle-East related provisions included in both the original base bill & SA 764

 

  • Section 1221. Modification of authority to provide assistance to vetted Syrian groups.
  • Section 1222. Extension of authority and limitation on use of funds to provide assistance to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
  • Section 1223. Extension and modification of authority to support operations and activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
  • Section 1224. Coordinator of United States Government activities and matters in connection with detainees who are members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
  • Section 1225. Report on lessons learned from efforts to liberate Mosul and Raqqah
  • Section 1283. Modification of authority for United States-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation activities.
  • Section 1284. United States-Israel cooperation to counter unmanned aerial Systems 
  • Section 1288. Reports on expenses incurred for in-flight refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft conducting missions relating to civil war in Yemen.
  • Section 1289. Sense of the Senate on security concerns with respect to leasing arrangements for the Port of Haifa in Israel.
  • Section 1671. Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and Israeli cooperative missile defense program co-development and co-production [authorizing: up to $95 million for Iron Dome; up to $50 million for David’s Sling; and up to $55 million for Arrow 3 Upper Tier Interceptor Program - this is in addition to $300 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs, authorized in the bill as listed in the funding tables in the Report]

 

Key Middle-East related provisions added into the bill as part of SA 764

 

  • Section 6206. Expansion of availability of financial assets of Iran to victims of terrorism [in effect this appears to be adding S. 1529/HR 2790: to the NDAA. (I wrote about these in the 5/17/19 edition of the Round-Up - they in effect seek to re-write the rules governing the authority of U.S. domestic courts outside of the US to give a U.S. court extraterritorial authority to seize Iranian assets pursuant to a judgement of that same court.)
  • Section 10707. Report on Iranian support of proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon.
  • Section 10708. Annual report on Iranian expenditures supporting foreign military and terrorist activities.
  • Section 10709. Expansion of scope of committee to counter active measures and report on establishment of Foreign Malign Influence Center

 

Amendments

 

Given that the NDAA is what is known as “must-pass” legislation, the bill is always the target of huge numbers of amendments, germane and non-germane. This year is no different, with hundreds of amendments being offered to S. 1790 and, subsequently, many more to SA 764 (which, once adopted, effectively became the base text that is under consideration). Most won’t be considered, but they are all still worth looking at, as NDAA amendments are a good guide to legislators’ plans and priorities.

 

Most notably, mid-afternoon on 6/28, the Senate voted on the most critical and contentious of the amendments on the table: SA 883, offered by Udall (D-NM) and a bipartisan group of cosponsors, prohibiting unauthorized military action by the United States against Iran (see initial introduction and discussion of the amendment here; further discussion 6/27 is here; McConnell, R-KY, statement opposing the amendment is here. Technical note: SA 883 is an amendment to SA 764; Udall earlier offered the same text as SA 576, to amend the original base bill). Backers of the amendment fought hard to even get a vote, and it Majority Leader McConnell only agreed to allow a vote on the condition that it would require a supermajority of 60 votes to pass. While the result did not meet this threshold, the vote was nonetheless a powerful message of Senate support for the amendment, with a strong majority of senators present voting in support for the amendment (the final result was 50-40, with all Democrats plus four Republicans voting in favor of the amendment). In addition to sending a strong message of Senate sentiment, this result likely strengthens the prospects for passage of a similar amendment that has been proposed to the House NDAA (see below).

 

Other Middle East-related amendments offered to the bill (in the form of amendments to SA 764) are:

 

  • SA 842: Offered by Cruz (R-TX), requiring a report on the cost of the US drone shot down by Iran along with a strategy for how the US can confiscate an equivalent amount of money from Iranian funds frozen under various sanctions. 
  • SA 861: Offered by McConnell (R-KY), stating that “Amounts authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be used to ensure the ability of the Armed Forces of the United States to defend themselves, and United States citizens, against attack by the government, military forces, or proxies of a foreign nation or by other hostile forces.” [This appears to be a rather silly effort to score points against those  arguing that the Trump Administration needs an AUMF to carry out military actions against Iran). ADOPTED BY A VOTE OF 90-4.
  • SA 870: Offered by Cotton (R-AR) et al, seeking to add a version of S. 1529 to the bill (not clear if Cotton is aware this was already added into the NDAA as part of SA 764, as noted above).
  • SA 888: Offered by Cruz (R-TX) further restricting the issuance of Iran sanctions waivers, and adding a new section to the bill entitled “Annual Report on Iranian Expenditures Supporting Foreign Military and Terrorist Activities” (not clear if Cruz is aware that this report requirement was already added into the NDAA as part of SA 764, as noted above).
  • SA 889: Offered by Cruz (R-TX) further restricting the issuance of Iran sanctions waivers, and adding a new section to the bill entitled “Annual Report on Iranian Expenditures Supporting Foreign Military and Terrorist Activities” (not clear if Cruz is aware that this report requirement was already added into the NDAA as part of SA 764, as noted above).
  • SA 890: Offered by Cruz (R-TX, repealing the sunset provision on some Iran sanctions, expanding the application of other Iran sanctions, and adding limitations on waivers of various Iran sanctions.

 

Middle East-related amendments offered to the bill (in the form of amendments to S. 1790, meaning they are now moot) are:

 

  • SA 285: Offered by Van Hollen (D-MD), laying out requirements for a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with KSA (known as a “123 Agreement”).
  • SA 293: Offered by Menendez (D-NJ), to add a lengthy new title to the bill entitled, “Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act” including suspension of arms transfers to KSA, prohibition on in-air refueling of KSA coalition aircraft operating in Yemen, imposition of sanctions with respect to persons hindering humanitarian access and threatening peace or stability in Yemen, imposition of sanctions with respect to persons supporting the Houthis in Yemen, a GAO review of US military support to KSA-led coalition, emergency protection for Yemeni cultural property, imposition of sanctions on persons responsible for death of Jamal Khashoggi, and a report on KSA’s human rights record.
  • SA 294: Offered by Menendez (D-NJ), to add a (self-explanatory) provision entitled, “Suspension of Arms Sales to Saudi Araba and the United Arab Emirates Not Reviewed by Congress.
  • SA 295: Offered by Menendez (D-NJ), to add a section entitled, “Protection of Congressional Review and Oversight of Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and Other Countries.” The provision limits the cases in which the declaration of an “emergency” enables the President to skirt required congressional approval of arms sales. 
  • SA 296: Offered by Menendez (D-NJ), to add S. 1945, the “Saudi Arabia False Emergencies (SAFE) Act,” to the NDAA.
  • SA 307: Offered by Wyden (D-OR), to add a new section to the bill entitled requiring the Attorney General to “complete an investigation of whether the Government of Saudi Arabia materially assisted or facilitated any citizen or national of Saudi Arabia... in departing from the United States while the citizen or national was awaiting trial or sentencing for a criminal offense committed in the United States” and, based on the report resulting from that investigation, to revoke visas or refuse visas to implicated individuals [note: this amendment is clearly linked to this outrage in Oregon]. 
  • SA 333: Offered by Merkley (D-OR), laying out requirements for a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with KSA (known as a “123 Agreement”).
  • SA 498: Offered by Cruz (R-TX), this amendment seeks to insert a version of a bill introduced in the House last session, HR 1795, into the NDAA, authorizing 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.”
  • SA 527: Offered by Cruz (R-TX) et al, an amendment adding a provision entitled “Space Frontier Act,” stating that “…Nothing in this section or the amendments made by this section shall affect the prohibition on the collection and release of detailed satellite imagery relating to Israel under section 1064 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 (51 U.S.C. 60121 note).”
  • SA 576: Offered by Udall (D-NM) and having 26 bipartisan cosponsors, an amendment to add a new provision to the bill entitled, “Prohibition of Unauthorized Military Operations Against Iran,” stating: “(a) In General.--No funds may be used to conduct hostilities against the Government of Iran, against the Armed Forces of Iran, or in the territory of Iran, except pursuant to an Act or a joint resolution of Congress specifically authorizing such hostilities that is enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act. (b) Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this section may be construed to limit, modify, or relieve the executive branch of any restriction, duty, or requirement regarding the use of force or reporting requirements set forth in the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.).” [press release on amendment is here]
  • SA 586: Offered by Markey (D-MA) and Rubio (R-FL), this amendment would add a new subtitle to the bill entitled, “Saudi Arabia Nuclear Nonproliferation,” legislating (among other things) requirements for Congressional approval of a nuclear cooperation agreement with KSA.
  • SA 598: Offered by Cruz (R-TX), this is another version of SA 498.
  • SA 631: Offered by Murphy (D-CT), barring the sale, transfer or licenses for expert of specified munitions and technologies to KSA or UAE. 
  • SA 687: Offered by Menendez (D-NJ), this is his effort to add S.1102 to the NDAA.
  • SA 771: Offered by Graham (R-SC), this amendment would add a new provision to the bill entitled, “Increased Funding for Israeli Missile Defense,” increasing funding for Israel in the bill by $100 million. 
  • SA 777: Offered by Lankford (R-OK) and Grassley (R-IA), this amendment would add a new section to the bill entitled, “PROMOTING SECURITY AND JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF TERRORISM.” The purpose of this section is to (a) allow some portion of aid for the Palestinians to re-start by tweaking ATCA to not apply to all forms of aid, while (b) legislating new conditions that, if triggered, would enable lawfare organizations to sue the PLO/PA out of existence. And to make it extra fun, in order to not trigger these conditions, the Palestinians would, in effect, have to give up literally all possible legal, non-violent avenues for action at their disposal. Specifically, the added triggers are: (a) any Palestinian official setting foot in the United States in any official capacity; (b) failure by the Palestinians to announce withdrawal (within 120 days of this becoming law) from any UN agencies in which Palestine has been granted membership; (c) the Palestinians remaining a member in any UN agency (after 2 years of this becoming law), and (d) at any time after this becomes law, the Palestinians taking any steps to seek or accept standing in any UN agency. 

 

  1. FY20 NDAA - House

 

(FY20 NDAA - House) HR 2500: Introduced 5/2 by Smith (D-WA), the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.” The bill was marked up in Armed Services Committee on 6/12 (all relevant documents are here; on 6/19, it was reported out of the Committee on Armed Services with a report (H. Rept. 116-120) and on 6/27, the Committee filed a supplemental report (H. Rept. 116-120). Middle East-related elements in the bill, as reported in the House on 6/19 (as amended in Committee) are:

 

  • Section 1215. Authority for certain payments to redress injury and loss in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen.
  • Section 1221. Modification of authority to provide assistance to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
  • Section 1222. Extension and modification of authority to provide assistance to the vetted Syrian opposition.
  • Section 1223. Extension and modification of authority to support operations and activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
  • Section 1224. Prohibition on provision of weapons and other forms of support to certain organizations.
  • Section 1225. Rule of construction relating to use of military force against Iran.
  • Section 1226. Sense of Congress on support for Ministry of Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
  • From the funding tables in the bill: $300 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs; $95 million for Iron Dome; $55 million for the Arrow 3 Upper Tier Systems; and $50 million for the SRBMD program.

 

The House will take up HR 2500 after the July recess. At that time the Rules Committee will make decisions about which of the many, many amendments that have been submitted to the bill will be made in order. Of those amendments, the following are related to the Middle East:

 

  • Amdt #35, offered by Lee (D-CA) et al, to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243; 50 USC. 1541).
  • Amdt #71, offered by Engel (D-NY), to preserve Congressional review of arms exports
  • Amdt #81, offered by Sherman (D-CA), to require the President to certify annually that Saudi Arabia does not have, is not building, and is not trying to acquire uranium enrichment or reprocessing capabilities; failure to make this certification would prohibit any arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
  • Amdt #84, offered by Sherman (D-CA) et al, to amend the Arms Export Control Act to give India the same status as NATO allies, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in terms of the number of Executive Branch approvals are needed for arms sales.
  • Amdt #163, offered by Jackson Lee (D-TX), to bar the use of funds to conduct offensive military operations against Iran in accordance with any plan recommended by the National Security Council if one or more statutory members of the National Security Council has not been confirmed by the Senate.
  • Amdt #170, offered by Ruiz (D-CA), authorizing assistance in the form of training, equipment, supplies, and small-scale military construction to countries bordering the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea to help them deter and combat illegal smuggling and related maritime activity by Iran.
  • Amdt #178, offered by Pence (R-IN) and Gallego (D-AZ), to allow the families of the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing victims in Beirut, Lebanon, to execute on $1.68 billion in Iranian funds.
  • Amdt #193, offered by Fortenberry (R-NE), providing a Sense of Congress supporting the conditions for security of displaced Christians and other religious minorities in Northern Iraq and to enable their safe return home.
  • Amdt 210, offered by Zeldin (R-NY) and Luria (D-VA), requiring a report on the relationship between the Lebanese Armed Forces and Hizballah.
  • Amdt 211, offered by Zeldin (R-NY), requiring the President to report on the use by the Government of Iran of commercial aircraft and related services for illicit military or other activities.
  • Amdt #267, offered by DeFazio (D-OR) et al, to amend the definitions of “hostilities” and “armed forces” in the War Powers Resolution to prevent the Executive Branch from avoiding the congressional reporting and counseling requirements of the War Powers Resolution if it sends U.S. armed forces into hostilities without congressional authorization.
  • Amdt #270, offered by Khanna (D-CA) et al, to prohibit unauthorized military force in or against Iran (press release is here)
  • Amdt #274, offered by Davidson (R-OH), providing a Sense of Congress that the legal authority of the 2001 AUMF and Iraq AUMF is uncertain and that Congress should authorize force against the Islamic State.
  • Amdt #289, offered by Gottheimer (D-NJ) to add Hamas, Hizballah, Palestine Islamic Jihad, al-Shabaab, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the organizations prohibited from being provided weapons.
  • Amdt #306, offered by Meadows (R-NC), to require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to jointly certify and report to Congress that assistance to the Ministry of the Interior of Iraq under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund will not be disbursed to any group that is, or is known to be affiliated with, the IRGC – Quds Force or other state sponsor of terrorism.
  • Amdt #320, offered by Gottheimer (D-NJ), to add “anti-Semitism” to the list of questions about workplace experiences on DOD surveys.
  • Amdt #339, offered by Khanna (D-CA), to prohibit support to and participation in the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations against the Houthis in Yemen.
  • Amdt #368, offered by Lee (D-CA), expressing the sense of Congress that the 2001 AUMF has been utilized well beyond the scope that Congress intended, that it has served a blank check for any President to wage war at any time and any place, and that any new authorization for the use of military force to replace the 2001 AUMF should include a sunset clause, a clear and specific expression of objectives, targets, and geographic scope, and reporting requirements.
  • Amdt #369, offered by Cuellar (D-TX), requesting the DOD, in collaboration with the Department of State and USAID, perform three assessments on US funding and resource allocations Western Hemisphere, including focusing on investments made by China, Iran, and Russia in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Amdt #377, offered by Gabbard (D-HI), to prohibit funds from the Special Defense Acquisition Fund to aid Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates if such assistance could be used to conduct or continue hostilities in Yemen.
  • Amdt #417, offered by Lieu (D-CA) requiring a legal review of war crimes in Yemen by the General Counsel of the Department of Defense and the Legal Adviser to the Department of State for purposes of compliance with relevant provisions of domestic law.
  • Amdt #418, offered by Lieu (D-CA), to prohibit refueling to non-United States aircraft that engage in hostilities in the ongoing civil war in Yemen until a specific authorization has been enacted.
  • Amdt #419, offered by Lieu (D-CA), to prohibit funds from being used to transfer any defense articles or services to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates under the emergency authority of the Arms Export Control Act that circumvents congressional review.
  • Amdt #431, offered by Price (D-NC) et al, to require a report from the President on the status of deconfliction channels with Iran to prevent miscalculation.
  • Amdt #450, offered by Biggs (R-AZ), to express a sense of Congress about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
  • Amdt #473, offered by Malinowski (D-NJ) et al, providing for a one-year prohibition on the sale of air-to-ground munitions used in the conflict in Yemen to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Amdt #475, offered by Malinowski (D-NJ) et al, requiring an ODNI determination of parties responsible for the torture, murder, and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, imposes visa sanctions, and provides for a waiver if Saudi Arabia meets certain conditions.
  • Amdt #495, offered by Doggett (D-TX), to ensure an assessment of the policy and operational necessity, risks, benefits and costs of establishing military-to-military discussions with Iran.
  • Amdt #509, offered by Engel (D-NY), to improve congressional oversight of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) by requiring the President to submit reports and provide briefings on actions related to that authority.
  • Amdt #565, offered by Schiff (D-CA), to sunset the 2002 AUMF immediately; Sunsets the 2001 AUMF on the 20th anniversary of its passage, Clarifies that 2001 AUMF does not apply to Iran; and creates a procedure to provide for expedited consideration of a replacement AUMF, if required.
  • Amdt #613, offered by Yoho (R-FL), to require reports on the cost of the US drone shot down by the Iranians on June 20, 2019 and begins the process of using frozen Iranian funds to pay for the downed drone.

 

  1. Hearings

 

6/26: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a markup of a number of measures, including: H. Res. 221, Reaffirming the importance of upholding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in United States foreign policy; and HR 2037, the Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act of 2019. Video is here.

 

6/25: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled “The U.S. Response to the Political Crisis in Sudan.” Witnesses were Makila James, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Africa and the Sudans, Bureau for Africa (statement) and Ramsey Day, Senior Deputy Assistant USAID Administrator, Bureau for Africa (statement). Video is here.

 

6/25: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a markup of various measures, including S.1102, the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019, with an amendment; S. Res. 206, A resolution marking the 70th anniversary of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, expressing concern about significant violations of international humanitarian law on contemporary battlefields, and encouraging United States leadership in ensuring greater respect for international humanitarian law in current conflicts, particularly with its security partners, with amendments; and S. 1945, the SAFE Act. See Section 1, above, for details of all of these measures.

 

6/20: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to consideration nominations, including of Andrew Bremberg to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the UN. Bremberg’s testimony is here; Chairman Menendez’s statement is here (listing Israel as the United States’ #2 priority at the UN overall).

 

6/20: The House Foreign Affairs Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing entitled, “The State Department and USAID FY 2020 Operations Budget.” That hearing was postponed (no new date available as yet). Scheduled witnesses were to have been: Carol Perez, Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources, Bureau of Human Resources, U.S. Department of State; Douglas Pitkin, Director, Bureau of Budget and Planning, U.S. Department of State; Frederick Nutt, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Management, United States Agency for International Development; and Bob Leavitt, Chief Human Capital Officer, United States Agency for International Development.

 

6/20: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a markup of a number of measures, including: H. Res. 259, Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the repatriation of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq to their ancestral homelands (Engel ANS); H. Res. 432, Condemning the attacks on peaceful protesters and supporting an immediate peaceful transition to a civilian-led democratic government in Sudan; and H. Res. 441, Condemning the attack on the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in July 1994 and expressing the concern of the United States regarding the continuing, 25-year-long delay in the resolution of this case and encouraging accountability for the attack. Video is here.

 

6/19: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a CLOSED/TS/SCI briefing entitled, “Iran's Recent Escalation and U.S. Policy Response.” Witnesses were: Brian Hook, Department of State’s Special Representative for Iran; Kathryn Wheelbarger, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs; and [unnamed] CIA National Intelligence Officer for Iran.

 

6/19: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Iran Policy.” The sole witness was Brian Hook, Department of State’s Special Representative for Iran (statement). Video of the hearing is here; Engel (D-NY) remarks are here; Deutch (D-FL) remarks are here.

 

6/12: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “What Emergency?: Arms Sales and the Administration’s Dubious End-Run around Congress.” The sole witness was R. Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (statement). Engel (D-NY) remarks are here; McCaul (R-TX) statement is here; Deutch (D-FL) exchange with witness is here. Video is here

 

6/12: The House Armed Services Committee held a markup of H.R.2500, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. See markup page for full list of amendments considered. Video is here and here.

 

  1. On the Record

 

General

 

Menendez (D-NJ) 6/27: Menendez Statement on Situation in Tunisia Following Suicide Attacks

Leahy (D-VT) 6/20: Statement On The Scourge of Landmines in Yemen

Sanders (I-VT) 6/20: Sanders Opposes Weapons Sales to Saudi Arabia, Calls on Trump to Obey Constitution

Feinstein (D-CA) 6/20: Feinstein Statement on Senate Rejection of Saudi Arms Sales

Cotton (R-AR) 6/20: Cotton Warns Colleagues About Withholding Support for Saudi Arms Deals

Menendez (D-NJ) 6/20: Menendez Speaks Ahead of Senate Passage of his 22 Resolutions Blocking Trump Admin’s Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

Kim (D-NJ) 6/18: Congressman Kim Statement on Deployment of Troops to the Middle East

Deutch (D-FL) 6/10: House Bipartisan Anti-Semitism Task Force Praises Organization of American States Secretary General's Support for Working Definition of Anti-Semitism

Sherman (D-CA) 6/10: Secret, Gotcha, Motions to Recommit (expressing annoyance with GOP partisan tactics re: legislation to quash free speech on Israel)

 

Iran

 

Durbin (D-IL) 6/27: Durbin Warns Against Another Reckless War In The Middle East

Rubio (R-FL) 6/27: Floor statement on Iran (making case against Udall amendment to the NDAA)

Shaheen (D-ND) 6/27: Shaheen Demands Congressional Approval before Any New Military Action Against Iran

Cotton (R-AR) 6/27: Cotton Blasts Democrats for Emboldening Iran

Mullin (R-OK) 6/26: Iran’s Culture of Chaos

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 6/26: Gottheimer Calls for Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Stop Corrupt Iranian Oligarchs and Entities

Rouda (D-CA) 6/25: Congressman Harley Rouda’s statement on escalating tensions between U.S. and Iran

McConnell (R-KY) 6/25: Floor statement on Iran

Hurd (R-TX) 6/25: WSJ Op-Ed - “Congress Emboldens Iran in the Name of Peace in Yemen”

Waltz (R-FL) 6/24: ICYMI: Rep. Waltz: Iranians Will Have to Be Met With Force

Steil (R-WI) 6/24: Steil Statement on Increased Sanctions on Iran

Gardner (R-CO) 6/24: Gardner Statement on New Iran Sanctions

Duckworth (D-IL) 6/25: As Trump Escalates Tensions, Duckworth Reiterates that President Does Not Have Legal Authority to Start a War with Iran

Crow (D-CO) 6/24: Crow Reaffirms Call for Establishment of Military-to-Military Hotline with Iran to Avoid Misunderstanding During Increased Tensions

Rubio (R-FL)  6/21: Rubio Statement on the Administration's New Sanctions Against Iranian Regime Officials

Markey (D-MA) 6/21:Statement on Cancelled Airstrikes Against Iran: We Need Diplomacy, Not Destruction

Bera (D-CA) 6/21: Bera Urges President Trump to Consult with Congress on Iran, Concerned about Decision-Making Process

Carper (D-DE) 6/21: Carper Statement on Aborted Military Strike Against Iran

Hoyer (D-MD) 6/21: Hoyer Calls on the Trump Administration to Articulate a Clear Strategy on Iran

Udall (D-MN) 6/21: Udall Statement on President Confirming Planned Iran Strike Without Congressional Authorization

McCaul (R-TX) 6/21: Joint Statement on Increased Iranian Aggression

Lee (R-UT) 6/21: Sen Lee Backs President Trump's Iran Decision

McCarthy (R-CA), McCaul (R-TX), Nunes (R-CA) and Thornberry (R-TX) 6/21: Joint Statement on Increased Iranian Aggression [“Iran directly attacked a United States asset over international waters. This provocation comes a week after they attacked and destroyed two commercial tankers in international waters. There must be a measured response to these actions. President Trump and his national security team remain clear-eyed on the situation and what must be done in response to increased Iranian aggression. In Congress, we stand ready to support our men and women in uniform, our country, and our allies in the region.”]

Pascrell (D-NJ) 6/21: Pascrell Statement on Iran Tensions

Stefanik (R-NY) 6/21: Stefanik Releases Statement on Acts of Aggression by Iran

Booker (D-NJ) 6/21: Booker Statement on Breaking News on Iran

Schneider (D-IL) 6/21: Schneider Statement on Iran 

Moulton (D-MA) 6/21: Moulton Statement on Iran

Gosar (R-AZ) 6/20: The 2019 Free Iran Rally

Higgins (R-LA) 6/20: Higgins Issues Statement After Iran Shoots Down U.S. Drone

Cassidy (R-LA) 6/20: Cassidy on Iran: These are the Death Throes of a Dying Regime

Kaine (D-VA) 6/20: Floor speech - “Another War In The Middle East Would Be A Disaster”

Reed (D-RI) 6/20: Reed Statement after White House Briefing on Iran

Green (R-TN) 6/20: Iraq Veteran Rep. Mark Green Condemns Iran’s Attack on U.S. Military

Brooks (R-AL) 6/20: Brooks on House Floor: Attacks on Other Nations' Tankers are NOT Cause for America to Attack Iran

Graham (R-SC) 6/20: Graham on Iranian Attack Against American Drone

Higgins (R-LA) 6/20: Higgins Issues Statement After Iran Shoots Down U.S. Drone

Hoyer (D-MD) 6/18: Hoyer Statement on the Administration’s Decision to Send 1,000 Additional Troops to the Middle East

Ernst (R-IA) 6/18: Ernst Statement on Iran’s Nefarious Actions

Feinstein (D-CA) 6/17: Feinstein Statement on Iran Announcement on Exceeding Nuclear Fuel Limits

Udall (D-NM) 6/17: Udall Statement on Reports that Iran Will Exceed Uranium Enrichment Limits from 2015 Nuclear Deal in Next 10 Days

Casten (D-IL) 6/14: Casten Statement on Suspected Attacks on Oil Tankers in the Strait of Hormuz

Sanders (I-VT) 6/14: Gulf of Oman Must Not Be Used as Pretext for Illegal War With Iran

Cotton (R-AR) 6/13: Cotton Speaks in Support of Gulf Arms Deals to Counter Iran

Graham (R-SC) 6/13: Graham on Iranian Attack in Gulf of Oman

Deutch (D-FL) 6/11: Chairman Deutch Statement on the Release of Nizar Zakka from Iran

 

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