Legislative Round-up: December 6, 2019

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived

Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions

 

  1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters 
  2. Hearings
  3. On the Record 


  1. Bills,  Resolutions, & Letters

 

(WE <HEART> 2SS [JUST DON’T ASK US TO DO ANYTHING CONCRETE TO BACK THAT UP, & DON’T ASK US TO RECOGNIZE OCCUPATION]) H. Res. 326: As reported in the 7/26/19 edition of the Round-Up, that week out of 4 Israel-related measures marked up and passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee the previous week, H. Res. 326 was the only one NOT brought to the floor for a vote under suspension of the rules. Why? Because it even after amending the resolution in committee to further water down what was already an extremely meek statement of support for peace and the two-state solution (by stripping out a historically factual reference in the original text to U.S. efforts to end the “occupation,” softening references to settlements, and added in language bashing the Palestinians) Democratic leadership did not believe it could get the 2/3 majority support that is required to pass measures brought to the floor under suspension of the rules. This week, House Democratic leaders apparently decided to try again, this time hoping to soften the political blow for making even a meek statement of support for the two-state solution by counterbalancing by adding language that unambiguously seeks to force pro-two-state Democrats to go on the record, in effect, opposing any possible move to use U.S. assistance to Israel as leverage (i.e., to put any strings or conditions on any part of the $3.8 billion in annual assistance provided to Israel under the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding signed under the Obama Administration.

 

Rules Committee Takes Up H. Res. 326: Specifically, on 12/3, the Rules Committee met to consider H. Res. 326, setting the rules according to which the measure will be brought to the floor. As part of that process, a number of amendments were offered to the resolution, of which two bipartisan “manager’s amendments” were adopted (as laid out in the Rule issued by the committee; full list of amendments, with text, is here). The amendments that were added to the resolution are:

 

  • Adding a Sense of Congress stating that “it is in the enduring United States’ national interest to continue to stand by its ironclad commitments under the 2016 United States-Israel Memorandum of Understanding, which seeks to help Israel defend itself against a wide range of threats” and another also stating that, “it is in the United States’ interest to continue promoting the security, stability, and humanitarian well-being of Palestinians and their neighbors by resuming the provision of foreign assistance pursuant to United States law.”
  • Adding to the preamble of the resolution text reading, “‘...including by finalizing in 2016 under the Obama Administration, a 10- year Memorandum of Understanding, reaffirming the United States’ commitment to annual military assistance and cooperative missile defense programs, which is in the national interests of both countries’’ and reading “Whereas the United States, under Presidents of both parties, has provided bilateral and multilateral foreign assistance to promote the security, stability, and the humanitarian well-being of Palestinians.”

 

House Takes Up H. Res, 741 (the Rule on H. Res. 326): On 12/5, the House subsequently took up H. Res. 741, a resolution providing for consideration of H. Res. 326 (in effect, adopting the Rule). This offered an opportunity for floor statements about H. Res. 326, including:

 

  • An anodyne statement of support from Raskin (D-MD) supporting/defending the two-state solution and the resolution;
  • Sanctimonious statements from Lesko (R-AZ) and Zeldin (R-NJ) attacking the resolution as a partisan attack on the Trump Administration that “ties the hands of the Trump administration and embarrasses Israel.” Lesko further suggested that if Democrats truly cared about Israel, they would have moved forward not with H. Res 326 but with HR 336 (because every day is a good day to play the BDS card against Democrats!)
  • A grandstanding statement from Gottheimer (D-NJ) making clear that, for him, the most important thing about the resolution is the amendment adopted in the Rules committee, which “officially puts to rest the splinter view of adding new conditions on aid to Israel…” He went on to argue: “This language is absolutely necessary because of the extreme and misguided views of some, especially several currently running for our Nation's highest office, who seemingly believe that assistance to Israel should be held hostage until Israel makes concessions according to their beliefs, including how Israel treats Gaza, which is controlled by the foreign terrorist organization Hamas.” (He then promoted the same arguments in a Twitter thread). 

 

  1. Res. 741 was subsequently adopted by a party-line vote of 226-196, with Tlaib (D-MI) and Amas (I-MI) joining Republicans in voting “no”.  According to the Hill, “Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, told The Hill she voted against the amendments because she supports a one-state solution and criticized the resolution for not referring to Israel as occupying Palestinian territories.” Following passage of H. Res. 741, Lowenthal (D-CA), the primary sponsor of H. Res. 326, issued a mom-and-apple-pie/why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along statement that completely ignores the changes that have been made in his resolution - first in the House Foriegn Affairs Committee, now in the Rules Committee:

 

“The need for a two-state solution has been a fundamental principle of American foreign policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations for decades. A two-state solution represents the only path to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. It is the only way to safeguard Israel as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state while upholding the rights and legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. In a time of dangerous instability throughout the region, the road to a secure peace may seem long and difficult. The possibility of a diplomatic settlement may seem remote. However, these circumstances make H.Res.326 all the more critical. We cannot let partisan political concerns—either at home or abroad—distract us from keeping the dream of a just peace alive. Congress must speak out to make clear to the world that the United States stands behind its longstanding foreign policy principles.  I look forward to bringing this resolution to a full vote in the House.” 

 

For further comments from members related to passage of H. Res. 741, see this report in The Hill, which notes that the amendments, “worked to satisfy criticisms by some Republicans that the resolution did not go far enough recognizing unique threats against Israel’s security and sovereignty and counter efforts by progressive Democrats calling for conditioning military aid to Israel to push them into negotiations with the Palestinians.” Predictably, these concessions (and the amendments had bipartisan backing in Rules) were not enough to get Republicans to back the measure or to get members like Lesko and Zeldin to back-off attacking Democrats for moving it. 

 

What’s next?  Sometime this morning the House is set to vote on H. Res. 326. That vote is expected, like H. Res. 741, to be  party-line, and will likely be preceded by more grandstanding on the House floor (which will be covered in next week’s Round-Up). 

 

Other legislation:

 

(U.S. OUT OF SYRIA) H. Con. Res. 77: Introduced 11/21 by Gabbard (D-HI) and still having no cosponsors, “Directing the President pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Syrian Arab Republic that have not been authorized by Congress.” On 12/4 the House passed H. Res. 739, making in order a motion to discharge H. Con. Res. 77 on December 11th.

 

Letters

 

(ACCURATE LABELING OF SETTLEMENT GOODS IS EVIL!) Blackburn/Cruz letter to Mogherini: On 11/26 (not previously reported), Sens. Blackburn (R-TN) and Cruz (R-TX) sent a letter to the EU’s Frederica Mogherini condemning the European Court of Justice ruling that products from settlements in the West Bank cannot be labeled “made in Israel” [because they are not made in Israel - get it?]. The letter compares the ruling the the Nazis forcing Jews to wear a yellow star. It also argues that the ruling discriminates “against Israel and against specific Israeli businesses.” And, like the other letters from Congress objecting to the ruling, the letter ends with the members most prominent concern: that the decision will “facilitate Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) tactics.” As in, members of Congress want to make sure people are actively prevented knowing if products are made in settlements, because they want to make it impossible for people to make an informed decision before buying them (and in effect calling an informed decision to NOT buy settlement goods a form of antisemitic discrimination). As a reminder, the other letters (reported in last week’s Round-Up) were: the  Zeldin-Wasserman Schultz letter to Mogherini (press release is here); the Menendez letter to the EU Ambassador (press release is here) that included a threat of “serious and far-reaching implications and unintended consequences…” 

 

  1. Hearings

 

12/11: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “U.S. Policy in Syria and the Broader Region.” Scheduled witnesses are Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. The hearing will be livestreamed here.

 

12/11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a Business Meeting to consider a number of pending measures, including S. Res. 374, A resolution expressing support for the designation of October 23, 2019, as a national day of remembrance of the tragic terrorist bombing of the United States Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983; and S. Res. 395, A resolution recognizing the 40th anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis, and for other purposes.

 

12/10: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism will hold a hearing entitled, “The Way Forward in Iraq.”  The sole scheduled witness (so far) is Joey Hood, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

 

12/5: The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “Strategic Threats, Ongoing Challenges, and National Defense Strategy Implementation.” Witnesses were Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood (testimony) and Joint Staff Director for Strategy, Plans, and Policy Lt. Gen. David Allvin USAF (testimony). Ranking member Reed’s (D-RI) opening statement is here. Video is here.

 

12/4: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism held a hearing entitled, “Lebanon and Iraq Protests: Insights, Implications, and Objectives for U.S. Policy.” The sole witness was Joey Hood, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (statement).  Video is here.

 

12/3: The Senate Human Rights Caucus held a briefing entitled, “Detained in Iran: A Discussion of the Arbitrary Detention of U.S. and Foreign Nationals in Iran.” Panelists were: Sarah Moriarty (daughter of Bob Levinson); Babak Namazi (brother of Siamak Namazi and son of Baquer Namaz); Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe; and Nizar Zakka (former hostage in Iran). The event was moderated by actress/activist Nazanin Boniadi, and featured remarks by Senators Coons (D-DE) and Tillis (R-NC). SFRC Ranking Member Menendez (D-NJ)) also joined a meeting with the family members (photos are here).

 

  1. On the Record...

Menendez (D-NJ) 12/5: Senate Republican Again Blocks Menendez Legislation Recognizing the Armenian Genocide

Sasse (R-NE) 12/5: “Iran's mullahs are soaked in blood. The slaughter of at least a thousand men, women, and children shows what Iran’s dictatorship is really about: complete and brutal power. If the mullahs served the Iranian people rather than their vicious ideology, they wouldn’t be mowing down innocent protesters and stacking the bodies like cordwood. American sanctions have set the real thugs in Tehran on edge, and they’re lashing out. The U.S. should continue to tighten the reins, and our allies around the world should help.” 

Bacon (R-NE) 12/5: Tweet - “The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is a direct attack on Israel and its existence. The United States must stand with our Israeli friends and defend the only democracy in the Middle East. As a strong supporter of Israel, I am grateful to cosponsor H.Res. 246.” NOTE: H. Res. 246 was passed by the House on July 23, 2019. Why is Bacon tweeting about it today? Could it be because today H. Res. 326 (which GOP members oppose) is in the news?

Sires (D-NJ) 12/5: Tweet - “Today, I met with a group of students from @YUNews. We discussed the importance of the continued support for the U.S.-Israeli partnership. It was great to see our students so actively involved in the political process.”

Risch (R-ID) 12/4: Risch Hosts SFRC Meeting with Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok

Grassley (R-IA) 12/3: “I hope a lot of Americans have been able to watch on television what is going on over in Iran right now. I hope Americans have an opportunity to listen to some Americans of Iranian descent who are commenting on what is going on over there because, recently, thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets protesting their country's corrupt regime. Frustrated by a lack of opportunity and frustrated by constant political oppression, these largely young and nonviolent protesters have stood up to say: Enough is enough.  In response to these protesters, we see the regime engaging in a brutal crackdown, and that crackdown is on a scale not seen since the 1979 revolution, killing hundreds of civilians within the last few days. The United States is not an enemy of the Iranian people. In fact, Americans of all backgrounds can't help but sympathize with these brave protesters seeking a more prosperous, more responsible Iran and having the Iran Government give that sort of an environment. We need to tell the Iranian leaders the world is watching.

Engel (D-NY) 12/2: “I am gravely concerned about the escalating violent situation in Iran. Recent reports indicate 100 or more people have been killed, hundreds injured, and more than 1,000 unjustly arrested. I condemn the Iranian government's violent crackdown on its own citizens and stand with those who are protesting peacefully. I also condemn the continued use of censorship and regime-enforced internet blackouts to limit free and open communication. The people of Iran deserve all internationally guaranteed human rights and protections. As people peacefully assemble across the region, governments must respect their citizens' human rights, including the rights to protest and express themselves."

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 11/27: Gottheimer Joins North Jersey Rabbis to Discuss Combatting Hate and Anti-Semitism in NJ, and Strengthening Historic U.S.-Israel Relationship

 

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