Legislative Round-up: December 13, 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 do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

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

NOTE: Big Israel-related news this week was Trump’s new EO targeting criticism of Israel on US campuses. Check out analysis/commentary on Trump's new Executive Order by FMEP’s Lara Friedman, published at Responsible Statecraft: How Donald Trump is Saving the Occupation by Dismantling the First Amendment

 

  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, & AGREE TO NO CONDITIONS EVER ON ANY AID TO ISRAEL]) H. Res. 326 As everyone knows by now, last Friday (after the Round-Up was published), the House passed H. Res. 326, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding United States efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution.” For background on the resolution, including amendments in the House Foreign Affairs Committee and then in the Rules committee, see last week’s edition of the Round-Up. For details of what happened in the hours after it was published, see below. 

 

The Vote

 

The final vote on the measure was: 226 in favor (221 Democrats, 5 Republicans), 188 against (4 Democrats, 183 Republicans, and 2 Independent), 2 voting present (both Democrats), and 14 not voting (5 Democrats, 9 Republicans). Details:

 

  • The Republicans voting in favor of the measure were: Posey (R-FL), Reed (R-NY), Rooney (R-FL), and Upton (R-MI). 
  • The Democrats voting against were: Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Omar (D-MN), Pressley (D-MA), and Tlaib (D-MI).
  • The Independent voting against was Amash (I-MI). 
  • The “present” votes were: Garcia (D-IL) and McCollum (D-MN). 
  • Not voting were: Barr (R-KY), Bass (D-CA), Byrne (R-AL), Cartwright (D-PA), Emmer (R-MN), Gabbard (D-HI), Gosar (R-AZ), Hunter (R-CA), Kinzinger (R-IL), Marchant (R-TX), Norman (R-SC), Porter (D-CA), Serrano (D-NY), and Shimkus (R-IL). 

 

Statements on the Record

 

There was floor discussion of H. Res. 326 before the vote, led by Engel (D-NY) and Zeldin (R-NY). Details:

 

  • Speaking in favor of the resolution: Engel (D-NY), Lowenthal (D-CA), Connolly (D-VA), Cicilline (D-RI), Levin (D-MI), Price (D-NC), Jackson Lee (D-TX), Lowey (D-NY), Hoyer (D-MD), Blumenauer (D-OR), Lee (D-CA), Dingell (D-MI), Deutch (D-FL), Rush (D-IL, expressing reservations), Bass (D-CA), Johnson (D-TX), Moore (D-WI), 
  • Railing against the resolution and against “imposing” the two-state solution, and leverage the resolution to attack Democrats as bad on Israel: Zeldin (R-NY), Chabot (R-OH), Foxx (R-NC), Roy (R-TX)
  • Opposing the resolution but not along the lines above: Tlaib (D-MI), McCollum (D-MN)
  • Note: for folks still debating what the Rules committee amendment regarding the iron-clad commitment to the MOU and Israel’s security means to House Democrats, take it from HFAC Chairman Engel: “...an important part of this resolution, says that there are to be no conditions on U.S. aid to Israel. That is something that is very important, and I think it is very important that we state that….”

 

Other statements

 

Other statements on H.Res. 326 were submitted for the record or in press releases, including:

 

 

(2020 NDAA) S.1790: This week House-Senate conferees complete work on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The conference report (pdf is here), which is the final version of the bill that will end up going to the President) includes a number of Middle East-related provisions:

 

  • Sec. 1221. Modification of authority and limitation on use of funds to provide assistance to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
  • Sec. 1222. Extension and modification of authority to provide assistance to vetted Syrian groups and individuals.
  • Sec. 1223. Modification of authority to support operations and activities of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
  • Sec. 1224. Establishing a coordinator for detained ISIS members and relevant displaced populations in Syria.
  • Sec. 1225. Report on lessons learned from efforts to liberate Mosul and Raqqah from control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
  • Sec. 1226. Expansion of availability of financial assets of Iran to victims of terrorism.
  • Sec. 1227. Report on the status of deconfliction channels with Iran.
  • Sec. 1228. Prohibition on provision of weapons and other forms of support to certain organizations.
  • Sec. 1273. Prohibition on in-flight refueling to non-United States aircraft that engage in hostilities in the ongoing civil war in Yemen.
  • Sec. 1274. Report on Saudi-led coalition strikes in Yemen.
  • Sec. 1275. Reports on expenses incurred for in-flight refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft conducting missions relating to  civil war in Yemen.
  • Sec. 1276. Report on Saudi Arabia's human rights record.
  • Sec. 1277. Report on intelligence community assessment relating to the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • Sec. 1278. United States-Israel cooperation to counter unmanned aerial systems.
  • Sec. 1279. Extension and modification of authority for United States-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation activities.
  • Sec. 1685. Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and Israeli cooperative missile defense program co-development and co-production.
  • Sec. 5521. Sense of Congress and report on Iranian efforts in Syria and Lebanon.
  • TITLE LXXIV--CAESAR SYRIA CIVILIAN PROTECTION ACT OF 2019

 

The Oorah Act - Part of the FY20 NDAA

 

Of these provisions, one that is extremely important (but that has attracted virtually no attention) is Sec. 1226, also known as the Oorah Act. As noted in the 9/20/19 edition of the Round-Up, going into House-Senate conference on the NDAA, the Oorah Act was in the mix, having passed as part of the Senate NDAA and as part of the House Intelligence Authorization Act. As such, barring intensive outside efforts to strip the Oorah Act out of the text, it was virtually a foregone conclusion that the final conference version of the bill would include the Oorah Act. Which now turns out to be the case. This is a really, really big deal - akin to ATCA (as in, another case where something huge and dangerous implications will become law without anyone paying any attention, despite my best efforts to sound the alarm). As a reminder:

  • The “Oorah Act” started life as freestanding bills in the House and Senate – S. 1529 & HR 2790 – covered in the 5/17/19 edition of the Round-Up.
  • As reported previously, this rather important piece of legislation was quietly slipped into the Senate version of the FY20 NDAA (S. 1790 – reported in the 6/28/19 edition of the Round-Up), as part of an amendment in the nature of a substitute introduced by Inhofe (R-KS) and adopted by with zero discussion. Separately, it was added to the House version of the FY20 Intelligence Authorization Act (HR 3494 – reported in the 7/19/19 edition of the Round-Up), via a floor amendment adopted with zero debate and by voice vote.
  • The Oorah Act seeks, in effect, to suspend sovereign immunity and extend U.S. extraterritorial sovereignty in order to seize Iranian assets that are located outside of U.S. jurisdiction, for the purposes of satisfying a U.S. court judgment against Iran on behalf of U.S. Marines killed or injured in the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut. 
  • When discussed at all, the Oorah Act is framed as a non-controversial, mom-and-apple-pie measure designed to obtain justice thus far denied to victims of terror, without any recognition its foreign policy/national security implications.
  • In reality, the Oorah Act directly challenges the notion of sovereign immunity, which is the foundation of international relations and the international system. When it becomes law (and the U.S. seeks to implement it), it will put the U.S. at odds with the entire international community and put U.S. citizens/companies at risk of reciprocal acts of seizure by foreign governments and foreign courts.
  • It also will be a precedent and template for Congress to legislate similar acts of extraterritorial sovereignty to satisfy U.S. court judgments, with the most obvious targeted being (but in no way limited to) the PA and PLO.
  • Not surprisingly, this effort is almost certainly being driven and choreographed by the same politically- /ideologically-motivated lawfare forces behind ATCA (see here and here).

(SUPPORTING THE IRANIAN PEOPLE) H. Res. 752: Introduced 12/9 by Deutch (D-FL) and Wilson (R-SC), and since then being cosponsored by Engel (D-NY) and McCaul (R-TX), “Supporting the rights of the people of Iran to free expression, condemning the Iranian regime for its crackdown on legitimate protests, and for other purposes.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Deutch press release is here.

 

(NO NUKE COOPERATION WITH TURKEY) HR XXX/ S. XXX: On 12/11, Sherman (D-CA) and Markey (D-MA) issued parallel press releases (here and here) touting the introduction of new legislation to “require congressional approval for civilian nuclear cooperation under certain circumstances, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Preventing the Spread of Nuclear Weapons Act.” The press release states that the bill (which as of this writing does not appear in the Congressional Record), states that the bill “would require the U.S. President, in connection with signing a new or renewing an existing civilian nuclear cooperation (123) agreement, to certify whether any foreign country is violating any obligations under a weapons of mass destruction treaty or there is credible evidence that the foreign country’s nuclear program will be anything but exclusively peaceful. If either of these the above two conditions are met, any new or renewed U.S. 123 agreement, such as Turkey, will be subject to a joint resolution of approval by Congress. The United States 123 agreement with Turkey, signed in 2008, is due to be automatically renewed in 2023 without Congress being able to weigh in. Recent statements by Turkish senior leaders indicate that Turkey may fail to honor its obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to not acquire a nuclear weapon.”  

 

(COMMEMORATING THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE) S. Res. 150: Introduced 4/9 by Menendez (D-NK) and having 28 cosponsors, “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.”  Agreed to in the Senate 12/12 without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent. Background: Senate defies earlier White House block to unanimously recognize Armenian genocide

 

Letters

 

(BEFORE THE INK IS EVEN DRY, TESTING TRUMP EO ON ANTISEMITISM) Riggleman letter to DeVos: On 12/11, hours after President Trump signed an executive order targeting campus criticism/activism on Israel, Rep. Riggleman (R-VA) - working in close cooperation with Daniel Pipe’s Middle East Forum - sent a 4-page letter to Education Secretary DeVos alleging “systemic support for biased, anti-Israel, pro-BDS individuals and scholarship at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) that is not in accordance with the mission of Title VI funds and contrary [sic] to America’s national security interests.”  The letter, which among other things cites a faculty member’s writing of a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo objecting to the denial of a U.S. visa to longtime U.S. interlocutor Hanan Ashrawi [whom the letter denigrates as, among other things, “an advocate for terrorists’], urges an investigation of Georgetown and suggests that funding should be cut off to CCAS. Pipes/MEF is running a campaign mobilizing the public to lobby the Department of Education in support of that investigation.

 

(IMPROPER PRESSURE ON UNIV VIA TITLE IV) Levin-Davis letter to DeVos: On 12/9, Reps. Levin (D-MI), vice chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Davis (D-CA), chair of the Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment, sent a second letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos demanding answers on the Department’s intervention into the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle Eastern Studies curriculum for what may be political reasons. The letter asserts that “This investigation has sent a message to universities across the country that the Department can single them out for burdensome investigations and revoke federal funding if they permit campus activities, curricula, or speech of which the Department disapproves.” Press release is here.

 

  1. Hearings

 

12/11: The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, “U.S. Policy in Syria and the Broader Region.” Witnesses were Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (no written testimony has been made available for either of them). Video of the hearing is here. Also see Moulton (D-MA) press release “ICYMI: Rep. Moulton Grills Military’s Most Senior Leaders on Trump’s Pardons, Retreat from Iran Deal

 

12/11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a Business Meeting to consider a number of pending measures, including S. Res. 395, A resolution recognizing the 40th anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis, and for other purposes” and S. 2641, “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act of 2019”, with an amendment.  [Note: the meeting was originally supposed to also consider 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” - it is unknown why that was taken off the agenda). Also see:

Risch (R-ID):  “Risch Praises Committee Passage of Turkey Sanctions Bill, Additional Legislation, Nominees”

Menendez (D-NJ): “Senate Foreign Relations Committee Approves Comprehensive Syria-Turkey Legislation”

Udall (D-NM): Udall Votes No on Turkey Sanctions Bill; 

Van Hollen (D-MD): Van Hollen Applauds SFRC Vote on Sanctions on Turkey

Markey (D-MA): Senator Markey Measures on Human Rights in Turkey, Philippines, and Advancing Global Security Pass Key Senate Committee Unanimously

Markey (D-CA) & Wyden (D-OR): Senators Markey and Wyden Commend Senate Committee Passage of Key Provisions of Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act

 

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

 

  1. On the Record...

On Trump’s Executive Order Masquerading as an Initiative to Fight Antisemtism

Schatz (D-HI) 12/11: Tweet - “We Jews like to argue. About Israel even. Actually, ESPECIALLY about Israel. So the idea that a college campus would have its views on Israel regulated by the federal Department of Education? Oy Gevalt.”

Zeldin (R-NY) 12/11: Tweet - “Historic moment today in the battle against anti-Semitism! Vitally important executive order signed by the President. Good must triumph over evil in this effort to combat anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate on our college campuses and anywhere else in our great country.”

Deutch (D-FL) 12/11: Twitter thread defending th EO and making the case that the IHRA definition should be adopted across the entire US government

Cramer (R-ND) 12/11: “Anti-Semitism has no place in our country. Thank you to President Trump for recognizing this and working to rid our colleges of such bigotry. I hope his action spurs Congress to pass the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which would codify today’s actions by the President.”

Jaypal (D-WA) 12/11: Tweet - “.@RealDonaldTrump's latest executive order will stifle free speech & legitimate opposition to the Israeli government’s policies on college campuses. It will do nothing to protect Jewish students. Instead, it’ll usher in a climate of fear for campus activists.”

Rose (D-NY) 12/11: Press release - “Rose Attends White House Signing Ceremony for President’s Executive Order Combatting Anti-Semitism on College Campuses - Congressman: ‘Anti-Semitism is incredibly dangerous and rising around the country—and we need to be doing everything possible to ensure it has no place in our communities or college campuses’”

Other stuff

Hill (R-AR) 12/12: For HFAC member day- “I appreciate the opportunity to testify in front of you today about my resolution, H.Res. 49, Supporting Coptic Christians in Egypt, which has a diverse and bipartisan coalition of members that cosponsor it.”

Sherman (D-CA) 12/11: Press release - “Brad Sherman’s Saudi Nuclear Amendment Included In Annual Defense Bill

Murphy (D-FL) 12/11: Press release re the NDAA - “The Murphy-led provisions...require the DNI to craft a plan to prevent Iran from establishing an enduring presence in Syria that could threaten U.S. and Israeli interests”

Engel (D-NY) 12/11: Engel Statement on Turkey Resettling Refugees in Formerly Kurdish Northeast Syria

Cruz (R-TX) 12/11: Sen. Cruz: As Long as There Is a Chance of Moving Past Current Impasse With Turkey, Sanctions Are Premature

Sherill (D-NJ) 12/9: Tweet - “Thank you for hosting me and @RepRiggleman at @AIPAC Manhattan Women's Division yesterday to talk about the importance of strong bipartisan support for Israel.”

Riggeman (R-VA) 12/9: Tweet - “Thank you, @AIPAC, for the invitation. I will continue to be a supporter of a strong U.S. - Israel relationship.

Lowey (D-NY) 12/9: Tweet - “Not only is @realDonaldTrump spreading anti-Semitic tropes for political gain, but he is also further politicizing support for Israel.” [with link to this article]

Hill (R-AR) 12/9: Stop Stop Ignoring Crisis In Idlib, Syria

Deutch (D-FL) 12/7: Op-ed in the Times of Israel promoting adoption of IHRA definition of antisemitism across the entire federal government (his tweet promoting the op-ed is here)

Menendez (D-NJ) 12/7: Menendez Statement on Iran’s Release of Princeton Student Xiyue Wang

Booker (D-NJ) 12/7: Booker Statement on Release of Xiyue Wang

Roy (R-TX) 12/6: Rep. Chip Roy Discusses Two Year Anniversary Of U.S. Acknowledging Jerusalem As Capitol Of Israel

Biggs (R-AZ) 12/6: Tweet - “Promises made, promises kept. Today marks the 2nd anniversary of @POTUS @realDonaldTrump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. This was a critical milestone in America's foreign policy & one nearly 70 years in the making. https://bit.ly/2sT8b9y   @TimesofIsrael

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 12/4: Interview with Mishpacha, including trashing Democrats who wrote to Pompeo to oppose U.S. change in settlements policy, and slamming Democrats (including presidential candidates) who raise possiblity of any conditions on any aid to Israel [calling it a “cancer”]

 

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