Legislative Round-up: December 20, 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

 

(FY2020 MINIBUS, INCL SFOPS) HR. 1865: Following lengthy negotiations between House and Senate conferees, this week the House and Senate passed a “minibus” appropriations bill that includes the FY20 SFOPS bill along with other foreign policy-related initiatives. The final text (approved by the House on 12/17 by a vote of mostly party-line vote of 297-120; and in the Senate 12/19 by a vote of 71-23) is available here; the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the bill is here.  For a comprehensive review of Middle East-related elements of the bill, including the ATCA “fix,” see my special analysis here

 

Also see: Menendez (D-NJ) press release on passage of “Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019” as part of the minibus; Lankford (R-OK) press release on the inclusion in the bill of the ATCA fix which will make it do an even better job than the original helping lawfare organizations to sue the PLO/PA out of existence; Wyden (D-OR) press release applauding inclusion in the bill of language to investigate KSA’s role in helping Saudi nationals who committed a crime in the US evade justice.

 

(APPLAUDING TRUMP’S ANTI-FREE SPEECH EO) H. Res. 764: Introduced 12/14 by Watkins (R-KS) and no cosponsors, “Expressing the support of the House of Representatives for the priorities and goals of the Executive order on combating anti-Semitism.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Education and Labor. Watkins press release is here.

 

(ALWAYS A GOOD DAY TO GRATUITOUSLY TARGET THE PALESTINIANS!) HR 2343: Introduced 4/18  by Sherman (D-CA) and currently having 18 bipartisan cosponsors, “To require the Secretary of State to submit annual reports reviewing the educational material used by the Palestinian Authority or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in the West Bank and Gaza, and for other purposes.” [Notably, the Trump Admin has cut off ALL U.S. funding that might have gone to support Palestinian educational materials (or anything else for the Palestinians) – meaning that now this targeting of the Palestinians is just straight-up grandstanding, disconnected from even the pretense of representing oversight of U.S. taxpayers funds. And notably, this is not the first time Congress has asked for State Department or GAO to report on Palestinian education materials — indeed, the last GAO report on the topic was issued in April 2018 -  from the headlines and press release one would think that report documented terrible, terrible deeds by the PA and UNRWA; rather than trust me, read it for yourself to see what the GAO found]. Anyway, on 12/18, after letting it languish for 8 months, the House Foreign Affairs Committee decided it was a good time to move this bill, marking it up and reporting it out of Committee by unanimous consent. Given the timing of this, coming days after Trump’s EO on antisemitism, one can only wonder of the idea is to apply the IHRA definition to Palestinian textbooks -- a definition under which the Palestinian historical narrative of losing their homeland, claiming Jerusalem as their capital, etc would be considered ipso facto antisemitic. The mind reels. Right-wing media exulted in seeing the measure move forward (The Algemeiner, Jerusalem Post). Zeldin (R-NY) press release is here.

(DOD APPROPS) HR 1158: This week the House and Senate also completed work on another consolidated appropriations bill, this one including the FY20 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. That bill includes $500 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs (Sec. 8072), including $95 million for Iron Dome; $191,000,000 for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program; $55 million for the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture, for Arrow 3 Upper Tier systems; and $159 million for the Arrow System Improvement Program.

(RUSSIA ON THE GOLAN?) S.482: Introduced 2/13 by Graham (R-SC) and having 4 cosponsors, “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2019.” On 12/18, placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 389. NOTE: in its current form, this bill requires a report on Russian activities in Syria, including “an assessment of the specific commitments made by officials of the Government of the Russian Federation to officials of the Government of Israel with respect to the Golan Heights and the presence of the forces, militias, paramilitaries, and other armed groups...in the territory of Syria” and “an assessment of weapons, technologies, and knowledge directly or indirectly transferred by the Government of the Russian Federation to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran, or Iran-aligned forces in Syria that threaten the security and qualitative military edge of Israel” and “an assessment of whether the presence of Russian forces and Russian contractors in Syria limits the options of the Government of Israel in taking steps to ensure its security from threats emanating from the territory of Syria.”

 

(CENSURING TRUMP) H. Res. 771: Introduced 12/18 by Gabbard (R-HI) and no cosponsors, “Censuring the President of the United States.”  Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. The resolution cites as one of the reasons for censure, Trump’s action of  “Recklessly abandoning nuclear agreements and treaties, like the INF treaty with Russia and the Iran nuclear agreement, thereby increasing the risk of nuclear war, nuclear proliferation, and war with Iran,” “Illegally and unconstitutionally using U.S. military forces to occupy and pillage oilfield reserves of Syria, a sovereign nation,” “Recklessly enabling President Erdogan of Turkey to invade and occupy Northern Syria and conduct ethnic cleansing of Syrian Kurds,” and “Continued support for Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen that has caused death, suffering, and starvation.”

 

(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.” Marked up and ordered reported out of Committee on 12/18.

Letters

 

(INVESTIGATE US MIDEAST STUDIES PROGRAMS) Grothman letter to DeVos: On 12/19, Reps. Grothman (R-WI), Stefanik (R-NY), Wright (R-TX), Fleischmann (R-TN), Meadows (R-NC), Stewart (R-UT), Lamborn (R-CO) and Weber (R-TX) sent a letter to Education Secretary DeVos expressing compliance concerns with Title VI-funded Middle East Studies National Resource Centers (NRCs), “given that many directors and faculty members of these centers have endorsed academic boycotts of Israel, which defy the purpose of the grant program.” The letter also requests the Secretary to continue oversight efforts, “including the enhancement of grant application requirements to include that applicants provide assurances that they will not implement an academic boycott of a country within their program or center’s purview.” Press release is here

 

(IRAN HOSTAGES) McCaul-Engel letter: On 12/19, Reps. McCaul (R-TX) and Engel (D-NY) led a letter to SecState Pompeo and National Security Advisor O’Brien urging them to build on recent successes to bring home Americans imprisoned in Iran.

 

(INVESTIGATE ALLEGED TURKISH WAR CRIMES) Omar et al letter: On 12/17, Rep. Omar (D-MN) led a letter to Jim Jeffrey, the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL, calling for an investigation into Turkey’s alleged use of white phosphorous in an intentional attack on civilians. The letter was co-signed by Bass (D-CA),  Vargas (D-CA), Jackson Lee (D-TX). Press release is here.

 

(POMPEO CALLS 2SS, PAST SETTLEMENTS POLICY “FOOLISH”) Pompeo letter to Levin: On 12/16, Secretary of State Pompeo sent a letter to Rep. Levin (D-MI) responding (in tones that range from openly mocking to insulting) to the letter sent to him 11/21, signed by 107 House Democrats urging the Trump Administration to reverse its change of U.S. policy on settlements. Pompeo rejected the request, calling the positions taken in the letter “foolish,” and framing the decision in terms of Trump reversing the Obama Administration’s “betrayal” of Israel at the UN Security Council. Levin subsequently responded with a statement of his own, noting that Pompeo’s reponse, “ignores decades of history” and observing that what he finds most troubling “is not the Administration’s distortion of the facts, but the failure to recognize the damage that last month’s decision portends for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

 

(HUMANITARIAN RELIEF FOR IRAN) Grijalva et al letter: On 12/12, Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) led a letter, co-signed by 16 House Democrats, to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin expressing deep concern about the impact that U.S. sanctions are having on access to medicine in Iran. The lawmakers urged the Trump Administration to adjust its sanctions campaign to ensure that lifesaving medicines and medical devices can reach the Iranian people. Press release is here. Grijalva’s tweet is here. (For fun, see here for an example of how JNS turns this story into a weapon to attack Rep. Omar, D-MN).

 

(REMEMBERING THE IRAN HOSTAGE CRISIS) S. Res. 395: Introduced 10/31 by Isakson (R-GA) and having 14 cosponsors, “A resolution recognizing the 40th anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis, and for other purposes.” On 12/17, placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 368

 

  1. Hearings

 

NONE

 

  1. On the Record...

Cruz (R-TX) 12/18: Floor statement on Iranian hostage taking

Pence (R-IN) 12/17: Pence’s OORAH Act Heads to President’s Desk

 

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