Legislative Round-up: January 10, 2020

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

 

Israel

 

(LEGISLATING US $$ FOR ISRAEL) S. 3176: Introduced 1/9 by Rubio (R-FL) and Coons (D-DE), the “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020, aka, “A bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 to make improvements to certain defense and security assistance provisions and to authorize the appropriations of funds to Israel, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Note: According to Rubio’s press release, this bill authorizes $3.3 billion in annual security assistance and “supports Israel’s ability to address both conventional and emerging threats.” What that precisely means will not be known until the text is available. It is worth recalling that in 2019, the House passed legislation introduced by Deuch (D-FL), HR 1837,  that was similarly described in terms of merely codifying the US-Israel MOU - when in fact, that legislation went much further, including giving the President authority to provide unlimited (in quantity and type) defense articles and services to Israel — with no accountability to any U.S. law, no financial limits, and no oversight by Congress — in cases where he determines there is an ongoing or imminent military attack (with that term not defined).  Coons’ Twitter thread on the bill is here.

 

(FIGHT ANTISEMITISM BY SUPPORTING ISRAEL) H. Res. 782: Introduced 1/9 by Budd (R-NC), Zeldin (R-NY), and Kustoff (R-TN), “Encouraging public schools to design and teach a curriculum about the history of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and the vital and historic importance of the Jewish State of Israel.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Education and Labor. Budd’s press release is here. Fun fact: NONE of the attacks listed in the resolution have anything to do with Israel or BDS. Yet the drafters make the resolution about both. Another fun fact: A decade ago then-President Obama was attacked (viciously and over and over) for using language mentioning the creation of Israel and the Holocaust in adjacent sentences (see JTA’s helpful 2009 summary of that idiocy, here).

 

Objecting to use of US Armed Forces in/against Iran 

 

  • H. Con. Res. 83: Introduced 1/8 by Slotkin (D-MI) and having 162 cosponsors (all Democrats), “Directing the President pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran.” Passed 1/9 by a vote of 224-194 (8 Democrats votes “no,” 3 Republicans and one Indendepent voted “yes.”Slotkin press release on introduction of the resolution is here
  • H. Res. 781: Introduced 1/8 by McGover (D-MA),  “Providing for consideration of the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 83) directing the President pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran.”  Passed 1/9 by a vote of 226-193 (1 Democrat and 1 Independent voted “no,” 1 Republican voted “yes.”) Rules committee report on the resolution, which governed floor debate on H. Con. Res. 83, is here (details of Rules Committee’s consideration of the measure are here). 
  • H. J. Res. 82: Introduced 1/7 by Omar (D-MN), to “Direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Lee (D-CA)/Omar press release announcing the resolution is here (Lee did not end up co-sponsoring, probably because House energies coalesced on the Slotkin-introduced version). 
  • S. J. Res. 68: Introduced 1/9 by Kaine (D-VA), Durbin (D-IL), Lee (R-UT), and Paul (R-KY), “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
  • S. Con. Res. 33: Introduced 1/9 by Udall (D-MN) and no cosponsors, “A concurrent resolution directing the President pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
  • S. J. Res. 63: Introduced 1/3 by Kaine (D-VA) and having 29 cosponsors (all Democrats plus one Independent), “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Kaine press release is here; his floor statement on the resolution is here.
  • S. J. Res. 64: Introduced 1/8 by Merkley (D-OR) and having 7 cosponsors (4 Democrats, 2 Republicans, 1 Independent), “A joint resolution relating to the use of military force against the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Merkley press release is here.

 

No Funds for War with Iran

 

  • HR 5543: Introduced 1/7 by Khanna (D-CA) and having 69 cosponsors (all Democrats), the “No War Against Iran Act. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Armed Services.
  • S. 3159: Introduced 1/8 by Sanders (I-VT), and having 12 cosponsors (all Democrats), “A bill to prohibit the use of funds for military force against Iran, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
  • Joint Sanders-Khanna press release is here.

 

Condemning threats to cultural sites in Iran

 

  • S. Res. 465: Introduced 1/8 by Markey (D-MA) and having 8 cosponsors (all Democrats), “A resolution condemning threats by President Donald J. Trump to violate the law of armed conflict with respect to Iran.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Markey press release is here.
  • S. Con. Res. 32: Introduced 1/7 by Markey (D-MA) and having 7 cosponsors (all Democrats), “A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress that attacks on cultural sites are war crimes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. NOTE: On 1/7, Markey sought unanimous consent in the Senate to proceed with S. Con. Res. 32 - statement here; Inhofe (R-OK) objected, arguing that sometimes cultural sites are used for military purposes, and stating “I therefore object to this resolution on those grounds and hope that the resolution will be amended to acknowledge an exception for when cultural sites are used for staging military attacks or other improper purposes.”

 

Cheering Soleimani Assassination/reminding people of Hostage Crisis

 

  • H. Res.7 83: Introduced 1/9 by Crenshaw (R-TX), “Honoring the members of the military and intelligence community who carried out the mission that killed Qasem Soleimani, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committees on Armed Services. Crenshaw press release and floor statement, framing this resolution as an “Alternative to Democrats’ War Powers Resolution” is here.
  • S. Res. 466: Introduced 1/9 by Cruz (R-TX) and having 43 cosponsors (all Republican), “A resolution honoring the members of the Armed Forces and the intelligence community of the United States who carried out the mission that killed Qasem Soleimani, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Cruz press release is here.
  • S. Res. 395: Introduced 10/31/19 by Isakson (R-GA), and having 14 bipartisan cosponsors, “A resolution recognizing the 40th anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis, and for other purposes.”  On 1/8, brought to the Senate floor and agreed to by Unanimous Consent. [NOTE: Isakson retired from Congress as of 12/31/19, so he wasn’t there for passage of his own resolution].

 

Letters

 

(BICAMERAL CALL ON TRUMP TO PREVENT WAR WITH IRAN) Markey-Khanna letter: On 1/9, Sen. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Khanna (D-CA) sent a letter to President Trump, co-signed by 23 House and Senate colleagues (Democrats), expressing serious concerns about escalating conflict with Iran and outlining five specific steps they recommend to avert a war. Press release is here.

 

(BICAMERAL LETTER REQUESTING ADMIN BRIEFING TO HILL ON IRAN) Menendez-Engel letter: On 1/9, SFRC Ranking Member Menendez (D-NJ) and HFAC Chair Engel (D-NY) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo requesting “an assessment within the next 7 days of the current risk and threat matrix created by the Soleimani killing and a detailed explanation of the Department’s plan to protect our embassies, consulates, diplomats, and their families worldwide in the wake of the Soleimani killing.” The letter lays out a list of issues to be included in that assessment.

 

(NEED ANSWERS RE: REPORTS CBP IS STOPPING IRANIANS/IRANIAN-AMCITS) Warren letter to CBP: On 1/8, Warren (D-MA) sent a letter to to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan requesting information regarding recent reports that dozens of Iranian Americans and others of Iranian heritage have been subjected to additional scrutiny at United States border crossings or have been denied entry into the country. Press release is here.

 

(CONGRESS NEEDS ANSWERS RE: IRAN STRATEGY) House Dems letter to Trump: On 1/8, 35+ House Democrats sent a letter to President Trump demanding answers regarding the White House’s decision to carry out the airstrike against Qasem Soleimani and its national security strategy towards curbing Iran’s aggression and nuclear ambitions. The letter concludes with: “Our founders vested in Congress the constitutional power to authorize the use of military force and declare war. You are obligated to provide Congress with truthful information in a timely manner, and we expect your good-faith cooperation consistent with the gravity of the situation with which we are faced. Moreover, Congress has not authorized a war with Iran and you must consult Congress before directing any further hostilities with Iran or troop deployments to the region. For the past 17 years, Americans have shouldered the burden created by war in Iraq and subsequent regional conflicts. The American people deserve leaders who are willing to have a serious discussion about the wisdom and costs of additional conflict. We urge you to engage in this discussion with us so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure our national security. As you send our nation’s sons and daughters far from home to secure our embassies and interests in the region, it is only right that you provide the American people with a detailed explanation of your strategy and goals.” Press release here.

 

(PRESERVE STATE DEPTS DOCS RE: SULEIMANI STRIKE & AFTERMATH) Duckworth letter to State IG: On 1/8, Sen. Duckworth (R-IL) sent a letter to State Department Inspector General Steve Linick calling on him to immediately issue a document preservation order for the U.S. Department of State and its Bureau of Diplomatic Security, “relating to diplomatic security planning and operations prior to, and following, the January 3, 2020 military strike killing Major General Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.” Duckworth also requested that “State OIG conduct a comprehensive investigation examining the performance of DS in planning, preparing for and executing country-specific and region-wide enhanced diplomatic security strategies to protect U.S. personnel, property and interests prior to, and following, the January 3, 2020 strike that likely elevated threats posed to State Department personnel and employees of State Department contractors” and further that “if State OIG review uncovers evidence that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security took no enhanced measures specifically in response to this military operation, I would request that you immediately notify Congress of this initial finding and provide emergency corrective action recommendation to the State Department.” Press release is here

 

(TAKE STEPS TO PROTEST US FROM IRANIAN CYBER ATTACKS) Cleaver-Meeks letter to U.S. financial regulators: On 1/7, Reps. Cleaver (D-MO) and Meeks (D-NY) sent letters to nine federal financial regulators (the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, National Credit Union Administration and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) calling for them to strengthen their cyber infrastructure against possible attacks in the wake of recent threats against the United States from Iran and its allies. They call for increased information sharing with law enforcement and regulated entities to protect consumers and our national financial systems. Press release is here.

 

(DOD MUST SHARE INFO ON NUMBER OF TROOP DEPLOYMENT TO MIDEAST FOLLOWING RECENT STRIKE) Schumer/Durbin/Reed letter to Esper: On 1/7, Sens. Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL) and Reed (D-RI) sent a letter to SecDef Mark Esper and U.S. Army General Mark Milley, requesting that Congress be provided with regular briefings and documents detailing the number of troops the Trump Administration has deployed and plans to deploy in support of contingency plans with respect to Iran. Press release is here.

 

(ALLEGED ANTISEMITISM - per IHRA - AT PRIVATE SCHOOL) Gottheimer-Rose letter: On 1/7, Reps. Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Rose (D-NY) sent a letter to the leadership of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School (ECFS) to condemn a recent incident - reported at length in Tablet -- in which a guest speaker, responding during a post-talk Q&A to a student’s query about South Africa, stated: “Xenophobic attacks are a shameful part of South African history, but in some ways it reflects the fluidity between those who are victims becoming perpetrators...I use the same example in talking about the Holocaust. That Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and established the State of Israel today—they perpetuate violence against Palestinians that [is] unthinkable.” In their press release and letter, Gottheimer and Rose characterize this statement as “anti-Semitic remarks comparing Jews to the Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust,” in violation of the “widely-accepted” IHRA definition of antisemitism. Press release is here. Numerous subsequent articles have repeated and amplified the charges/attacks against the school (all linked to the original Tablet report), for example here, here, here, here, and here. [Also see from today’s news: Fieldston School fires [Jewish] teacher who posted anti-Zionist tweets

 

(HOUSE VOTE *NOW* TO REPEAL AUMF) Kennedy letter to Pelosi: On 1/6, Rep. Kennedy (D-MA) sent a letter to House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) calling for an immediate vote on the House floor to repeal both the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs). In the letter, Kennedy states, “If the past 17 years is any guide, it is that a single War Powers Resolution to restrict military action in Iran will not be enough. Executives of both parties have used our existing AUMFs to justify expanding our engagement in the Middle East and around the globe. And for the better part of an entire generation, Congress has abdicated our Constitutional duty and allowed that dangerous mission creep to occur. Now, a reckless Commander in Chief has led our nation to the threshold of yet another war without the approval of the United States Congress and the Americans we represent. Immediately repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs would force both the legislative and executive branch to clearly debate and define any mission we engage in overseas. Our brave men and women in uniform, and all Americans, deserve nothing less.” Press release is here.

 

(TIME FOR A VOTE ON BILL TO PREVENT UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR WITH IRAN?) Udall-Paul letter to Senate: On 1/6, Sens. Udall (D-NM) and Paul (R-KY) sent a letter to Senate colleagues requesting them to support their bipartisan bill S. 1039, aka, the “Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019,” and calling for a Senate vote on the bill, which as of this writing has 28 cosponsors. Press release is here.

 

(DECLASSIFY WAR POWERS ACT NOTIFICATION LETTER) Schumer-Menendez letter to Trump: On 1/5, Sens. Schumer (D-NY) and Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to President Trump calling on him to immediately declassify the 1/4 White House notification to Congress of the initiation of hostilities against Iran, pursuant to the War Powers Act of 1973. The letter notes that, “It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner. An entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification.” Press release is here.

 

  1. Hearings

 

January 15: The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “U.S.-Iran Tensions: Implications for Homeland Security.” Scheduled witnesses are: Former US Ambassador Barbara Leaf (WINEP), Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Vincent Stewart (MEMRI); Tom Warrick (Atlantic Council), and Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata (Ret.) (Tata Leadership Group).

 

January 15: The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Confronting the Rise in Anti-Semitic Domestic Terrorism.” Scheduled witnesses are: Jonathan Greenblatt (ADL); John Miller (NYPD); Gen. John Allen (Brookings); Paul Goldenberg (Cardinal Point Strategies); Eugene Kontorovich (Kohelet Forum); and Clifford May (FDD).

 

January 14: The House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing entitled, “From Sanctions to the Soleimani Strike to Escalation: Evaluating the Administration’s Iran Policy.” The only scheduled witness is SecState Mike Pompeo, which the HFAC website lists as “invited,” (copy of the invitation to testify, dated January 7, is here). There is no indication of what the Committee will do if Pompeo declines to testify.

 

  1. On the Record...

 

[NOTE: Almost every member of Congress weighed in, many of them multiple times, on the ongoing events related to Iran (including how the effect Israel), as well as on related action in Congress. The Round-Up is NOT going to track/document all of these statements. If you want to see what a specific member has said, check the Congressional Record, that member’s website, and/or Google].

Zeldin (R-NY) 1/6: Op-ed on antisemitic attacks in NY, with 30% of the article devoted to attacking those who challenge Israeli policies [“As a nation that opposes and condemns hatred in any form, America must root out anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head. We must not embolden it or elevate it, or even tolerate this hatred, which is attempting to normalize itself in our society. Whether this bigotry is brazen or it is toxic anti-Semitism deceptively masked in subtle tropes, we must eliminate it wherever it exists. This is a reality that has plagued Jewish-Americans in every aspect of their lives. I have heard too many stories of college students from coast to coast on campuses all across America being targeted with blatant anti-Semitism in the name of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, also known as BDS. This movement, founded by someone who was an anti-Semite, has turned countless innocent students into targets of attacks due to their Jewish faith. In July, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.Res.246, a powerful statement opposing the BDS movement. However, we must do more than make a statement. We must enact legislation with teeth that combats this movement and the hatred it perpetuates against Israel and the Jewish community at home and around the world.”]

 

 

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