Legislative Round-Up: January 17, 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

 

(IT’S BAAAAAA-AAAACK - THE ISRAEL ANTI-BOYCOTT ACT) HR 5595: Introduced 1/13 by Zeldin (R-NY) and having 59 cosponsors (all GOP plus Suozzi, D-NY), the “Israel Anti-boycott Act.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Zeldin press release announcing the bill is here.  What does the new IABA actually say/do? I’m glad you asked! See my handy-dandy new resource: The NEW Israel Anti-Boycott Act – what it actually says/does. Also see my earlier (and once again relevant) analysis: U.S. Politicians Are Backing a Free Speech Exception for Israel — & Creating a Template for Broader Assault on the First Amendment

 

(JOINING FORCES TO ADDRESS PTSD) HR 5605: Introduced 1/14 by Waltz (R-FL) Luria (D-VA), Houlahan (D-PA) and Zeldin (R-NY), “To direct the Secretary of Defense to carry out a grant program to increase cooperation on post-traumatic stress disorder research between the United States and Israel.” Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services. Waltz press release is here.

 

Iran

 

(NO UNAUTHORIZED WAR ON IRAN) S J Res 69: Introduced 1/16 by Kaine (D-VA), “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. 

 

(CONDEMNING IRAN FOR TREATMENT OF PROTESTERS) H. Res. 791: Introduced 1/13 by McCarthy (R-CA) and having 83 cosponsors,  “Condemning the actions of the Government of Iran and supporting the protesters in Iran, their demands for accountability, and their desire for the Government of Iran to respect freedom and human rights.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

(SUPPORTING IRANIANS PROTESTING THEIR GOVERNMENT) S. Res. 469: Introduced 1/14 by Graham (R-SC) and having 6 GOP cosponsors, “A resolution supporting the people of Iran as they engage in legitimate protests, and condemning the Iranian regime for its murderous response.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

 

(NO TARGETING CULTURAL SITES!) H. Res. 795: Introduced 1/14 by Engel (D-NY) and Ryan (D-OH), “Supporting the commitment of the United States to lawfully protect international cultural sites.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

Letters

 

(SANCTION EGYPTIAN OFFICIALS FOR AMCIT DEATH) Van Hollen-Leahy letter to Trump: On 1/16, Sens. Van Hollen (D-MD) and Leahy (D-VT) sent a letter to President Trump following the death of a US citizen in an Egyptian jail. The letter urges Trump to “immediately impose the visa restrictions on Egyptian government officials involved in the detention—and now the death—of Mustafa Kassem. We further request that you make a formal determination that the Egyptian government’s treatment of Mr. Kassem constituted a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights and impose Global Magnitsky Act sanctions on the perpetrators.” The letter closes: “We urge you to take immediate steps to hold Egypt, one of the largest recipients of U.S. assistance, to account. We must send a clear and unequivocal message to President Sisi – and others around the world -- that the detention, abuse, torture, and death of American citizens will not be tolerated and will not go unpunished.” The letter follows the Senators’ work to secure language with the FY 2020 Appropriations bill requiring the Secretary of State to deny U.S. visas to foreign officials involved in the wrongful imprisonment of U.S. citizens and nationals in Egypt. Press release is here.

 

(PREPARE FOR IRANIAN CYBER ATTACKS) Rubio-Cardin letter to SBA: On 1/16, Sens. Rubio (R-FL) and Cardin (D-MD) sent a letter to Jovita Carranza, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), urging her to take immediate action to help small businesses prepare for potential cybersecurity threats from Iran and its proxies. Press release is here.

 

(NEED PLAN TO ADDRESS IRANIAN CYBER ATTACKS) Warner letter to Pompeo: On 1/14. Sen. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo expressing deep concerns with the ability of the U.S. Department of State to address the surge of offensive cyber activity by Iran. Press release is here.

 

(DISCRIMINATION AGAINST IRANIAN-AMCITS AT US BORDERS?) Senate Dems letter: On 1/14, 20 Senate Democrats, led by Carper (D-DE) sent a letter to CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan asking for answers regarding recent reports that officers detained travelers, including American citizens, at U.S. ports of entry or airports -- solely or predominately because of their Iranian national origin. Press release is here.

 

(WAS SOLEIMANI ATTACK LINKED TO INSIDER TRADING?) Van Hollen-Warren letter: On 1/13, Sens. Van Hollen (D-MD) and Warren (D-MA) sent a letter to the SEC and CFTC asking them to investigate whether there may have been any illegal trading in defense company stocks, oil futures, or related commodities stemming from individuals' advance knowledge of the U.S. attack on January 2, 2020, that killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani. The senators' letters follow reporting that President Trump gave guests at his Mar-a-Lago resort advance knowledge of potential military action. Press release is here.

 

(INVESTIGATE NIAC!) Cotton-Braun-Cruz letter to Barr: On 1/13, Sens. Cotton (R-AR), Braun (R-IN) and Cruz (R-TX) sent a letter to Attorney General Barr “to urge you to review the activities of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and its sister organization NIAC Action for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).” The letter - citing 2 examples of tweets from NIAC that are critical of US policy vis-a-vis Iran -- asserts that “NIAC's relationship with the Iranian regime and its role amplifying regime propaganda in the United States have been the subject of discussion in Washington D.C. for years” [this is accurate, as such discussion has long been used to try to discredit NIAC -- by parties who consider support for diplomacy to resolve issues with Iran (as opposed to saber-rattling and sanctions) a form of pro-Iranian government propaganda). The letter also dredges up and mischaracterizes old news (dating back to 2008 and earlier), to claim that “senior NIAC employees openly acknowledged their role as lobbyists for Iranian interests.” The letter asks the Department of Justice to “evaluate whether an investigation of NIAC is warranted for potential FARA violations and to ensure transparency regarding foreign attempts to influence the U.S. political process.” Press release is here. NIAC’s response - which should be read in full, is here, stating: “The slanderous accusations from Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Mike Braun have zero merit. It is yet another sign that warhawks are seeking to intimidate pro-peace voices, starting with Iranian Americans, from halting the push toward war, which Cotton and Cruz have long championed. We have already seen the coordinated efforts, such as the U.S. government funded “IranDisinfo” project that slandered groups like Human Rights Watch, as well as Iranian-American journalists, analysts, academics, and civil society organizations like ours who dared speak out against the Trump Administration’s Iran policies. This is the latest attempt to silence NIAC and other pro-peace Iranian Americans from having a voice in this debate that impacts us and our community. We will not let that happen.” Also see: The Ugly Smear Attack on NIAC; Myths v Facts - Correcting misconceptions about NIAC (video); 

 

(ARE FOREIGN ADVERSARIES STOKING ANTISEMITISM?) Suozzi/King/Rice/Meeks/Zeldin letter: On 1/2 (not previously reported) Reps. Suozzi (D-NY), King (R-NY), Rice (D-NY), Meeks (D-NY), and Zeldin (R-NY) sent a letter to SecDef  Esper, CIA Director Haspel, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Wolf; and FBI Director Wray, asking them to “ investigate potential state sponsored campaigns by our foreign adversaries to sow civil unrest in America using social media disinformation campaigns, corruption and foreign actors. The power of social media provides nefarious actors the ability to exploit ignorance and spread hate, in an effort to undermine national unity for their strategic interest. In addition to tanks, missiles and soldiers, we must be conscious of our adversaries’ efforts to undermine our nation using cyberspace, economic systems and corruption.

 

  1. Hearings

 

January 15: The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing entitled, “U.S.-Iran Tensions: Implications for Homeland Security.” Witnesses were: Former US Ambassador Barbara Leaf, WINEP (testimony), Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Vincent Stewart, MEMRI (testimony); Tom Warrick, Atlantic Council (testimony), and Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata (Ret.) (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

 

January 15: The House Homeland Security Committee held a 2-panel hearing entitled, “Confronting the Rise in Anti-Semitic Domestic Terrorism.” Panel 1 witnesses were: Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL (statement); Nathan Diament, Orthodox Union (statement); Clifford May, FDD (statement); and Eugene Kontorovich, Kohelet Forum (statement). Panel 2 witnesses were: John Miller, NYPD (statement); Gen. John Allen, Brookings (statement); and Paul Goldenberg, Cardinal Point Strategies (statement). Video of the hearing (both panels) is here

 

The JTA’s Ron Kampeas summed up the hearing as follows in The Tell: “Watching the hearing was like seeing two movies simultaneously, one about the recent physical threats to Jews, and another about the nuances of how to confront Israel boycott movements. Two witnesses, Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League CEO, and Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union director, came prepared with the recommendations that Rose sought in his opening statement, in which he asked how to prevent the attacks that have traumatized communities recently. Rose cited the lethal shooting in Jersey City and the stabbing in Monsey late last year, as well as harassment on the streets of his native New York City…Another two witnesses called by the committee’s Republican minority seemed to come prepared for a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, focused mostly on foreign threats at a hearing geared to domestic threats, listing anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions in France, Germany and Malaysia, and also arguing that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel is an expression of anti-Semitism. Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason University’s Scalia Law School, testified virtually only about BDS, arguing that it was “inherently anti-Semitic” and adding that “discriminatory boycotts do not in themselves call for violence.” Interestingly, Jewish newspapers coverage of the hearing - including right-wing outlets that focus a great deal on attacking critics of Israel and boycotts, in their reporting on the hearing effectively wrote May and Kontorovich out of the story - see: The Algemeiner, Jerusalem Post, Jewish Insider.

 

January 15: The House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing entitled, “A Persistent and Evolving Threat: An Examination of the Financing of Domestic Terrorism and Extremism.” Witnesses were: Jared Maples, NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (statement); Rena Miller, Congressional Research Service (statement); George Selim, ADL (statement) Lecia Brooks, SPLC (statement) and Mary McCord, Georgetown Law (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

 

January 14: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held what was intended to be a 2-panel hearing entitled, “From Sanctions to the Soleimani Strike to Escalation: Evaluating the Administration’s Iran Policy.” The first panel was to have featured SecState Mike Pompeo, who declined to appear - Chairman Engel’s (D-NY) Statement on Pompeo’s decision not to testify is here. In the end, the hearing was just the second panel, featuring: Richard Haass, CFR (testimony); Avril Haines, Brookings (testimony); and Steve Hadley, former National Security Advisor (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. Engel Remarks at Hearing on the Administration’s Iran Policy

 

  1. On the Record...

 

[REMINDER: Almost every member of Congress has been weighing in, many of them multiple times, on the ongoing developments related to Iran (including how they 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].

Leahy (D-VT) 1/15: Comments at Press Conference On The Death Of Mustafa Kassem

Murphy (D-CT) 1/15: Floor speech - MURPHY: MUSTAFA KASSEM SHOULD HAVE NEVER DIED - Murphy Calls on the Trump Administration to Hold Egypt Accountable for Death of U.S. Citizen, Discusses National Security and Foreign Policy Consequences if We Don’t

McCaul (R-TX) 1/14: McCaul Statement on Mustafa Kassem’s Death in Egyptian Prison

Leahy (D-VT) 1/13: Reaction To The Death Of Mustafa Kassem In An Egyptian Prison [“This is a monumental, unforgiveable travesty, for which President Sisi is personally accountable.  It could easily have been prevented. Yet he stubbornly refused to act despite the entreaties of the international community, including the United States, from which his government receives $1.5 billion in assistance annually. President Trump has called President Sisi ‘my favorite dictator.’  That aptly describes him. Egypt today is a military dictatorship. Corruption is rampant. Dissent is met with arrest, torture, and prolonged imprisonment. Yet the White House has refused to use its leverage to counter it. It is high time that the Congress, and the White House, recognize that we cannot continue to reward such reprehensible conduct.”]

Duncan (R-SC) 1/13: Op-ed on the Jerusalem Post blaming the Palestinians for the US shift in policy on settlements

Budd (R-NC) 1/14: Remarks on H. Res. 782 [“anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes often emerge because of a lack of understanding of the painful history directed at the Jewish people and the horrors of the Holocaust…]

Smith (R-NC) 1/10: Column on this website: “Fighting Against Anti-Semitism” [reiterating is commitment to fighting antisemitism by supporting Israel -- as demonstrated, he says, by his support for HR 336, to counter BDS, “an anti-Semitic campaign which targets all Israeli products, institutions, and citizens with a blanket boycott. Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel improves our military readiness and provides tools Israel needs to defend itself. Israel should not suffer the consequences of a bigoted campaign against its sovereignty. Efforts such as H.R. 336 show Israel the United States stands with them.”]

 

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