Legislative Round-up: February 14, 2020

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

 

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

Shameless Plug: Are you interested in the role of Jewish Americans -- as voters and donors -- in the 2020 elections? Check out the deep-dive primer I wrote on the topic (with footnotes a-plenty): The American Jewish Community and the 2020 US Presidential Election

 

Also, great resource from CRS/Jeremy Sharp: Egypt: Death of American Citizen and Congressional Response (Feb. 4, 2020)

 

  1. Bills,  Resolutions, & Letters

 

(DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION WITH IRAN?) S. 3314: Introduced 2/13 by Markey (D-MA) and  4 original cosponsors - Feinstein (D-CA), Van Hollen (D-MD), Duckworth (D-IL) and Sanders (I-VT), “A bill to seek a diplomatic resolution to Iran's nuclear program, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(NO UNAUTHORIZED WAR WITH IRAN) S. J. Res. 68: Introduced 1/9 by Kaine (D-VA) and having 30 cosponsors (26 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 2 Independents), “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.” Passed by the Senate 2/13 by a vote of 55-45 (with all Democrats presenting voting in favor, joined by Alexander (R-TN), Cassidy (R-LA), Collins (R-ME), Lee (R-UT), Moran (R-KS), Murkowski (R-AK), Paul (R-KY) and Young (R-IN). 

  • Before passing this resolution, the Senate adopted 3 amendments:
    • S. Amdt. 1322, adding a finding that “More than 100 members of the United States Armed Forces sustained traumatic brain injuries in the Iranian retaliatory attack on the Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq despite initial reports that no casualties were sustained in the attack,” adopted by a vote of 99-0.
    • S. Amdt 1314, adding a finding that “The President has a constitutional responsibility to take actions to defend the United States, its territories, possessions, citizens, service members, and diplomats from attack,” adopted by a vote of 93-7.
    • S. Amdt. 1301, adding a finding that “Members of the United States Armed Forces and intelligence community, and all those involved in the planning of the January 2, 2020, strike on Qasem Soleimani, including President Donald J. Trump, should be commended for their efforts in a successful mission,” adopted by a vote of 64-34
  • Before passing this resolution, the Senate rejected 3 amendments:
    • S. Amdt. 1319, to add: “Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this section shall be construed -- (1) to prevent the United States from defending itself, including its territories, citizens, troops, personnel, military bases, and diplomatic facilities from attack, including acting to prevent an attack; or (2) to restrict missions related to force protection of United States aircraft, ships, or personnel,” tabled by a vote of 51-49
    •  S. Amdt. 1305, To exempt from the termination requirement United States Armed Forces engaged in operations directed at designated terrorist organizations, tabled by a vote of 54-46
    • S. Amdt. 1320, to add to the findings , “(6) The United States Armed Forces are not currently engaged in hostilities, as contemplated by the War Powers Resolution, against Iran. The United States strike against terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani to protect the lives of United States service members and diplomats is lesser in scope, nature, and duration than, and consistent with, previous administrations' exercises of war powers.(7) The United States' maximum pressure strategy against Iran has reduced the Government of Iran's resources available to attack the United States and United States interests by limiting the resources available to the Government of Iran to support weapons development and terrorist proxies throughout the region,” tabled by a vote of 54-46
  • Two amendments related to Israel were not considered: S. Amdt. 1318 (To provide that nothing in the resolution shall be construed as preventing the United States from defending its allies, including Israel) and S. Amdt. 1306 (To provide that nothing shall be construed as influencing or disrupting any military operations and cooperation with Israel)
  • Members on the record -- See Section 3, below.

Letters

 

(PROTECTING SERVICEMEMBERS FROM TBIs) Warren/Ernst/Pascrell/Bacon letter to Esper: On 2/11, Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Ernst (R-IA), along with Reps. Pascrell (D-NJ) and Bacon (R-NE) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Esper requesting an update on efforts to better prevent and protect servicemembers from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) through the documentation of blast exposure in servicemembers' medical history. The letter comes after more than 100 servicemembers suffered TBIs following an Iranian missile attack in Iraq. Press release is here.

 

(EVICT DESIGNATED IRANIANS FROM TWITTER) Cruz et al letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: On 2/6, Sens. Cruz (R-TX), Cotton (R-AR), Blackburn (R-TN) and Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urging him to cease “the provision of services to Khamenei, Zarif, and any other designated Iranian entity.” The letter suggests that failure to do so will run afoul of U.S. anti-terrorism laws, and notes that a copy of the letter will be provided “to President Trump, Secretary Mnuchin, Attorney General Barr, and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Anderson.” Press release is here.

 

(HOUSE DEMS OPPOSE TRUMP’S ‘PEACE’ PLAN) Levin/Lowenthal et al letter to Trump: On 2/6, Reps. Levin (D-MI) and Lowenthal (D-CA) led a letter to President Trump, co-signed by a total of 107 House Democrats, disapproving of Trump’s “peace” proposal and stating: “Our concern is both with the substance of your plan, which will exacerbate and entrench conflict rather than resolve it, and with the timing of its release.” Press release is here.

 

(TRUMP INTERFERENCE IN INVESTIGATION OF TURKISH BANK?) Wyden letter to AG Barr: On 2/3, Sen. Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to Attorney General Barr regarding the investigation of a Turkish bank. The press release explains: “As part of the ongoing investigation into whether President Donald Trump directed his cabinet to intervene on behalf of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, which is accused of the largest sanctions violation scheme in U.S. history, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today requested Attorney General Barr detail his interactions with President Trump, President Recep Erdogan, Turkey Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and representatives from Turkey’s lobbying firm Ballard Partners about Halkbank.”

 

  1. Hearings

 

2/12: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommitte on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism held a hearing entitled, “The Middle East Peace Process: An Analysis from Former U.S. Negotiators.” Witnesses were: Frank Lowenstein, Former State Department U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations (statement); Mara Rudman, CAP & Former State Department Deputy Special Envoy for Middle East Peace (statement); and Michael Singh, WINEP & Former NSC Senior Director for Middle East Affairs (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

 

2/12: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “U.S.-Libya Policy.” Witnesses were David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (statement) and Christopher Robinson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

 

  1. On the Record

 

Weighing in on S. J. Res. 68

NOTE: Nearly every senator issued a statement before, during, or after the vote on this resolution. To see what specific senators said (other than in the floor statements linked below) check their websites. 

McConnell (R-KY) floor statements opposing the resolution are here and here

Schumer (D-NY) and Menendez (D-NJ) floor statements in support are here.  

Durbin (D-IL) and Schumer (D-NY) floor statements of support are here.  

Other floor statements in favor [Murphy (D-CT), Reed (D-RI), Leahy (D-VT), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Lee (R-UT), Cardin (D-MD), Paul (R-KY), Hirono (D-HI), Blumenthal (D-CT), and Merkley (D-OR); and opposed [Cornyn] are here

Other floor statements in favor [Kaine (D-VA), Murray (D-WA) and opposed [Thune (R-SD), Graham (R-SC), Rubio (R-FL)] are here

Also see McCaul (R-TX) statement opposing. 

Supporting/Defending the UNHRC’s database of businesses supporting settlements 

 

[Zero. Zilch. Bubkis. As in, not a single member of Congress (so far) was willing to defend a DATABASE that does nothing more than offer a modicum of transparency that can allow American citizens to make informed choices about who they give their hard-earned money to. As in, not a single member of Congress had the integrity to reject the blatant mischaracterization of the database as a blacklist. As in, not a single member of Congress had the courage to call out the brazen, cynical conflation of settlements and Israel by those attacking the database -- conflation that aligns neatly with the Trump “peace” plan and its normalization of settlements and green light for annexation. Truly a shameful performance from members on both sides of the aisle who pretend to support the two-state solution, or who maintain a pretense that facts and laws matter.]

Opposing UNHRC’s database of businesses supporting settlements (listed in alphabetical order)
[underlining added where statement suggesting a legislative response or explicitly legitimizes settlements, rather than pretending concerns about the database are related to potential boycotts of Israel]

 

Balderson (R-OH): Tweet - “I stand with our ally, Israel, against UN Human Rights’ boycott of companies that conduct business in Israeli territories. This malicious political move is not only an attempt to isolate our ally, but a complete abandonment of our commitment to them.”

Blackburn (R-TN): Tweet - “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the @UN is not an impartial body when it comes to Israel.”

Boozman (R-AR): Tweet - “.@UNHumanRights once again caved to anti-Israel voices who seek to punish Israeli, US and European businesses that are lawfully operating in the West Bank. The UN should be encouraging restart of negotiations, not continuing one-sided bias against Israel.”

Cardin (D-MD) and Portman (R-OH): Cardin, Portman Assail United Nations Anti-Israel Blacklist [Cardin: “The United States cannot stand by while American businesses are being pressured by a foreign entity because of their work in Israel, one of our key allies”; Portman: “The preliminary list released yesterday by UNHRC underscores the urgent need for swift action to modernize existing anti-boycott laws.”]

Cotton (R-AR): “The UN Human Rights Council persecutes Israel while it protects the world’s worst tyrants. It ought to investigate the crimes of its own members instead of obsessing over the Jewish State. U.S. federal and state governments should fully enforce existing anti-boycott laws to punish entities that comply with this blacklist.

Cruz (R-TX): Twitter thread: “The UN has descended to a new antisemitic low. Database of companies operating in Israeli-controlled territories is meant to facilitate boycotts of Israeli Jews. It even targets US comps offering general services across Israel bc they refuse to deny those services to certain Jews / Our allies and adversaries should know that the US will be carefully watching who stands w us and our Israeli allies against these efforts. The US will not stand by while our allies are attacked & Jews all over the world are subject to campaigns of boycotts and stigmatization. / I urge the admin to issue an executive order making it clear that our laws which prohibit cooperation with anti-Israel boycotts apply to boycotts sponsored by or initiated by international organizations such as the United Nations.”

Daines (R-MT): Tweet - “It is unacceptable that the @UN released a blacklist of Israeli companies. This action reaffirms the anti-Israel bias at the UN. I will continue to stand with #Israel and fight against the discriminatory BDS movement”

Deutch (D-FL): Tweet - “So shameful that the UN published this blacklist of companies in the West Bank. This name-and-shame strategy will do nothing to further peace & ignores economic benefits these businesses bring to Israelis & Palestinians. I stand w/ bipartisan majority in US House opposing BDS.”  [Ah, yes - benevolent occupation. If only the Palestinians were more grateful for the good that settlements do them!]

Gottheimer (D-NJ): Tweet - “I unequivocally oppose the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel – our vital ally and the key democracy in the Middle East. The biased UN Human Rights Council’s recently released blacklist of companies who do business in the West Bank is nothing more than a hostile and coercive effort to single-out and delegitimize Israel and American businesses. We must continue to reject this, and all other politically motivated efforts to undermine American businesses and our key strategic ally Israel in the fight against terror.”

Hoyer (D-MD): “Today we are witnessing the takeover of the U.N. Human Rights Council by the discriminatory B.D.S. movement, whose mission, as expressed plainly by its founders, is to effect a ‘one-state solution’ that eliminates Israel as a Jewish state. Efforts by B.D.S. and other movements to single out the Jewish state and its people for boycotts or divestment mirror the kind of gross discrimination directed at Jewish people during some of history’s darkest moments. The U.N. Human Rights Council’s work has been hijacked by those bent on delegitimizing the Jewish state instead of doing the actual work of supporting justice and human rights around the world. The companies, including American ones, being targeted by the Council today have done nothing to merit being called out in such a defamatory way. No country is perfect, including Israel, but what makes the B.D.S. movement so insidious is that, at its heart, it seeks to undermine the right of Jews to live in a Jewish, democratic state in their ancestral homeland.” [emphasis added - note that this is apparently how Hoyer now refers to the settlements].

Lowey (D-NY): “I am disappointed in UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s decision to release a ‘blacklist’ today of 112 companies that operate in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The High Commissioner was not mandated to make this list public and doing so will only advance the goals of the BDS movement. This action will push Israelis and Palestinians farther away from the negotiating table, while also hurting the Palestinians who depend on these companies for their livelihood. This is yet another disheartening example of the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”

Maloney (D-NY): Tweet - “The #BDS movement isn't about peace, it's about delegitimizing Israel & her people. The UN blacklist of east Jerusalem, West Bank & Golan Heights businesses is unhelpful & another action in a long string of anti-Israel & antisemitic actions that are obstacles, not aids to peace.”

Menendez (D-NJ): “I strongly oppose the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) release of a blacklist of organizations including U.S. companies. This list and its public release were driven by politically motivated actors who seek to isolate Israel and undermine its right to exist. Actions like this further fuel support for the deeply misguided broader Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The OHCHR absolutely did not need to publicly release this report to fulfil its mandate in the first place. The United Nations should be more focused on condemning the truly horrific and gross human rights violations of some of the members who sit on that Council like Venezuela or Cameroon. Congress will continue to stand on the side of American companies and against those who seek to undermine Israel’s right to exist.” 

McCaul (R-TX), Wilson (R-SC), & Zeldin (R-NY): “The UN’s abrupt and inappropriate release today of a list of companies doing business in the West Bank is yet another anti-Israel stunt that will not further peace in the region. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be solved as long as the UN is used as a forum to bash Israel. The purpose of such a list is clear: it is a how-to guide for international boycotts designed to pressure Israel to make concessions outside of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. The United States cannot allow this list to be operationalized to undermine our ally Israel. Congress should pass H.R. 5595, the bipartisan Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which updates existing U.S. anti-boycott laws to include boycotts fostered by international organizations.”

McSally (R-AZ): Tweet - “The discriminatory blacklist released by the UN Human Rights Council today is absolutely appalling. Their wildly biased anti-Israel organization serves only to further its own interests and sow division among allies. The U.S. will not stand for such an egregious demand.”

Morelle (D-NY): Tweet - “This serves only to advance the divisive and unproductive BDS movement and does nothing to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. We must remain committed to a path towards peace and continue our work towards a two-state solution.”

Pelosi (D-CA): ”we are concerned that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s announcement is not in furtherance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” 

Rice (D-NY): Tweet - “I strongly oppose @UN’s decision to publish a blacklist of businesses in the West Bank. It disregards how these companies help both the Israeli and Palestinian economies. And more importantly, it does nothing to advance peace. I stand firmly against the #BDS movement.” [Ah, yes - benevolent occupation. If only the Palestinians were more grateful for the good that settlements do them!]

Risch/SFRC (R-ID): Tweet - “.@UNHumanRights’s release of a report including a public database of businesses operating in the Palestinian territories is further evidence that the OHCHR is overly politicized and focusing a disproportionate amount of time and resources on Israel.”

Risch (R-ID): “It is unacceptable that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has released this incredibly biased report which is in direct support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement against our close ally Israel. Previously, I have spoken to High Commissioner Bachelet about this matter and believed that the OHCHR had already fulfilled its mandate by previous actions. Today’s release of the report is a political move made by the high commissioner. This action is only further evidence that the OHCHR, which is supposed to be the lead human rights office in the United Nations, is overly politicized and focusing a disproportionate amount of time and resources on Israel. Instead, OHCHR should focus on the real human rights crises in the world such as the ongoing slaughter of civilians in Syria. The high commissioner should immediately redact the report and to take no further actions on this database.”

Rubio (R-FL): Tweet - “.@SECPOMPEO is absolutely right. These anti-Israel actions by the

@UN, which advances the hateful BDS movement, aim to delegitimize the Jewish state of #Israel & harm any future prospects for peace.”

Scalise (R-LA): “I strongly condemn the United Nations’ blacklist. The UN has provided the enemies of Israel with direct targets for hatred, economic punishment, and even violence. Such blacklists can only be seen as an extension of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to economically isolate and delegitimize Israel. Rep. Lee Zeldin has introduced legislation, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which formally recognizes such blacklists as an act of BDS and House Democrats should bring this bill to the floor.

Schneider (D-IL): Tweet - “The ‘blacklist’ of companies operating in the West Bank is the most recent in a long series of discriminatory and shameful actions by the United Nations and its agencies targeting Israel. A one-sided boycott diminishes the prospects of peace for both Israel and the Palestinians.”

Scott (R-FL): Tweet - “The @UN Human Rights Council doesn’t stand for freedom, democracy or human rights. It’s a UN sanctioned club of dictators that spends most of its time targeting our ally, Israel. The US stands with Israel & its legitimate settlements in the West Bank.

Smith (R-MO): Tweet - “The @UN’s list is shameful and sickening. It’s not only horribly anti-Semitic, but it undermines @POTUS’s recently proposed peace plan by attempting to force concessions from Israel. It’s clear the UN has been corrupted by the disgusting #BDS movement.”

Steil (R-WI): Tweet - “Another wrong move by the UN. This does not promote peace, it is only meant to attack Israel and inflame divisions.”

Suozzi (D-NY): Tweet - “I strongly disagree with the UN’s decision to publish a list of blacklist companies in the West Bank. Actions such as these are counterproductive to peace and ignore the benefits that these businesses bring to both Palestinians and Israelis I oppose BDS!”

Vargas (D-CA): Tweet - “The UN’s release of blacklisted companies is politically motivated and will only promote discriminatory boycotts. BDS’ objective is to eliminate the State of Israel; this is merely their first step. We must push back to prevent the demonization of our democratic ally, Israel.

Wasserman Schultz (D-FL): Tweet - “I strongly condemn the UN blacklisting of companies working in the West Bank. Singling out Israel furthers the discriminatory BDS movement a bipartisan House majority opposed. Rather than incite boycotts the UN should promote direct bilateral negotiations to achieve lasting peace”

 

More Views on Trump Plan

 

Price (D-NC), Levin (D-MI), Schakowsky (D-IL), Welch (D-VT), Lowenthal (D-CA), and Haaland (D-NM) 2/14: Op-ed in the Hill, “A disaster for diplomacy and the Zionist dream”

Woodall (R-GA) 2/3: “While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the plan, I support the desire to bridge gaps between the two parties. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is approaching the century mark, with U.S. Presidents having tried and failed to resolve this conflict, working admirably towards a peaceful Middle East. Any peace plan must focus on the security and safety of the Israeli people, who face the real possibility of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, and we must support a democratic Palestine, free of terrorism, that recognizes Israel’s right to exist. This plan should serve as a launching point for a greater dialogue between the two peoples.”

Rice (D-NY) 2/2: “As outlined in its proposed plan, I am pleased the Trump Administration also recognizes that a two-state solution is the path forward to achieve peace and security. But as we know, a two-state solution will only be achieved if we have meaningful negotiations conducted directly between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Administration must recognize this plan is only a starting point, and be open to compromise in order for both parties to mutually agree on a final agreement. I hope this plan will lead to renewed discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and I will do everything I can in my capacity as a Member of Congress to support good-faith negotiations.”

Luria (D-VA) 2/2: ““I am encouraged by the administration’s commitment to a bold plan to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Any meaningful peace agreement must have the full participation and buy-in of both parties, and a final agreement can be made if— and only if— the Palestinians explicitly promise to end their support for terrorism and respect Israel’s right to exist. This plan is a step in the direction towards achieving a lasting peace that upholds the sovereignty and dignity of both peoples.”

Schneider (D-IL) 1/31: “On its surface, President Trump’s recently released vision for peace builds on the positions of past administrations by acknowledging long-established principles, including the primacy of Israel’s security, the unity of Jerusalem, the establishment of two-states for two peoples through direct negotiations and territorial compromise, and negotiations concluding with the finality of all claims. Such formal statements represent progress by this administration [emphasis added]. However, having taken the time to closely study the proposal, the fuller details of the President’s vision raise many questions and concerns, in particular regarding the prospect and viable contiguity of a future, sovereign Palestinian state. Rather than recoiling from negotiations, I urge the Palestinians to urgently return to the negotiating table and work with Israel to bring forth the peace-filled future both peoples desire.”

 

Odds & Ends

 

Engel (D-NY) 2/13: Drawing Attention To The Tragedy Unfolding In Idlib, Syria
McCollum (D-MN) 2/12: McCollum Statement: Hate Speech Makes AIPAC a Hate Group [“The decision by AIPAC to use my image in paid Facebook ads weaponizing anti-Semitism to incite followers by attacking me, my colleagues, and my work promoting human rights for Palestinian children detained in Israeli military prisons is hate speech. But it doesn’t end there. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, an AIPAC petition linked to their ads designed to mobilize supporters stated, ‘it’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and – maybe more sinister – right here in the U.S. Congress.’ This is not a call to action, it is incitement.”

Murphy (D-CT) 2/12: Murphy “delivered keynote remarks at the Century Foundation event titled, ‘After Trump: Defining a Progressive U.S. Policy for the Middle East’ which debated and defined an alternative, progressive U.S. foreign policy approach toward the Middle East.” [incl full transcript of his remarks]

Connolly (D-VA) 2/3: Connolly to Bring Hatice Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi’s Fiancée, to State of the Union Address

comments powered by Disqus