Legislative Round-up - March 6, 2020

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

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

(THE *NEW* ISRAEL ANTI-BOYCOTT ACT) HR 5595: Introduced 1/13 by Zeldin (R-NY) and having 61 cosponsors (all GOP plus Suozzi, D-NY), the “Israel Anti-boycott Act.” Notwithstanding the fact that his bill is NOT part of the 2020 AIPAC lobbying agenda (at least not yet), on 3/4 (while the AIPAC policy conference was in town), Zeldin took to the House floor with a grandstanding effort to bring the bill up for a vote (“grandstanding” because there was no way the effort was going to work – its sole purpose was to score political points and embarrass Democrats). The pay-off for the effort was headlines like this one in the Free Beacon: “House Dems Block Anti-BDS Bill.” For background on HR 5595, see: The NEW Israel Anti-Boycott Act – what it actually says/does. Also see: U.S. Politicians Are Backing a Free Speech Exception for Israel — & Creating a Template for Broader Assault on the First Amendment

(RAMP UP PRESSURE ON IRAN) HR 6081: Introduced 3/4 by Hill (R-AR) and Lawson (D-FL),  “To require the President to report on financial institutions’ involvement with officials of the Iranian Government, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. Press release is here.

(MORE SANCTIONS ON IRAN) HR 6015: Introduced 2/28 by Steil (R-WI) and 5 GOP cosponsors, the “Stop Evasion of Iran Sanctions Act of 2020.” Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. Press release is here.

(PALESTINIAN PARTNERSHIP FUND) HR 3104 and S.1727: Introduced 6/5 in the House by Lowey (D-NY) and Fortenberry (R-NE), and in the Senate by Coons (D-DE), Graham (R-SC), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO), “To establish the Partnership Fund for Peace to promote joint economic development and finance ventures between Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies and those in the United States and Israel to improve economic cooperation and people-to-people peacebuilding programs, and to further shared community building, peaceful coexistence, dialogue, and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.” Speaking 3/4 at AIPAC, Sen. Schumer (D-NY) endorsed the Fund for Palestine – video is here.

Letters

(SANCTION TURKEY FOR DETENTION OF LOCAL STAFF OF US MISSIONS) Van Hollen et al letter to Pompeo: On 3/6, Senators Van Hollen (D-MD), (R-IN), and Leahy (D-VT) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo calling for him to impose sanctions on Turkey over the wrongful detention of locally employed staff at U.S. diplomatic missions in Turkey (Metin Topuz, Mete Canturk, and Hamza Ulucay – three Turkish citizens who have served at US missions in Turkey since the 1980’s). The letter notes that the senators’  recently passed appropriations language requires the State Department to deny visas to foreign officials involved in the wrongful detentions of these staff. Press release is here.

(MORE US-ISRAEL DRONE COOPERATION) Gottheimer-Gonzalez letter to Esper: On 3/3, Reps. Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Gonzalez (R-OH) sent a letter to SecDef Esper calling for the Department of Defense to expand cooperation with Israel to help counter the threat of ‘killer drones’ in the region. Press release is here.

(MORE US-ISRAEL DEFENSE COOPERATION) Cotton-Peters letter to Esper: On 2/28, Senators Cotton (R-AR) and Peters (D-MI) sent a letter to SecDef Esper urging the creation of a permanent working group with Israel that would share defense capabilities requirements and coordinate joint research and development efforts. Press release is here; Peters’ tweet is here.

(URGING GOVT OF EGYPT TO RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS) Tlaib et al letter to Egyptian Ambassador: On 2/27, Rep. Tlaib (D-MI) led a letter, co-signed by 5 House Democrats, to Egypt’s ambassador to the US. The letter calls on Egypt to respect human rights in general, and specifically the human rights of detainees, and raises concerns about the recent death of an American citizen in Egyptian custody. The letter notes the signers intent to “continue to monitor the human rights situation in Egypt and take it into consideration when debating future appropriations of bilateral assistance to the Egyptian government.” Tlaib tweet announcing the letter is here.

(ARE US SANCTIONS PREVENTING FIGHTING COVID-19 IN IRAN) Warren letters to State & Treasury: On 2/28, Sen. Warren (D-MA) sent letters to the Department of the Treasury and the Department of State expressing concern about the coronavirus spread in Iran and seeking assurances that U.S. sanctions on Iran are not hindering humanitarian transactions that would help counter and contain the spread of the disease in that country. Press release is here.

2. Hearings

3/12: The House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations will hold its “Public Witness Day” on 3/12.

3/10: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activities in the Greater Middle East and Africa.” Scheduled witnesses are: Kathryn Wheelbarger, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs; Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., USMC, Commander, U.S. Central Command; and Gen. Stephen Townsend, Commander, U.S. Africa Command. Video (live and archived) of the hearing will be here.

3/9: The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing to deal with S.J. Res. 68 —To direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress.

3. On the Record...

Congress <hearts> AIPAC
(AIPAC conference attendees were on the Hill this week – and for the 2nd week running, Members of Congress were eager to get on the record showing their friendship for the group & solidarity with Israel. Selection of statements & tweets – many of which included pix with smiling AIPAC constituents, are below, in alphabetical order)

Armstrong (R-ND) 3/3: Tweet- “It was my pleasure to chat with @AIPAC attendees about America’s strong alliance with Israel. Our two countries have a unique and inseparable bond, which I saw firsthand when I visited Israel in August. #WeStandWithIsrael #AIPAC2020”

Biggs (R-AZ) 3/3: Tweet – “Earlier today, I met with a regional group from @AIPAC to discuss the vital alliance between the United States and Israel. I will always stand with Israel and its citizens. I appreciate the time of these individuals.”

Blunt (R-MO) 3/4: Tweet – “Israel is one of our closest friends and allies. They are our partners in democracy and freedom. I’m proud to #StandWithIsrael”

Blunt (R-MO) 3/4: Tweet – “Israel is one of our closest allies. Proud to be a strong supporter of @AIPAC and glad to see so many Missourians are in Washington for AIPAC’s annual conference. Thank you for sharing with me how I can support your important work.”

Barrasso (R-WY) 3/3: Tweet – “The United States and Israel share a deep and longstanding friendship. Our nations understand the values of democracy, opportunity, and freedom. America’s relationship with Israel is stronger than ever. #StandWithIsrael”

Brady (R-TX) 3/3: Tweet – “Today, we welcomed #TX08 constituents who are in DC participating in @AIPAC. Our two nations are better because of our friendship, and I am proud to stand firmly with our ally. #IStandWithIsrael #AIPAC2020

Brindisi (D-NY) 3/3: Tweet – “Thanks to everyone from #NY22 who stopped by with @AIPAC to talk about our bipartisan work to strengthen the bond between the United States and Israel.”

Cassidy (R-LA) 3/3: Tweet – “Enjoyed seeing my constituents at #AIPAC2020. I stand with @AIPAC because the U.S.-Israel relationship must always have the strong, bipartisan and unwavering support of the United States. #AIPACProud”

Chabot (R-OH) 3/6: Tweet – “I had a great meeting with constituents who were in town for @AIPAC 2020 Policy Conference. I will always be proud to stand with #Israel.”

Cruz (R-TX) 3/2: Tweet (w/ embedded video) – “Today at @AIPAC I talked about finally shredding the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal, and announced plans to work w the Trump admin on a solution at the UN that protects Americans & Israelis from unjust & politically motivated prosecutions in the Intl Criminal Court.”

Cruz (R-TX) 3/2: Twitter thread (accompanied by photos with Vucic)- “Glad to meet with Serbian President Vucic to discuss Serbia’s alliance with the US and deepening ties with our mutual ally, Israel. I applaud his announcement at @AIPAC that Serbia will open an official diplomatic presence in Jerusalem.” and “Serbia’s decision shows yet again that when the US takes lead in bolstering our allies – as @realDonaldTrumpdid when he moved our own embassy to Jerusalem – our other allies will be reassured, support, and follow. The US, Israel, and Serbia can achieve much by working together.”

Cruz (R-TX) 3/3: Sen. Cruz Discusses US-Israel Relationship at 2020 AIPAC Policy Conference (also Tweet – “Great to speak with @AIPAC’s #TX members in our nation’s capital. Your commitment to strengthening America and Israel’s unshakeable alliance has made a tremendous difference, and I am grateful for your bipartisan advocacy efforts.”)

Cruz (R-TX) 3/3: Sen. Cruz: It Has Never Been More Important to Assure the Bipartisan Commitment to Strengthening America and Israel’s Unshakable Alliance

Ernst (R-IA) 3/3: Tweet – “Our country’s relationship with Israel is more important now than ever, and I’m proud to be a voice for the pro-Israel community in Iowa, and across the country. Thanks to the Iowans with @AIPAC who met with me today! #AIPAC2020”

Escobar (D-TX) 3/4: Tweet – “Great to see El Paso community leaders in our nation’s capital this week! We had a great discussion about strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and opportunities to advance security in the Middle East.”

Ferguson (R-GA) 3/4: Tweet – “Thank you to the Georgia members of @AIPAC for meeting with me to discuss the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Garcia (D-TX) 3/3; Tweet – “John, my Chief of Staff, had a productive meeting with @AIPAC members about the importance of maintaining bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship. #AIPACProud”

Grassley (R-IA) 3/3: Tweet – “This wk thousands attended the AIPAC policy conference I went to the cong reception & had many Iowans in my office 2day to discuss grassroots support for the US-Israel relationship. Israel is the only democracy in the region + a strong US ally”

Hagedorn (R-MN) 3/4: Tweet – “Had a great meeting yesterday with @AIPAC members from Minnesota. We discussed the need to protect Israel by continuing the arms embargo on Iran and push back on discrimination by the ICC against Israelis.”

Hastings (D-FL) 3/3: Tweet – “Pleased to host members of @AIPAC once again for a meeting during their annual policy conference to discuss the continued importance of a strong relationship between the US & Israel, in addition to supporting Jewish communities in my district and across the globe.”

Hawley (R-MO) 3/3: Tweet – “Honored to meet today with @AIPAC members from #Missouri. I cast my first vote in the US Senate in support of #Israel and will continue to fight to strengthen our partnership every day I have this job”

Hoyer (D-MD) 3/1: Hoyer Delivers Remarks at AIPAC Annual Policy Conference

Lee (R-UT) 3/3: Tweet – “Great meeting with the Utah chapter of @AIPAC today in Washington. The U.S.-Israel relationship has never been stronger!!!”

Lesko (R-AZ) 3/3: Tweet – “Always a please to discuss the U.S.-Israel relationship, the security situation confronting Israel, and legislative efforts the U.S. Congress can take to support Israel with members of @AIPAC. Thanks for coming to my Washington, D.C. office today!

Loeffler (R-GA) 3/3: Tweet – “It’s more important than ever that we maintain our bond with our strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel.   Today I stopped by the @AIPAC policy conference w/ @SenDavidPerdue to discuss our shared commitment to a strong US-Israel relationship. Thank you for all you do, @AIPAC!

McCarthy (R-CA) 3/5: Facebook – “Israel Has a Right to Defend Itself – This may sound obvious, but it needs to be said: Israel has a right to defend itself. ⦿ From missiles ⦿ And bombs ⦿ And tunnels ⦿ And knife attacks” [with link to AIPAC speech]

McCaul (R-TX) and Engel (D-NY) 3/3: McCaul & Engel Discuss the U.S.-Israel Relationship, Bipartisanship at AIPAC

McClintock (R-CA) 3/3: Tweet – “Had a great discussion today with @AIPAC members from California about the security and prosperity of Israel.”

McConnell (R-KY) 3/3: Leader McConnell Speaks at AIPAC Policy Conference (Tweet – “I am proud to join @AIPAC in witnessing to the world-changing friendship between the United States and Israel. Join me LIVE at #AIPAC2020 https://watch.aipac.org”

McConnell (R-KY) 3/3: Tweet – “The American people deserve a debate about how best to stand with Israel. How best to lead in the world. Not whether to do so at all. I hope we can restore the bipartisan consensus that has served our nation, Israel, and the world so well. But we need to fight for it. #AIPAC2020”

McConnell (R-KY) 3/3: Tweet – “In many ways, #AIPAC2020 marks a promising time for the U.S.-Israel relationship. We in the pro-Israel community have much to celebrate. But we must also be honest and clear-eyed about challenges. And that includes a dangerous shift in our politics here at home.”

McSally (R-AZ) 3/4: Tweet – “Great to visit with Arizonans in town for @AIPAC yesterday. We spoke about the tremendous value America’s alliance with Israel holds for both democracies.”

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/3: Menendez Delivers Keynote Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference

Morelle (D-NY) 3/5: Tweet – “Happy to meet with students and leaders from Rochester’s Jewish community this week to discuss the issues facing Israel and the Jewish people both at home and abroad. #AIPAC2020”

Pappas (D-NH) 3/4: Tweet – “Thank you to my friends from @AIPAC for stopping by to discuss our continued bipartisan work to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Perdue (R-GA) 3/3: Tweet – “My first international trip as a U.S. Senator was to Israel. I wanted to personally express my support for our strongest ally in the Middle East. Thanks @AIPAC for working to strengthen and protect the U.S.-Israel relationship!”

Portman (R-OH) 3/3: Tweet – “Enjoyed speaking with a group of Ohio @AIPAC members about America’s unwavering support for Israel and our efforts to combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism at home. The US-Israeli bond is stronger today than ever before!”

Rice (D-NY) 3/3: Tweet – “Honored to speak with so many constituents who are here in DC for #AIPAC2020 I’m proud to stand with @AIPAC and support a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.”

Roby (R-AL) 3/3: Tweet – “This morning, @AIPAC members from Alabama came by my office to discuss several different issues. I assured them that I remain committed to our country’s friendship with Israel. Thank you for meeting w/ me!”

Rosen (D-NV) 3/2: Rosen Addresses AIPAC Policy Conference, Highlights Need to Protect Israel’s Security, Extend UN Arms Embargo on Iran (also Tweet – “Productive meeting with @AIPAC today! I’ll continue standing up for our critical partnership with Israel, including ensuring that it maintains its qualitative military edge.” and Tweet – “As the 3rd female Jewish Senator & the 1st former synagogue president to serve in the Senate, the U.S.-Israeli relationship is deeply personal to me. At @AIPAC today, I spoke about the need to combat anti-Semitism & protect our bond with Israel.”

Rubio (R-FL) 3/3: Tweet (w/ video) – “#Israel is facing a broad array of threats to it’s future. Now more than ever, America must stand with the Jewish state. #AIPAC2020”

Scalise (R-LA) 3/2: Scalise Talks Iranian Threat, Importance of Israeli Alliance at AIPAC

Sherill (D-NJ) 3/4; Tweet – “Thank you to all our #NJ11 residents who came to speak to me yesterday about issues important to a strong American-Israeli relationship. It was impressive to see the engagement of so many students in our community.”

Sherman (D-CA) 3/3: Tweet – “Great to meet with so many San Fernando Valley residents who are in town for #AIPAC2020. I discussed the work I’m doing to continue strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Scott (R-FL) 3/2: Tweet – “Thanks for having me @AIPAC ! It was great being at the conference today. It is very important that we can all come together to support our great ally – Israel.”

Sinema (D-AZ) 3/4: Sinema Meets with Arizona AIPAC Leaders (also Tweet – “We met with @AIPAC leaders to discuss the important bond between the U.S. and the State of Israel.”)

Stanton (D-AZ) 3/4: Tweet – “.@AIPAC leaders from Arizona stopped by this week to discuss the U.S. / Israel alliance and the growing economic relationship between our state and Israel.”

Thune (R-ND) 3/3: Tweet – “Met w/ South Dakotans in town for the #AIPAC conference. We discussed how important the America-Israel partnership is for both our countries. This is a relationship that should have complete #bipartisan support. Israel is a stabilizing force in a very volatile part of our world.”

Thune (R-ND) 3/3: Tweet – “Israel is an important ally and a beacon of democracy in a notoriously unstable and dangerous part of the world. I’m protective of our partnership with Israel and will continue to work in the Senate to support and strengthen it. #AIPAC2020

Toomey (R-PA) 3/3: Tweet – “Few nations have been as good a friend to the U.S. as Israel. That’s why those of us in Congress must continue supporting the safety and well-being of our closest ally in the Middle East. I enjoyed speaking about this, and other issues, with @AIPAC members today. #AIPAC2020”

Wild (D-PA) 3/3: Tweet – “It’s always the highlight of my day when I get to see folks from home, especially college students, here in DC. Thanks to all these constituents for meeting with me today to discuss the importance of maintaining a strong, bipartisan, US-Israel relationship. See you back in PA-07!”

Wilson (R-SC) 3/4: “…Yesterday, I met with AIPAC members, led by David Kulbersh and his wife, Jane, of Columbia. They continued the tradition of the late David Baker of Columbia advising my predecessor, Chairman Floyd Spence. Americans appreciate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a world statesman, for his cooperation with Jared Kushner for peace. I will always cherish leading the congressional delegation for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem with Ambassador David Friedman as President Donald Trump fulfilled ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept.’”

Miscellaneous Matters

Cruz (R-TX) 3/5: Sen. Cruz: ‘The ICC’s Campaign Against Our Troops Will Fail Because the United States Will Ensure That It Fails’ [“Today’s announcement by the International Criminal Court is an explicit assault on the sovereignty and security of the United States, which is not a party to the ICC and over which the ICC has no jurisdiction. It marks the end of the pretense that the ICC is a legitimate legal body bound by norms and jurisdiction, and exposes it as a political organization targeting America and our allies, including Israel, to advance the political agendas of hostile countries which themselves often lack the rule of law. The United States will not sit idly by while unaccountable political operatives convene kangaroo court trials in foreign countries to prosecute and persecute American soldiers and the soldiers of our allies. I will work with my colleagues and the Trump administration on measures aimed at countering this decision, including and especially through a United Nations Security Council resolution that would prohibit the ICC from prosecuting the nationals of non-member states.” Also see: Daily Beast 3/5: Sen. Ted Cruz Hatches Plan to Curtail the International Criminal Court’s Power [“The Texas Republican is working to garner support for a resolution that would call on the UN Security Council to bar the ICC from bringing charges against people from states who aren’t parties to the treaty that governs it—which would include Russia, China, the U.S., and Israel.The resolution would also condemn the court for investigating American soldiers and Israeli officials, per a Republican aide familiar with Cruz’s outreach. Cruz has indicated that he expects bipartisan support for the effort…”] and Cruz tweet 3/2: “Today at @AIPAC I talked about finally shredding the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal, and announced plans to work w the Trump admin on a solution at the UN that protects Americans & Israelis from unjust & politically motivated prosecutions in the Intl Criminal Court.”

Feinstein (D-CA) 3/5: Tweet – “It’s deeply troubling that Iran has tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium since November. This must serve as a wake-up call for the Trump administration that its Iran strategy isn’t working. Iran must return to compliance and we must return to negotiations.” [linked to pdf of longer statement on the issue]

Duckworth (D-IL) 3/4: Duckworth Statement on Reports Iran Now Has Fuel Needed for Nuclear Weapon

Wild (D-PA) 3/4: I rise today to recognize three extraordinary women: Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan.  For nearly 2 years, these women have been imprisoned, placed in solitary confinement, and tortured by the Saudi Government, all because they used their voices to express the need for the government to recognize the fundamental rights and dignity of women…I urge my colleagues to join me as a cosponsor of H. Res. 129, a resolution which calls for the immediate release of these activists and calls on the administration to impose sanctions on Saudi officials responsible for human rights violations.”

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/3: Menendez Statement on Iran’s Increased Stockpile of Enriched Uranium

Risch (R-ID) 3/3: Chairman Risch Commends IAEA for Pushing Iran to Fulfill Its Obligations

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/3: Menendez Statement on Iran’s Increased Stockpile of Enriched Uranium

Arms Sale notification 3/3: Up to eight (8) KC-46 Aircraft; Up to seventeen (17) PW4062 Turbofan Engines (16 installed, 1 spare); and Up to eighteen (18) MAGR 2K-GPS SAASM Receivers (16 installed, 2 spares).

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