Legislative Round-up: March 27, 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

(US TROOPS OUT OF KSA) S. 3572: Introduced 3/24 by Cramer (R-ND) and Sullivan (R-AK), “A bill to require the removal of United States Armed Forces from Saudi Arabia.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(NEW REQUIREMENTS ON US MILITARY TRAINING FOR FOREIGNERS) HR 6392: Introduced 3/25 by Waltz (R-FL) and Gaetz (R-FL), “To modify the conditions and terms of all foreign military training programs operated within the United States by the Department of Defense and the Department of State.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Armed Services. NOTE: Text isn’t online yet and neither sponsor has issued a press release, but it is clear that this bill is linked to the December 2019 deadly attack at a military facility in Florida, in which a member of the Saudi military who was in the US taking part in training military training shot 11 people, killing 3 members of the US Navy.


(PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TO PALESTINIANS TO FIGHT COVID-19) Warren-Van Hollen letter to Pompeo: On 3/27, Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Van Hollen (D-MD) sent a letter, cosigned by 6 Democratic Senate colleagues, urging Secretary of State Pompeo “to take every reasonable step toprovide medicine, medical equipment, and other necessary assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip(Palestinian Territories) to prevent a humanitarian disaster.” The 4-page letter, which includes extensive citations and footnotes, note that “The Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Appropriations Act included $75 million for humanitarian and development assistance for the Palestinian people. Despite that appropriation, and in the face of a COVID-19 outbreak in the West Bank and the beginnings of one in Gaza,as far as we are aware the Administration has not reconsidered its policy of ceasing all bilateral assistance to the Palestinians and all contributions to UNRWA.” The letter continues: “The COVID-19 pandemic poses an unprecedented health, diplomatic, and economic threat, and it is in the national security interest of the United States and in the interest of the Palestinian people and our ally Israel, where there are more than 1,200 confirmed cases,to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the Palestinian Territories.” The letter closes with a list of five specific questions for Pompeo to answer, related to any planned action/inaction in this regard, with a response required by April 3. Press release is here

(SANCTIONS ARE HURTING FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19) Murphy letter to Pompeo/Green: On 3/25, Sens. Murphy (D-CT) led a letter, signed by 10 Democratic colleagues, to Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, calling the the easing of economic sanctions against countries where sanctions are hindering the humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic – specifically Iran and Venezuela. The letter notes: “broad-based U.S. sanctions have exacerbated the failing medical response. Helping these nations save lives during this crisis is the right thing to do from a moral perspective, but it is also the right thing to do from a national security perspective.” Press release is here

(MAINTAIN AID TO YEMEN DURING COVID19 CRISIS) Engel-Smith letter to Pompeo/Green: On 3/26, Reps. Engel (D-NY) and Smith (D-WA) sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo and USAID Administrator Green laying out the case for continued humanitarian assistance to Yemen, and noting: “In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you to reconsider the planned suspension and outline which areas of assistance could be exempt.  A suspension of assistance during a pandemic would risk the health response in a country in which at least 50% of its healthcare is offline due to fighting.  This certainly and needlessly leads to more lives lost...” Press release is here.

(MORE DIPLOMACY TO DEAL WITH KSA/RUSSIA OIL ISSUE) McCaul letter to DOS: On 3/26, Rep, McCaul (R-TX) sent a letter to Keith Krach, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, urging the State Department to “continue diplomatic engagement to help stem the devastating economic implications of the ongoing oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.” McCaul goes on to “commend Secretary Pompeo for emphasizing the need for global economic stability on his recent call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud” and to “encourage you to keep up this pressure until we see changes.” Press release is here.

(DOS MUST FIGHT KSA/RUSSIA ECON WARFARE) Murkowski-Cramer letter to Pompeo: On 3/25, Senators Murkowski (D-AK) and Cramer (R-ND) led a letter, co-signed by 4 Senate GOP colleagues, to Secretary of State Pompeo, urging him “to encourage both Riyadh and Moscow to stop wreaking havoc in global markets—particularly as our nation seeks to address a growing pandemic and avert an economic crisis.” The letter lays out the case the Senators want Pompeo to make to KSA: “Instead of investing in Russian energy projects –which may only deepen Russia’s ties to China and provide it with leverage over American allies in Europe –the Kingdom should partner with the United States on strategic energy infrastructure projects across the Indo-Pacific region and in the Americas.Riyadh should leave the antique OPEC cartel immediately and join the United States on the global stage as a free market energy powerhouse.” The letter also notes that should KSA refuse to comply, the U.S. “retains enormously powerful tools at our disposal. In addition to the various types of aid and assistance we already provide – none of which should ever be offered perpetually and unconditionally – we are reminded of the levers of statecraft the Administration is empowered to exercise. From tariffs and other trade restrictions to investigations, safeguard actions, sanctions, and much else, the American people are not without recourse. In addition, following the enactment of S. 2040, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, Congress is also willing to contemplate revisiting any relevant antitrust authorities and support for the war in Yemen.” Press release is here.

(INVESTIGATE KSA/RUSSIA OIL DUMPING) Inhofe letter to Commerce Secretary: On 3/18, Inhofe (R-OK) led a letter, signed by 8 Senate GOP colleagues, to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, urging him “to investigate the excessive dumping of crude oil by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation and develop a swift reply.” The letter notes: “As Secretary, all of your authorities related to imports, national security, and safeguards should be considered for the most appropriate and expeditious response.” Press release is here.

(EMBARGO OIL FROM RUSSIA, OPEC) Cramer letter to Trump: On 3/18, Sen. Cramer (R-ND) sent a letter urging President Trump to direct his Administration“to take immediate action under the authorities granted to you, including Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, to embargo crude oil from Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other OPEC nations like Iraq. In 2018, the United States imported nearly 1.5 million barrels per day from the three aforementioned countries. Today, these same nations expect our producers and workers to absorb these impacts without recourse. We must send the immediate signal; the United States will not be bullied or taken for granted.” Press release is here.

(KSA - PLEASE STOP MESSING WITH OIL MARKETS!) Sullivan-Cramer letter to MBS: On 3/16, 13 GOP senators, led by Sullivan (R-AK) and Cramer (R-ND) sent a letter to KSA Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud noting: Senior Saudi government leaders have repeatedly told American officials. including us, that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a force for stability in global markets. Recent Saudi actions have called this role into question.” The letter goes on to urge KSA to “assert constructive leadership in stabilizing the world economy by calming economic anxiety in the oil and gas sector at a time when countries around the world are addressing the pandemic.” The press release for the letter de-codes that ask a bit, stating the senators are  “urging the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to halt its recent efforts to boost oil production and lower crude oil prices.”

2. Hearings

Nothing to report.

3. On the Record

Sanders (I-VT) and Khanna (D-CA) 3/26: Sanders and Khanna Welcome Yemen Ceasefire, Call for U.S. Humanitarian, Not Military, Support

McCaul (R-TX) 3/25: Statement on Death of Bob Levinson in Iranian Custody

Rubio (R-FL) 3/25: Rubio Statement on the Reported Death of Bob Levinson

Risch (R-ID) 3/25: Chairman Risch Statement on Bob Levinson

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/25: Menendez Statement on Retired FBI Agent Bob Levinson

Feinstein (D-CA) 3/25: Feinstein Statement on Turkish Indictments Related to Khashoggi Murder

Hoeven (R-ND) 3/18: Hoeven Presses Saudi Ambassador to Pull Back on Oil Price War With Russia

Congress-related news with an Israel/Mideast Angle

JTA 3/27: Israeli-American adviser to Andrew Yang challenges longtime lawmaker Jerry Nadler for congressional seat

JTA 3/27: In a pandemic, lobbies move into the home office [

Jewish Insider 3/26: Born in California, raised in Gaza — will San Diego send this millennial to Congress?

The Forward 3/23: Rashida Tlaib has a serious primary opponent - who’s a Louis Farrakhan fan