Legislative Round-Up - September 11, 2020

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Hearings & Markups
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.

Shameless plug: On 9/10, FMEP and Jewish Currents co-convened a webinar entitled, “Social Media in the Crosshairs: The Effort to Redefine Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel.” The webinar was led by Peter Beinart and featured as panelists Liz Jackson (Palestine Legal) and Lara Friedman (FMEP). Video can be viewed here.

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(LIBYA TERROR) S. 4554: Introduced 9/9 by Collins (R-ME), “A bill to provide compensation for United States victims of Libyan state sponsored terrorism, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. (All Actions)


(DEAR HFAC: CHAMPION RETURN TO THE JCPOA) Pro-Diplomacy Orgs’ letter House Members: On 9/11, a group of 16 arms control, foreign policy and progressive grassroots groups — including the Arms Control Association, J Street, Indivisible, MoveOn, NIAC Action and Win Without War — sent a letter to the House of Representatives outlining steps the next Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee should take to champion a U.S. return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal.  The letter observes: “It is critical that a new HFAC chairman champions the United States swiftly returning to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, in tandem with Iran returning to full adherence with its nuclear obligations. Any effort to complicate a mutual return to the JCPOA, such as adding unrealistic preconditions or terms, would risk scuttling the last opportunity to save the accord and avert an irreversible escalation of tensions leading to a war.” It goes on to lay out a list of commitments the next Chair of HFAC must make.

(WE WILL DEFEND ISRAEL’S QME!) Schneider et al letter to Trump: On 9/10, Rep. Schneider (D-IL) led a letter to President Trump — co-signed by Reps. Deutch (D-FL), Gottheimer (D-NJ), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Lieu (D-CA), Luria (D-VA), Rose (D-NY), Cisneros (D-CA) and Spanberger (D-VA) — expressing concerns about the potential sale of F-35s to the UAE. The letter warns: “we will oppose any arms sale that would threaten Israel’s QME, and we will take every opportunity to advocate for Israel’s security. In accordance with US law, we firmly expect your Administration keep Congress fully apprised of any pending arm sales to the region.” Press release is here.

(WE <HEART> USCRIF RECS) Lankford et al letter to Pompeo & Brownback: On 9/4, Senator Lankford (R-OK) led a letter, cosigned by 13 Senate colleagues (bipartisan), sent to SecState Pompeo and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. As described in the press release, the letter asks the State Department “to consider recommendations made by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) when determining designations of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) and placement on the Special Watch List (SWL). CPC and SWL designations by the Secretary of State often differ from USCIRF recommendation [sic]. CPC countries are nations engaged in severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).  Similarly, an SWL country does not meet all of the CPC criteria, but engages in or tolerates severe violations of religious freedom.” [In fact, while the press release is clear about the intent behind the letter, the letter itself is notably vague with respect to an actual ask]. Along with Lankford, signers were: Coons (D-DE), Grassley (R-IA), Rubio (R-FL), Graham (R-SC), Tillis (R-NC), Scott (R-SC), Ernst (R-IA), Rosen (D-NV), Cramer (R-ND), Wicker (R-MS), Daines (R-MT), Van Hollen (D-MD), and Manchin (D-WV).

(PROBE POMPEO RNC SPEECH) Engel-Lowey letter to DOS Deputy IG: On 9/3, Rep. Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Lowey (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations, sent a letter to State Department Deputy Inspector General Diana Shaw, requesting that she launch an immediate inquiry “into the Department of State’s processes and determinations surrounding Secretary of State Pompeo’s August 25, 2020, speech to the Republican National Convention (RNC). Secretary Pompeo’s decision to make this speech [while in Jerusalem on official travel] appears to have violated long-standing prohibitions on Department employees’ participation in political activities and sends a message that the rules and standards that govern most Department employees don’t apply to the Department’s senior political appointee.” Press release is here. 

(EGYPT HUMAN RIGHTS) Smith-Deutch et al letter to Pompeo: On 8/27 [not reported previously], Reps. Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Deutch (D-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism led a letter – co-signed by 38 other House members – urging SecState Pompeo regarding human rights in Egypt. The members “raise significant concerns regarding the continued lack of human rights and due process with Egypt’s use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment, including the targeting of U.S. citizens and others with close ties to Americans” and urge Pompeo “to utilize all tools at your disposal to hold Egypt accountable for its failure to meet human rights standards and bring to an end the arbitrary detention of U.S. citizens, individuals with close ties to America, and other politically-motivated detainees.” Press release is here.

2. Hearings & Markups

9/16: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Why did the Trump Administration Fire the State Department Inspector General?” Scheduled witnesses are: Brian Bulatao, Under Secretary of State for Management; Marik String, Acting Legal Adviser at the Department of State; and R. Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

9/11: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) convened a virtual unclassified hearing entitled, “Assessing the U.S.-Saudi Security and Intelligence Relationship.” Witnesses were: Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions (statement); Bruce Riedel, The Brookings Institution (no written statement available); and Ali Soufan, The Soufan Group (statement). Video of the hearing is here. [Hearing is happening as this Round-Up is being published.]

9/9: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and International Terrorism held a two-panel hearing entitled, Egypt: Trends in Politics, Economics, and Human Rights.” Panel 1 consisted of Bahey eldin Hassan, Director and Co-Founder Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; and Mohamed Soltan, President and Co-founder, The Freedom Initiative [neither submitted a written statement]. Panel 2 consisted of Michele Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (statement); Amy Hawthorne, Project on Middle East Democracy (statement); Tamara Cofman Wittes, The Brookings Institution (statement); and Samuel Tadros, Hudson Institute (statement). Video of the hearing is here. Also see: Al-Monitor – US lawmakers grapple with Egypt policy as Sisi’s clampdown continues

3. On the Record

Members in general

Wilson (R-SC) 9/10: Wilson Commends President Trump For Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

Cruz (R-TX) 9/10: Tweet – “We have to end our dependence on #China for life-saving medications & treatments. The Senate took steps to address this threat by including in the #NDAA @ChrisCoons’ & my bill to expand medical partnerships with Israel to develop #COVID19 treatments.

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 9/9: Press release – Ahead of 9/11 Anniversary, Gottheimer Announces “Online Arsenal to Combat Foreign Terrorist Organizations” Using Social Media to Spread Extremism and Finance Terror

Reschenthaler (R-PA) 9/9: Tweet – “President Trump absolutely deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. @POTUS has: Negotiated UAE & Kosovo to recognize Israel | Facilitated Serbia & Kosovo’s economic normalization | Destroyed ISIS | Taken out top terrorists | Trump continues to work towards world peace.

Cotton (R-AR) 9/9: Tweet: “Eight years of Obama-Biden foreign policy set the world on fire, from ISIS in the MidEast, to PRC island-building in the Pacific. Donald Trump brokered historic deals between Israel/UAE & Kosovo/Serbia. Obama’s Nobel Prize was a joke. This is deserved.

Lamborn (R-CO) 9/9: Tweet – “.@realDonaldTrump’s historic agreement between Israel and the UAE is yet another example of his art of the deal. @POTUS deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

Loeffler (R-GA) 9/9: Tweet – “.@realdonaldtrump has played a vital role in the efforts to turn the Middle East into a region of cooperation and prosperity. Congratulations on being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, @POTUS! What a well-deserved honor!

Walker (R-NC) 9/9: Tweet – “The Israel-UAE deal is historic in every sense, with peace, prosperity and security on the horizon in the Middle East. It’s no surprise to see @realDonaldTrump’s agreement has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Scott (R-FL) 9/6: Tweet – “Glad to see nations like Kosovo, Serbia and now Malawi making the right decision and joining the US in acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This is a historic step to further recognize Israel and support peace in the Middle East.

Engel (D-NY) 9/4: Tweet – “Chairman@RepEliotEngel: Congratulations to #Israel and #Kosovo on the establishment of diplomatic relations. I have long worked and hoped for the day that such great friends of America would exchange ambassadors. I would like to thank all involved for making it happen.

Cotton (R-TX) 9/2: Cotton Statement on Sanctions Against ICC Prosecutor

Engel (D-NY) 9/2: Engel Statement on Administration’s Sanctions on ICC Officials

Granger (R-TX) 8/24: Press release – Granger Praises New Partnership Between Texas Guard and the Egyptian Armed Forces


Articles and Reports Related to the Hill


JTA 9/10: In a South Florida congressional race, Jewish culture wars erupt

Jewish Insider 9/10: Does Army veteran Jackie Gordon have what it takes? [“…Todd Richman, co-chair of Democratic Majority for Israel — whose sister organization, DMFI PAC, recently endorsed Gordon — said the candidate’s experience in the Middle East gives her unique insight into issues of concern to pro-Israel Democrats. ‘As a combat veteran who has served in the Middle East, she has a key understanding of the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and its importance not just for Israelis’ security but for our security as well,’ he said.”]

Breitbart 9/9: Poll: Darrell Issa in Close Race with Ammar Campa-Najjar, Grandson of Palestinian Terrorist

American Jewish Committee 9/9: Tweet – “If we are working on our Yiddish, Laura Loomer, this ad is a complete and utter shande. It should be condemned by all people of good faith starting with @FloridaGOP!” [AJC tweet commenting on this Laura Loomer campaign video attacking Rep. Lois Frankel].

Jewish Insider 9/9: DMFI releases new round of congressional endorsements

Jewish Insider 9/9: Rep. Elissa Slotkin fights to keep seat in Republican stronghold [“…In response to questions about the Bloomberg images and the Proud Boys, Junge’s campaign hit back at Slotkin. ‘Hate groups and antisemitism have no place in our society but unfortunately Elissa Slotkin continues to support antisemite [Rep.] Ilhan Omar and refuses to call for her removal from the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee,’ a campaign spokesperson said. ‘The congresswoman is clearly trying to deflect from her anti-Israel record, the fact that she received $2.4 million from Bloomberg in 2018, and is poised to receive more this election.’”]

Jewish News Syndicate 9/9: Sherman questions rivals for House Foreign Affairs chairmanship over Israel [(1) they boycotted Bibi speech, (2) they voted against House resolution bashing Obama and UNSCR 2334, (3) they support conditioning aid to Israel [despite Meeks saying he doesn’t]

Jewish Insider 9/9: Sherman slams rivals on their Israel record in race for Foreign Affairs chairmanship [“Sherman also implored the pro-Israel group to intervene in the caucus vote that will decide the next chair following the November election — despite DMFI’s failed high-dollar investment to defend Engel in his June 23 primary. He named several groups, including IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine, who are supporting Castro, an effort he described as a ‘block Sherman movement.’ ‘You went to bat for Eliot Engel in a huge way, and demonstrated that you understood how important that chairmanship is,’ Sherman told the group on the Zoom call. ‘Eliot Engel was Plan A. I strongly supported him. But now I’m going to try to ask you to go with Plan B. And I won’t compare myself to my good friend Eliot Engel, except to say that when it comes to having one’s heart in the right place, Eliot and I are in the exact same place.’”]

Fox News 9/9: Lieberman endorses GOP Sen. Susan Collins in Maine race

Other News

ForeignLobby.com 9/10: Saudis build ties to Congressional Black Caucus

Israel Hayom 9/10: US lawmaker [Wasserman Schultz, D-FL] warns sale of F-35 to UAE could ‘compromise’ Israel’s security

JTA 9/9: Leading US Democratic Rep: F-35 sales to UAE puts Israel in danger

Free Beacon 9/9: Official With Anti-Israel U.N. Group to Help Train BDS Activists in D.C.

AP 9/9: Congress questions sale of US residence in Israel to Adelson

Jewish Press 9/6: 2020 Congressional election– Critical to US-Israel Ties [Yoram Ettinger – well worth a read to understand values/policies that are being celebrated as part of a “pro-Israel” worldview]

Mondoweiss 9/7: The next Congress will have more members who want to condition aid to Israel and that’s what Democratic voters want

Jewish News Syndicate 9/3: GOP congressman calls Biden’s pledge to restore US funding to Palestinians ‘mental incoherence’

The “don’t-say-I-haven’t-been-warning-about-this-for-years” category 

Algemeiner 9/9: US State Department Planning Expanded Campaign Using ‘All Legal and Policy Tools’ to Combat ‘Antisemitic’ BDS Movement Against Israel