Legislative Round-up: February 19, 2021

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:

New FMEP Webinar – Feb 19, 2pm – “The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism Part 6: Implications and Impacts of the IHRA Definition on Palestinians,” featuring Ahmad Daraldik, Florida State University student and former Student Senate President; Dima Khalidi,Founder and Director of Palestine Legal; and Dr. Sherene Seikaly, professor and historian of the modern Middle East; in discussion with me (FMEP President Lara Friedman).

*Brought to you in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Round-Up was born!

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(IRAN HOSTAGES) HR 1179: Introduced 2/18 by Suozzi (D-NY) and 9 bipartisan cosponsors, “To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the former hostages of the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981, highlighting their resilience throughout the unprecedented ordeal which they lived through and the national unity it produced, marking four decades since their 444 days in captivity, and recognizing their sacrifice to our country.” Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, in addition to the Committees on House Administration, and the Budget.

(PRESS FREEDOM/JAMAL KHASHOGGI) S. 226: Introduced 2/4 (not covered in last week’s Round-Up) by Klobuchar (D-MN) and Leahy (D-VT), “A bill to protect journalists and other members of the press from gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, and for other purposes.” Text of the bill is still not in the Congressional Record, but on 2/16 Klobuchar issued a press release clarifying that S. 226 is the “Jamal Khashoggi Press Freedom Accountability Act.” According to the press release, the bill “would place targeted sanctions, restrict foreign aid, and increase reporting on human rights abuses committed against journalists by foreign governments.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY, RULE OF LAW IN US FOREIGN POLICY!) H. Res. 137:Introduced 2/18 by Meeks (D-NY) and McCaul (R-TX), “Reaffirming the importance of upholding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in United States foreign policy.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.


(TAKE ACTION AGAINST MURDERERS OF LOKMAN SLIM) Meeks-McCaul letter to Biden: On 2/18, Reps. Meeks (D-NY) and McCaul (R-TX) sent a letter to President Biden regarding the murder of Lebanese anti-Hezbollah activist Lokman Slim. The letter states: “The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act could serve as an appropriate tool to hold those responsible accountable for the extrajudicial killing of Lokman Slim. We believe Slim’s murder could constitute a sanctionable gross violation of internationally recognized human rights committed against a foreign person seeking to exercise and promote basic freedoms and the rule of law. We urge you to consider utilizing Magnitsky authorities in calibrating the appropriate response to Slim’s murder. We similarly urge you to consider any relevant information, including with respect to officials in the Governments of Lebanon and Iran, if appropriate in calibrating such a response.” Press release is here.

(REVIEW IRANIAN BEHAVIOR/US POLICIES) Steil et al letter to HFAC leaders: On 2/17, Reps. Steil (R-WI), Wilson (R-SC), Crenshaw (R-TX) and Gosar (R-AZ) sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee urging the committee “to examine Iran’s nuclear program, their support for terrorism, and their attempts to intimidate our allies.” The letter asserts: “Iran’s recent provocations pose a range of threats to U.S. national security and the security of our regional allies and partners…Considering these recent developments, Congress should review existing policies and programs designed to counter the full range of Iranian threats.” Press release is here; Steil tweet.

(REVERSE WESTERN SAHARA RECOGNITION) Inhofe-Leahy letter to Biden: On 2/17, Sens. Inhofe (R-OK) and Leahy (D-VT) led a letter, cosigned by 25 of Senate colleagues (bipartisan) urging President Biden to reverse the Trump Administration’s recognition of Morocco’s claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara. The letter states: “The abrupt decision by the previous administration on December 11, 2020, to officially recognize the Kingdom of Morocco’s illegitimate claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara was short-sighted, undermined decades of consistent U.S. policy, and alienated a significant number of African nations. We respectfully urge you to reverse this misguided decision and recommit the United States to the pursuit of a referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara.” Press release is here. [Next up: surely a similar letter regarding Trump Admin recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights? Keep dreaming (and stop calling me Shirley)]

(UAE HUMAN RIGHTS) Exchange of letters between Khanna & UAE Amb: On 2/13, UAE Ambassador to the US Al Otaiba sent a letter to Rep. Khanna (D-CA) – released on the UAE Embassy’s Twitter account – inviting Khanna to appear on his podcast, following Khanna’s appearance on another podcast where he described how Al Oteiba angrily responded to his push to end US support for the war in Yemen [“I’ve never had an ambassador of another country come to my office and literally yell at me, but that’s what I had with the ambassador to UAE’]. Responding to the public release of that letter, Khanna released the letter (and announced on Twitter) that he sent in response on 2/13, which noted: “I appreciate the invitation and would like to take you up on it under the appropriate circumstances.Right now, it would not be appropriate for me to appear on your podcast while a well-known journalist is detained with the support of your government -apparently because of his work building bridges with US and other foreign journalists as a fixer. As you know, the Committee to Protect Journalistsfeatured a report that the Southern Transitional Council (STC) is unable to release Adel Al-Hasani due to political pressure from the UAE. Given the widespread reporting of the UAE’s involvement in Al-Hasani’s continued detention, I will not be able to join your podcast until he is released.”  Also see: Feud between Congressman and UAE ambassador to US escalates online (Middle East Eye); UAE and US officials in social media clash over Yemen (Middle East Monitor)

(STANDING WITH DESIRE OF THE IRANIAN PEOPLE – AS DEFINED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS) House letter to Biden: On 2/11 (not reported in last week’s Round-Up), Reps. McClintock (R-CA) and Sherman (D-CA) led a letter to President Biden informing his of the introduction of H. Res. 118 [Introduced 2/11 by McClintock (R-CA) and 112 cosponsors (87 Republican, 25 Democrats), “Expressing support for the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular, and nonnuclear Republic of Iran and condemning violations of human rights and state-sponsored terrorism by the Iranian Government.] Per the letter, “With the introduction of this resolution, a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress encourages all efforts to recognize the rights of the Iranian people and their struggle to establish a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic of Iran while holding the ruling regime accountable for its destructive behavior.” McClintock tweet here; Green (R-TN) tweet supporting the res/re-tweeting McClintock’s letter is here.


2. Hearings & Markups



3. On the Record

Members On The Record…

…re: Biden Iran policy

Green (R-TN) 2/19: Tweet – We cannot relent in our pressure on Iran. The Biden Admin’s concessions to lift sanctions & initiate talks with nothing in return, days after Iranian-backed forces attacked American troops, will lead down a dangerous path of appeasement and help Iran build its nuclear arsenal.”

Loudermilk (R-GA) 2/19: Tweet – “Question: What does @POTUS do after Iran attacks the U.S. military base in Iraqi Kurdistan…? Answer: Capitulate to Iran – the world’s lead state sponsor of terrorism, lift sanctions, and rejoin the #JCPOA, which will help pave the way for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Buchanan (R-FL) 2/19: Tweets – “Appeasement NEVER Works Iran continues to incite trouble around the world and develop weapons-grade nuclear fuel. The Biden administration’s response? Ease up on economic sanctions and re-join the flawed nuclear treaty. You remember the treaty, one of the worst transactions in history. Obama gave Iran $1.7 billion in untraceable cash, much of it reportedly used to fund terrorism and fatten the bank accounts of corrupt Iranian leaders. Strength and accountability beats appeasement. Iran is a murderous regime that cannot be trusted.

Murphy (D-CT) 2/18: “The Trump administration’s maximum pressure approach to isolate and cripple Iran was a miserable failure. These are the right first steps by the Biden administration to reverse course and get us back on a path to rejoining the JCPOA, and we need to keep moving ahead with all deliberate speed. I’m encouraged that Secretary Blinken will rejoin JCPOA members at the next meeting of the P5+1 to discuss the way forward. If we want to make the world safer and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability, direct diplomacy coupled with a swift return to the agreement is necessary.

McCaul (R-TX) 2/18: It is concerning the Biden Administration is already making concessions in an apparent attempt to re-enter the flawed Iran deal. The Trump Administration created leverage for President Biden on Iran – we should not squander that progress. We need to secure a better deal that keeps the American people safe from the full range of Iran’s malign threats. The Biden Administration must prioritize bipartisanship and stick to their assurance not to re-enter the deal until Iran comes back into full compliance with the JCPOA.”

Scott (R-FL) 2/18: Tweet – “I’ll say it again – Iran can’t be trusted. Reports that @POTUS is approaching Iran about the failed nuclear deal are deeply concerning. Nothing can be discussed until Iran cooperates and its ability to develop nuclear weapons & produce ballistic missiles is permanently removed.”

McClain (R-MI) 2/18: Tweet – “This is not only a dangerous step backward for the U.S, but for the security of the entire world. #Iran didn’t hold up its end of the deal in the past. We must ensure UN inspectors have full access to all nuclear sites before easing restrictions on Iran.” Linked to AP article – Biden repudiates Trump on Iran, ready for talks on nuke deal

Cotton (R-AR) 2/18: Tweet – “The Administration must hold Iran to account for the latest attack on American soldiers and stop allowing the ayatollahs to hide behind these flimsy cut-outs.” Linked to Politico op-ed – Iran Just Handed Biden His First Credibility Test

Wilson (R-SC) 2/18: Tweet – “This is outrageous and dangerous. Biden just legalized Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping selling arms to Iran. Why?” Linked to Reuters article – U.S. rescinds Trump White House claim that all U.N. sanctions had been reimposed on Iran

Steube (R-FL) 2/18: Tweet – “I agree Joe. Why is Biden lifting UN sanctions banning Putin from selling arms to Iran? Seems to warrant an investigation…” Linked to Wilson (R-SC) tweet, above.

Burchett (R-TN) 2/18: Burchett: State Department needs to come clean on Malley’s talks with CCP [also see 2/18 tweet – “Shady and secretive phone calls with an adversarial country are not the right approach to dealing with Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The State Department could clear up a lot of confusion if they were straightforward with the American people and shared details from this call.” linked to Free Beacon article – State Dept Refuses to Explain Iran Envoy’s Talks with China]

Cheney (R-WY) 2/18: Cheney: Returning To The JCPOA Will Embolden A Terrorist Regime & Make Us Less Safe [also see tweet“Iran is committing nuclear blackmail and using its proxies to attack Americans, but President Biden wants to return to the JCPOA and give them billions in sanctions relief. Emboldening a terrorist regime will only make us less safe.”]

Murphy (D-CT) 2/17: Tweet – “Your nightly reminder that restarting the Iran nuclear agreement is good for America and the world.

Fitzpatrick (R-PA) 2/16: Tweet – “Transparency is always imperative, but especially in regard to conversations with the CCP. Yes, at times, diplomacy occurs behind closed doors, but it is concerning the State Department will neither confirm nor deny the call took place or share what details were discussed.” Linked to Free Beacon article/tweet – State Dept Refuses to Explain Iran Envoy’s Talks with China

Green (R-TN) 2/16: Tweet – “This raises some questions. I hope the Biden Administration has no intention of getting back into the failed Iran nuclear deal when Iran still has not complied with the original terms and is openly pursuing its nuclear ambitions…” Linked to Free Beacon article/tweet – State Dept Refuses to Explain Iran Envoy’s Talks with China

Green (R-TN) 2/12: Tweet – “Joined this bipartisan resolution standing with the Iranian people in support of freedom and a democratic Iran. The United States must hold Iran’s regime accountable for its heinous acts of terrorism and gross violations of the rights of its citizens.” [linked to last week’s McClintock-Sherman letter]

…re: Biden  Calling Bibi

Pallone (D-NJ) 2/18: Tweet – “I’m glad that President Biden has recommitted to our alliance with Israel and pledged to strengthen our security and vital trade partnership in the region. This coincides with my efforts in last year’s omnibus bill to enhance US-Israel cooperation on #COVID19 research.”

Young (R-IN) 2/17: Tweet – As a member of @SenateForeign, there will be no stronger partner should @POTUS continue to perpetuate and strengthen the US-Israel special relationship.” Linked to Times of Israel article White House: Biden’s first call to Mideast leader will be to Netanyahu

Barrasso (R-WY) 2/17: Tweet – “‘Internal interagency processes’ should not be an excuse to say America stands with Israel. We will always stand with Israel.” Linked to FoxNews article, “White House declines to say whether Israel is an ‘important’ ally

Kustoff (R-TN) 2/17: Tweet – “Over the years, the U.S. has strengthened our relationship with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, due to our shared interests and values. Yet, after 28 days, @JoeBiden has still not picked up the phone to call Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.” Linked to FoxNews article – Psaki says Biden will speak with Netanyahu ‘soon’ after 3 weeks without a call: ‘Israel is an important ally’

Loudermilk (R-GA) 2/16: Tweet – “Almost a month into the Biden Administration, and he has yet to speak with the president of Israel, but he has spoken with the president of China… Where are those who criticized President Trump for cozying up to dictators? #DCDoubleStandard

Green (R-TN) 2/16: Tweet – “Israel deserves to be treated with respect from every world leader—especially the President of the United States. This is a disgrace.” Linked to FoxNews article, “White House declines to say whether Israel is an ‘important’ ally

Biggs (R-AZ) 2/16: Tweet – Biden administration will ‘circle back’ to tell us when our enduring ally, Israel, will get a call and an olive branch from this new president.

Zeldin (R-NY) 2/16: Tweet – “Israel is our greatest ally in the world. From Xi and Putin to Mario Kart, President Biden has found plenty of time for many activities since being sworn in. It’s past time to pick up the phone and call America’s loyal friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Salazar (R-FL) 2/13: Tweet – “The way this administration has treated the democratic, Jewish State of #Israel is both offensive & insulting. Our allies must be treated with the respect they rightfully deserve!” Linked to Daily Mail (UK) article, White House will NOT say whether Biden considers Israel an ‘important ally’ [original headline, as displayed on Twitter – “White House Denies Biden is Snubbing Israel’s Netanyahu”]

Scott (R-FL) 2/12: Press release – Sen. Rick Scott: Biden’s Failure to Call Israeli PM Netanyahu is Unacceptable

Lamborn (R-CO) 2/12: Tweet – “Come on @PressSec. This shouldn’t be a question. Israel is hands-down one of our most important allies in the Middle East. You should not need to ‘circle-back’ on this one.” Linked to excerpt from White House press briefing.

Hagerty (R-TN) 2/1: Tweet – “I agree, @richardgrenell. It is inexplicable why @PressSec cannot answer it. Israel is unequivocally a longstanding ally of the U.S., and it should not take an ‘interagency process’ for the Biden administration to be able say so.” Linked to Grenell tweet with excerpt from White House press briefing

..Re: Miscellaeous Issues

Murphy (D-CT) 2/18: Tweet – “Delete this tweet, Mr. Secretary. You made that up.” Linked to tweet from ex-SecState Pompeo egregiously mischaracterized comments made by former Obama administration official Ben Rhodes during an FMEP podcast with Peter Beinart – listen to/watch that conversation here.

Meeks (D-NY) 2/18: Tweet – “It was a great pleasure meeting with Ambassador @giladerdan1 today, discussing the importance of the US-Israel relationship, addressing our shared challenges, and the promotion of peace in the region. I look forward to continuing that work together.” Linked to Erdan tweetI had a great call today with congressman @RepGregoryMeeks. He is a true friend of Israel and truly understands the challenges we face. Together we will work on expanding the circle of peace in the Middle East. Thank you for your support.

Walorski (R-IN) 2/18: Tweet – “When President Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, it only strengthened the friendship between our two nations. I joined my colleagues in urging Secretary of State Tony Blinken to keep the embassy where it belongs.” Linked to Feb 4th Free Beacon article – House Republicans Urge Biden to Keep Embassy in Jerusalem

McCaul (R-TX) 2/17: McCaul Statement on Erbil Rocket Attacks

Lesko (R-AZ) 2/17: Tweet – Outrageous that Dem Rep. Ilhan Omar has been named Vice Chair of a Subcommittee on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She has a long history of anti-Semitism & hatred toward Israel. There is no room for those beliefs in Congress, let alone in leadership.” Linked to Newsmax article – Orthodox Rabbis Call to Strip Ilhan Omar of Subcommittee Vice Chair [what rabbis? Here’s some background on the group – Inspired By Trump Era, Orthodox Rabbis Launch New Political Group (The Forward 11/10/17)]

Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) 2/16: Tweet – “.@IlhanMN is openly anti-semitic and hostile to America’s great friend and ally Israel. Her support for organizations with ties to Islamic terror, promotion of anti-Israel BDS, and deep contempt for Jews and Israel should disqualify her from Congress.” Linked to Breitbart article – Rabbis: Ilhan Omar’s Promotion Shows ‘Anti-Semitism Now Accepted in Congress’ [what rabbis? Here’s some background on the group – Inspired By Trump Era, Orthodox Rabbis Launch New Political Group (The Forward 11/10/17)]

Menendez (D-NJ) 2/16: Menendez Statement on Deadly Rocket Attack in Erbil

Rubio (R-FL) 2/16: Rubio Statement on Erbil Attack

Green (R-TN) 2/16: Tweet – “Join me in praying for the Americans injured in the rocket attack in Erbil, Iraq. Those responsible must be held accountable and brought to justice immediately.”

Hill (R-AR) and Ciciline (D-RI) 2/15: Hill and Cicilline Introduce Bipartisan Resolution Supporting Egypt’s Coptic Christians (H. Res. 117, introduced 2/11 – covered in last week’s Round-Up)

Cramer (R-ND) 2/12: Sen. Cramer Offers Questions to Legal Teams during Impeachment Trial of Former President Trump [“To President Trump’s team: Given the allegations of the House Manager that President Trump has tolerated anti-Semitic rhetoric, has there been a more pro-Israel president than President Trump?”]

Articles and Reports Related to the Hill

…In General

Washington Post 2/18: Release of intelligence report on Khashoggi killing could push already strained U.S.-Saudi relations to new lows [“In early 2019, Congress passed a law giving the Trump administration 30 days to submit an unclassified report by the ODNI with ‘a determination and evidence with respect to the advance knowledge and role of any current or former official of Saudi Arabia . . . over the directing, ordering or tampering of evidence in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.’ It specifically ordered a release of names.”]

Jewish Insider 2/18: House Foreign Affairs Committee picks subcommittee leadership [‘I’m delighted to be chosen to serve as the vice chair of the Middle East, North Africa and Counterterrorism Subcommittee,’ Manning told Jewish Insider. ‘Israel is one of our most important allies and I will advocate for policies that ensure Israel’s long-term safety and security. I am also committed to addressing Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region, including their continuing efforts to become a nuclear power and their fostering of terrorism around the world, including funding of Hezbollah and Hamas. In addition to these priorities, the Subcommittee must also work to root out antisemitism and to advance human rights across the globe.’”]

Israel Hayom 2/17: Democratic Senate candidate: Israel should ‘end’ Hezbollah, Hamas[“Senate candidate Khaled Salem, an Egyptian-born American who is running as a Democrat against Sen. Chuck Schumer in the 2020 mid-term election, is urging Israel to take definitive action against Hezbollah and Hamas. In a press release issued Tuesday, Salem, who serves as CEO of the American Human Rights organization, said that not only did Hamas and Hezbollah pose a threat to Israel, but also to peace in the entire Middle East. ‘Israel should end these two entities,’ Salem shared. ‘It would do them a world of good, while making the entire area more stable.’”]

American Center for Law & Justice (Jay Sekulow & friends) 2/15: Senate Votes To Keep U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

…Attacking Rep. Omar

Israel Hayom (Caroline Glick) 2/19: One week in progressive America [“Today, anti-Semitism is not a bar for advancement in progressive circles. To the contrary, it is an asset. Consider the big promotion that Cong. Ilhan ‘It’s all about the Benjamins baby’ Omar just received.”]

Arutz Sheva 2/18: Omar implores Biden to support Israel’s referral to ICC

i24 News 2/17: The Squad’s Omar urges Biden administration to support Israel’s referral to ICC

Jewish News Syndicate 2/17: Rep. Ilhan Omar calls on Biden administration to support referring Israel to ICC

Jewish News Syndicate 2/16: Rabbinical group: Omar’s promotion shows ‘Congress willing to tolerate anti-Semitism’  [what rabbinical group? I’m glad you asked! Here’s some background on the group – Inspired By Trump Era, Orthodox Rabbis Launch New Political Group (The Forward 11/10/17)]

Breitbart 2/15: Rabbis: Ilhan Omar’s Promotion Shows ‘Anti-Semitism Now Accepted in Congress’ [what rabbis? Here’s some background on the group – Inspired By Trump Era, Orthodox Rabbis Launch New Political Group (The Forward 11/10/17)]

ZOA 2/12: ZOA Opposes and Urges Retraction of Appt. of Israel-Hater, Antisemite Ilhan Omar to “Human Rights” Leadership Post

…re: Ohio Special Election

Jewish Insider 2/18: Divergent views on Israel come to light as Ohio special election heats up[“While Turner, 53, makes clear that she supports conditioning aid to Israel, the former Cleveland city councilwoman and Ohio state senator clarifies that she is still in favor of providing foreign assistance to Israel — albeit with some caveats. ‘I think our foreign policy should be aligned with our values domestically,’ Turner said in the questionnaire, making clear that she supports assistance for Israel’s ‘legitimate security threats’ as well as ‘continued humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.’ Still, she added, ‘I don’t believe any taxpayer money should be going toward entrenching the occupation of the Palestinian territories, settlement expansion, the detention of children or annexation.’…Brown, on the other hand, unequivocally endorses the 10-year memorandum of understanding negotiated by the Obama administration, which provides $3.8 billion in annual assistance to Israel through 2028. ‘I oppose conditioning our aid to Israel for specific results,’ Brown said in her questionnaire, arguing that the U.S. and Israel ‘have a deep, special, and unbreakable bond based on shared principles and values.’ Brown singled out the BDS movement for ridicule, charging that it ‘uses antisemitic rhetoric and arguments to weaken, isolate and delegitimize Israel.’”]

JTA 2/16: Israel policy set to play a role in Ohio special congressional race [“‘There’s no question that [Brown] is going to be a strong advocate for the U.S.-Israel relationship,’ [DMFI’s] Mellman said, noting her stated opposition to the boycott Israel movement and her unequivocal support for defense assistance to Israel. Turner, he noted ‘is in favor of placing additional conditions on aid’ to Israel. ‘Unlike 95% of House Democrats, she refused to condemn BDS,’ the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement targeting Israel. Turner has said she will not reveal her position on BDS except to say she opposes legislative efforts targeting the movement.”]

Jewish Insider, 2/16: Josh Mandel goes all in for the Trump lane in Ohio’s Senate race [“JI: Anything you’d like to add? Mandel: I guess I would add this: I’m raising my three kids to be proud Americans, proud Jews and proud Zionists. And I am very grateful for the support of evangelical Christians, Jews and others around the state and country who’ve been supporting me and my leadership advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship. One other thing I would say: I’m also proud to have many cousins who live throughout Judea and Samaria, and I believe that Jews have the biblical right to live, build and prosper in every corner of Judea, Samaria and the entirety of Israel.”]