Legislative Round-up: May 7, 2021

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

Shameless plugs:

  • This week: In the midst of the rapidly escalating situation in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah – where Palestinians are on the verge of being evicted from the homes and their protests are being met with ever-greater force by Israeli authorities and by settlers, on 5/6, FMEP held a webinar entitled, “Jerusalem on the Verge: Dispossession & Violence in Sheikh Jarrah.” Panelists were Aseel AlBajeh, a legal researcher and advocacy officer at Al Haq, and Budour Hassan,author and journalist, in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman (me). Video and resources shared during the webinar are here.
  • Next week: On May 10th, FMEP is proud to cosponsor an online event – The Palestinian Nakba: What Happened in 1948 and Why It Still Matters, featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Umar Al-Ghubari (Program director, Zochrot), Rashid Khalidi (Professor, Columbia University), Mohammed El-Kurd (Author and Poet), and Lubnah Shomali (Advocacy manager, BADIL). This event is organized/hosted by the Middle East Institute and Project48, and cosponsored by FMEP, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Institute for Palestine Studies. It will be moderated by MEI’s Nooran Alhamdan & Khaled Elgindy.
  • Also next week: FMEP is hosting a webinar entitled, “The PLO & the Palestinian Diaspora: Reviving a Source of Power,” featuring the co-authors of a recent landmark report on this topic — Zaha Hassan (Carnegie Endowment for Peace), Nadia Hijab (Al Shabaka), and Inès Abdel Razek (Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy) – in conversations with Sarah Anne Minkin (FMEP)

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

(NO RETURN TO JCPOA) HR 2938: Introduced 4/30 by Perry (R-PA) and 9 Republican cosponsors, “To prohibit the termination of United States sanctions against Iran unless and until all United States citizens imprisoned in Iran have been released to the custody of the United States Government.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Also see: Perry statement on the bill (posted on Facebook)

(CLOSING “PENSACOLA LOOPHOLE”) HR 2971 (text): Introduced 5/4 by Crist (R-FL), Rutherford (R-FL) and Demings (D-FL), “To amend title 18, United States Code, to require an alien lawfully admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa to obtain the approval of the Attorney General before receiving a firearm, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Foreign National Firearms Background Check Enhancement Act.” For background see press release, and see Crist’s tweetIn 2019, Pinellas lost Airman Mo Haitham bc a Saudi terrorist legally purchased a gun and attacked Naval Air Station Pensacola. Today, we honor Mo and those we lost with our bill to close the #PensacolaLoophole”. Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Letters

(RESTORE CRITICAL U.S.-KURDISH PARTNERSHIP IN SYRIA) Duckworth letter to Biden:On 5/5 Sen. Duckworth (D-IL) sent a letter to President Biden noting that she “was encouraged by your recent conversation with the Permanent Representatives to the UN Security Council, expressing the urgent need to take action on Syria”; asking him to “consider what independent action our Nation can take to support our Kurdish partners in Syria”; and offering a list of suggestions. She closes with: “America is back, and diplomacy is once again at the center of our foreign policy. We must restore trust and confidence in our allies and partners to achieve our national objectives. I strongly believe in continuing this important tradition and stand ready to assist your administration on these crucial issues.” Also see: Duckworth press release, tweet, article in Politico.

(WORK TO GET MORE RELIEF FUNDING FOR YEMEN) Shaheen et al letter to Blinken: On 5/4, Senators Shaheen (D-NH), Murphy (D-CT), Young (R-IN) and Moran (R-KS) sent a letter to SecState Blinken urging the Biden administration to encourage other countries to contribute to the UN’s humanitarian relief for Yemen. From the letter: “Your appearance at this year’s UN donor conference for Yemen was a strong signal of American leadership to bring attention to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and we welcome the announcement of an additional $191 million in U.S. assistance to alleviate the suffering in Yemen. Unfortunately, international donors have fallen more than $2.5 billion short of what humanitarian partners in Yemen require this year. We urge you to support another donors conference that fills that funding shortfall, as doing so could mean the difference between life and death for millions of Yemenis.” Press release is here; also see Shaheen’s tweet.

(TARGETING JOHN KERRY) House GOP Oversight letter: On 5/4, Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to Dana Remus, Counsel to the President, regarding John Kerry’s security clearance. The letter opens: “We are conducting oversight of Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s reported decision to provide potentially classified intelligence to Iran. Secretary Kerry allegedly not only provided Iran with sensitive information during his time as Secretary of State, but also while President Trump was in office in an apparent attempt to undermine his Administration. This raises serious concerns about Secretary Kerry’s fitness to serve in his current role with the National Security Council (NSC) and whether these allegations should affect Secretary Kerry’s ability to maintain a security clearance.” The letter includes a list of documents and information to be provided to the signers by May 18 (covering 11/3/20 to the present). Press release is here; Tweets  – GOP Oversight Committee, Gosar (R-AZ); Also see: Republicans request documents on Kerry’s security clearance process (The Hill 5/4); House Republicans call for review of John Kerry’s security clearance (Al-Monitor)

(TARGETING JOHN KERRY) Grassley letters to SecState & State IG: On 5/3; Sen. Grassley (R-IA) sent letter to SecState Blinken and State Department Acting Inspector General Diana Shaw calling on them to investigate allegations that John Kerry potentially mishandled sensitive and classified information. Each letter includes a list of information (classified and unclassified) to be provided to Grassley no later than May 18. Grassley’s press release is here.

(ENSURE IAEA ACCESS TO IRAN NUKE SITES) McCaul et al letter to Blinken: In a letter dated 5/3 (announced in a press release 5/4), Reps. McCaul (R-TX), Wilson (R-SC), and Chabot (R-OH), sent a letter to SecState Blinken “request information regarding the United States’ diplomatic strategy to ensure International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to Iran’s nuclear sites,” to be provided by May 7. Note: The fact that the signers of this letter are giving the Secretary of State a window of just 4 days to respond to their queries (the response to which would likely involve, to some degree, sensitive and even classified information), suggests strongly that this letter is NOT about seeking information but rather is about grandstanding. Press release is here.

2. Hearings & Markups

None.

3. On the Record

Members On The Record…

….re: Sheikh Jarrah Pending Evictions & Escalation

Dingell (D-MI) 5/6: Tweet – “The violence and forced displacement of Palestinians in #SheikhJarrah is deeply disturbing and morally wrong. We must ensure any US involvement in the region continues efforts toward lasting peace – including the protection of human rights.”

McCollum (D-MN) 5/6: Tweet – “Police violence against Palestinians in #SheikhJarrah who only want to remain in the homes they’ve lived in for generations is state-sponsored persecution. NO U.S. taxpayer dollars should support the annexation of Palestinian land or destruction of Palestinian homes. #HR2590

Tlaib (D-MI) 5/6: Tweet – “Hundreds of Palestinians are on the verge of being kicked out of their homes by the Israeli government right now. Join me in demanding that Palestinians be able to remain on their own land. Sign petition to #StopJerusalemExpulsions & #SaveSheikhJarrah”. Linked to sign-on call to the US State Department and US Department of Defense to take action to stop the expulsions.

Bush (D-MO) 5/6: Tweet – “I know what it’s like to be brutalized for simply advocating for my own humanity. I stand in strong solidarity with our Palestinian siblings mobilizing to #SaveSheikhJarrah. @SecBlinken, I’m calling on you to condemn these attacks immediately.” Linked to article, Sheikh Jarrah: Israeli police storm Palestinian protest over Jerusalem evictions (MIddle East Eye)

Newman (D-IL) 5/5: Tweet – “Palestinian families have every right to live in #SheikhJarrah. I’m calling on the @StateDept to immediately condemn these violations of international law as Palestinians are forcibly being removed from their homes in East Jerusalem. #SaveSheikhJarrah” Linked to AJ+ video about ongoing situation in Sheikh Jarrah

Pocan (D-WI) 5/5: Tweet – “The Israeli police violence against Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah is completely unacceptable. The Israeli military is forcing hundreds of Palestinians out of their homes. US taxpayer dollars should not fund annexation of Palestinian land or destruction of Palestinian homes.” Linked to article, Sheikh Jarrah: Israeli police storm Palestinian protest over Jerusalem evictions (Middle East Eye)

Omar (D-MN) 5/5: Tweet – “We provide $3.8 billion in military aid to the Israeli government a year, without any accountability. As we speak, the Israeli military plans to force over 500 Palestinians from their homes. We must make sure that no US tax dollars are used to fund this violence.” Linked to article, Sheikh Jarrah: Israeli police storm Palestinian protest over Jerusalem evictions (Middle East Eye)

Garcia (D-IL) 5/5: Tweet – “The violent attempts to displace families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood are appalling. The State Department must condemn ongoing Israeli police violence against Palestinians.” Linked to article, Palestinians vow to save Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood(Al Jazeera)

Tlaib (D-MI) 5/5: Twitter thread – “Stealing Palestinian homes and burning their lands. The actions of an apartheid state. We cannot stand by and watch this happen. @SecBlinken, billions of U.S. taxpayers dollars support Netanyahu’s government and this racist violence. We must condemn this swiftly.” and “The Israeli government has given impunity to violent Israeli settlers attacking and intimidating Palestinians, trying to drive them from their homes and land. This is how apartheid works.” Linked to article, Israeli settlers burn Palestinian lands in northern West Bank (Middle East Monitor)

….re: Israel-Palestine

Fulcher (R-ID) 5/6: Tweet – “As our strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel’s national security ensures America’s national security. I co-signed a bipartisan letter urging appropriators to continue fully funding this program, which is an investment that pays back tenfold.” Linked to 4/21 AIPAC-backed letter (see the 4/23/21 issue of the Round-Up for details)

Bacon (R-NE) 5/5: Tweet – I thank the Pro-Israel America PAC for their early endorsement for 2022. I enjoy being a champion for the US-Israel relationship. I helped stand-up the long-range missile defense capability in Israel. We should stand with the only democracy in the region.”

Murphy (D-CT) 5/4: Tweet – Visited a UNRWA training center in Jordan today. Trump was wrong to pull funding for programs like this that provide economic relief to Palestinians. The program I visited had nothing to do with politics; these kids were learning air conditioning repair, architecture, etc.

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 5/1: Tweets – “Great to meet with so many friends from North Jersey for NORPAC’s virtual mission to Washington! We discussed critical security assistance to Israel, the threat of a nuclear Iran, supporting Israel’s normalization, and promoting peace and tolerance in education.” & “I will continue working hard in Congress to strengthen the historic, bipartisan U.S.-Israel relationship.”

McCollum (D-MN) 5/1: Tweet – “Thank you to @RepAOC for being an original cosponsor of #HR2590! The Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act is historic & I appreciate your support.

…re: Sympathy for Victims of Mt Meron Tragedy

Booker (D-NJ), Frankel (D-FL), Grassley (R-IA), Gillibrand (D-NY)Menendez (D-NJ), Peters (D-MI), Risch (R-ID), Schneider (D-IL), Shaheen (D-NH),

…re: Still Attacking John Kerry

Lankford (R-OK), Meadows (R-NC), Stefanik (R-NY),

….re: Iran/JCPOA 

Palazzo (R-MS) 5/7: Tweet – “This is a direct result of President Biden’s negotiations with terrorists. As Iran blatantly threatens America, Biden considers removing the sanctions that keep them at bay. This administration has created more National Security threats than it has solved.” Linked to article, Iran releases chilling fake video showing US Capitol blow up after attack(New York Post)

Cruz (R-TX) 5/6: Tweet – “Yet again, Joe Biden is aiming to appease the mullas in Iran over and above the security interests of America.” Linked to article, Major Sanctions Relief on Table for Iran, State Dept. Says (Free Beacon)

Jackson (R-TX) 5/5: Tweet – “Iran released a video depicting an attack on the U.S. Capitol and Iranian soldiers invading Jerusalem. All this as Biden is set to roll back sanctions from the Trump admin’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran. Sponsors of terrorism have ZERO respect for Biden’s admin.” Linked to article, Iran Teases Attack on US Capitol Building as Biden Admin Prepares To Lift Sanctions (Free Beacon)

Banks (R-IN) 5/5: Tweet – “Under the failed Iran deal, which the Biden administration has promised to return to, China and Russia would be allowed to sell ballistic missiles to Iran.” Linked to IRGC propaganda video depicting an attack on the US Capitol.

Tenney (R-NY) 5/5: Tweet – “Yet another reminder that Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Rushing to negotiate with a terrorist regime as it spews vile propaganda glorifying attacks on America sends the wrong message to the world. It’s bad policy, and makes us less safe. #MaxPressure Linked to IRGC propaganda video depicting an attack on the US Capitol.

Tenney (R-NY) 5/4: Tweet – “Rejoining the failed Iran Nuclear Deal would be a mistake and would funnel tax dollars directly into the hands of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The US should not be funding our enemies. Period.

Cotton (R-AR) 5/4: Tweet – Freeing American hostages in Iran should continue to be a top priority for the U.S. government, but the administration must not pay ransom in any form. That would only beget further hostage-taking by the terrorist Iranian regime.

Gallagher (R-WI) 5/4: Tweet – “This is exactly right. We all want American hostages unjustly detained by Iran released as soon as possible. But in doing so, we cannot reward the regime with a windfall that will only encourage it and other rogue actors to take more Americans hostage.” [linked to Cotton’s tweet – above]

Toomey (R-PA) 5/3: Tweet – Last week, Iran’s chief diplomat allegedly admitted the IRGC calls the shots in Tehran. Now, Iran releases a fake video of the IRGC blowing up our Capitol. The Biden admin’s priority should be ensuring Iran cannot carry out such an attack, not capitulating by removing sanctions.” Linked to IRGC propaganda video depicting an attack on the US Capitol.

Wilson (R-SC) 5/2: “I agree @XiyueWang9, a former American hostage in Iran. If the Biden administration is paying billions in ransom to Iran that would be outrageous and only encourage more hostage taking — putting Americans in danger. I hope this isn’t true.

…re: Coons and Van Hollen’s Excellent (Mideast) Adventure

Van Hollen (D-MD) 5/6: Twitter thread, opening with – “Over the last few days, I traveled to Sudan and the UAE with @ChrisCoons as part of an official trip to support the transition to democracy in Sudan, promote relief to refugees of the conflict in Ethiopia, and meet with UAE leadership on issues of mutual interest and concern.”

Coons (D-DE) 5/6: Twitter thread, opening with – I just returned to Delaware after traveling to Sudan. I am grateful to @SudanPMHamdok, Chairman Burhan, Minister of Justice @nasabdulbari, and other senior ministers for speaking with me about how we can strengthen the U.S.-Sudan bilateral relationship.

Coons (D-DE) 5/4: LONG Twitter thread on his trip to the UAE (covering normalization, Iran, Yemen, and more)

Articles and Reports Related to the Hill

Just Security 5/7: Senate Bill Threatens Sensitive U.S. Diplomacy

Asharq Al-Awsat 5/7: US Senator Urges Houthis to Halt Military Escalation in Marib

Jewish Insider 5/7: Schumer calls on Biden to address broader range of issues in Iran talks

Foreign Policy 5/6: The United States Ignoring Israel’s Violence Against Palestinians Is Normalizing It [excerpt: “Congress has also played a role in legitimizing extremist Israeli voices, both by failing to condemn or hold them to account—as they routinely do for Palestinians, for example—and by actively welcoming settler leaders to Capitol Hill. The fact that Kach-linked extremists take part in Israeli elections—and get elected to the Knesset—without eliciting a response from anyone on Capitol Hill directly legitimizes Israeli extremists and their views.”]

Al Jazeera 5/6: In Washington, a debate grows over conditioning aid to Israel

Jewish Insider 5/6: Josh Mandel fundraiser next week to feature high-profile roster [“Josh Mandel, a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, is holding a high-profile virtual fundraising event on Monday alongside several pro-Israel heavyweights including former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, billed as a “special guest” on the invitation for the May 10 event.  Elan Carr, the Trump administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, who is one of 15 hosts, shared the invite in a Wednesday morning tweet. ‘Amb. Friedman and I, with leaders from across the country, are proud to support front-running US Senate candidate Josh Mandel,’ Carr wrote. ‘48th Treasurer of Ohio, US Marine, Iraq War veteran, and my good friend, Josh is a true patriot and great leader for our country.’”

I24 News 5/6: Rep. Bowman explains support for bill to regulate aid to Israel

Jewish News Syndicate 5/6: Democratic pro-Israel group exposes rift among liberals over anti-Semitism envoy

Jewish Insider 5/6: Odessa Kelly stands up in Nashville [“‘I’ll approach any issue, anything dealing with foreign policy, through a human rights lens. I support freedom and justice for people here in the United States just as I do across the world.’ That frame, she suggested, influences her belief that the United States should condition aid to Israel — a view that is also held by two other progressive challengers who have earned endorsements from Justice Democrats this year. ‘I would be in favor of conditioning aid for the reason that I believe that no U.S. dollars should go toward infringing on anyone’s human rights,’ she said, without going into specifics. ‘That’s anywhere that U.S. dollars are going, not just in Israel but Saudi Arabia and other places as well.’ Kelly says she is in favor of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. She has never been to Israel but said she would be eager to go if elected. ‘I would like to see the holy sites there…’”]

Middle East Monitor 5/6: US Congressman defends support for bill to stop Israel using tax dollars to target children

The Forward 5/5: Jamaal Bowman defends support of bill to regulate aid to Israel

Jewish Currents 5/5: J Street Goes on Offense, Carefully

Haaretz 5/5 (Jeremy Ben-Ami): How America Can Ensure Its Tax Dollars Don’t Fund Israel’s Occupation

Haaretz 5/5: Support Grows for ex-Congressman Robert Wexler to Be Named U.S. Ambassador to Israel

JTA 5/5: Jewish Biden backers and lawmakers make a push for Robert Wexler to be the ambassador to Israel

JTA 5/5: A Democratic pro-Israel group calls a longtime Jewish leader an enabler of antisemitism, exposing a fault line in the party

+972 Magazine 5/5: This ‘progressive’ Israel lobby group has a racism problem

The Riverdale Press (letter from Josh Eisden 5/2: Weiss never speaks for me, but Bowman often does

Responsible Statecraft 4/30: Top Senate Dem [Menendez] quietly inserts Iran poison pill into China bill