Legislative Round-up: May 28, 2021

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

Shameless plugs:

Over the past two weeks FMEP produced a number of fantastic podcasts featuring Palestinian perspectives – from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and inside the Green Line – on current events. These include:

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.

In addition, check out:

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

A. Weapons for & Solidarity with Israel (and ONLY Israel)

(APPROVING OF NEW WEAPONS SALES TO ISRAEL) S. Res. 237 (text): Introduced 5/25 by Cruz (R-TX) and having 7 cosponsors (all Republicans), “A resolution approving of the sales of defense items to Israel notified to Congress on May 5, 2021.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Also see: Cruz to introduce legislation supporting arms sale to Israel (JNS); Rubio (R-FL) press release; To pressure Democrats, Cruz introduces resolution supporting Israel arms sales (Jewish Insider)

(MORE $$ FOR ISRAEL) Amendments to S. 1260: This bill,  the “Endless Frontiers Act” – which has nothing to do with Israel/Palestine – was debated on the Senate floor over the past week. In the course of this consideration, in acts of brazen grandstanding, some senators tried to attach (entirely non-germane) Israel-related amendments. Specifically:

  • On 5/25 Sen. Hagerty (R-TN) offered an amendment to add a new section to the bill entitled, “EMERGENCY RESUPPLY FOR IRON DOME” – substantively the same as S. 1751, which he introduced on 5/20 (see below). The section would require the President to “transfer all unexpended  balances of appropriations made available for assistance to Gaza– (1) to the Department of Defense, to be available for grants to Israel for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system; or (2) to the Foreign Military Financing Program authorized under section 23 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2763), to be available for grants to Israel for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system.” This entirely non-germane amendment was not considered (as Hagerty knew would be the case), and was almost certainly offered for the purposes of affording Republicans an opportunity to claim that Democrats are blocking aid to Israel.
  • On 5/20, Sen. Cruz (R-TX) offered an amendment to add a new section to the bill entitled, “Assistance to the Government of Israel.”  The text of this non-germane amendment states: “In addition to amounts otherwise available for such purposes, there is appropriated to the Secretary of Defense, out of amounts in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $5,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2021 [explicitly to supplement any other appropriations for this purpose for Israel], to remain available until expended, to replenish the stockpiles of the Government of Israel of missile, rocket, and projectile defense capabilities, including with respect to the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, to levels of such stockpiles in effect on May 1, 2021, including through the transfer of defense articles, defense services, technical data, and funding to the Government of Israel.” [Yes, you read that right – $5 billion].
  • On 5/20, Sen. Rosen (D-NV) offered an amendment to add to the bill a new section entitled “UNITED STATES-ISRAEL CYBERSECURITY COOPERATION.” This is, of course, an effort by Rosen to attach her bill, S.1193 (the United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2021) to this unrelated piece of legislation.
  •  [NOTE: See Section 5, below, for details of the Israel/Palestine-related rider added to S. 1260 in Committee].

(MORE $$ FOR ISRAEL TO BUY WEAPONS) Gonzales Amendment to HR 3237: Last week Rep. Gonzales (R-TX) sought to amend HR 3237, “Emergency Security Supplemental to Respond to January 6th Appropriations Act, 2021” to add $500 million in funding for Israel to “defend itself against the continued attacks from Hamas.” This amendment constitutes an act of political grandstanding extraordinary even by congressional standards, given that (a) Republicans opposed the base bill and were going to vote against it regardless of this amendment; and (b) the amendment was a transparent procedural gimmick, since it actually set up a vote on the House floor NOT on the substance of the amendment, but rather on a motion to recommit (i.e., on whether to stop floor consideration of the entire bill and send it back to Committee over an entirely non-germane amendment, as a means of slowing down/obstructing passage of the bill). Predictably, Gonzales and other Republicans didn’t hesitate to use the floor vote on the motion to recommit as a hook to attack Democrats for failing to support Israel. Gonzales press release is here; his floor remarks during the debate on the bill is here; McCarthy (R-CA) grandstanding tweet is here. Also see: Majority Leader Hoyer Pressured Rep. Gottheimer to Vote ‘No’ on Israel Security Funding (Free Beacon); Pro-GOP group takes aim at House Dems over Israeli Iron Dome vote (Fox News)

(ISRAEL RIGHT-OR-RIGHT) H. Res. 396: Introduced 5/13 by Van Drew (R-NJ) and 90 all-Republican cosponsors, “Condemning the deadly and indiscriminate rocket attacks perpetrated against Israel by Hamas beginning the week of May 9, 2021, and expressing that the United States must continue to invest in and support Israel’s security and sovereignty.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Van Drew press release is here.

(ISRAEL RIGHT-OR-RIGHT) H. Res. 394: Introduced 5/13 by Rep. Gimenez (R-FL) and currently having 88 all-Republican cosponsors, “Condemning the acts of terrorism committed by Hamas against the people of the State of Israel.” Gimenez had announced the bill 5/12 on Twitter and on the House floor, and AIPAC tweeted its welcoming of the resolution is here. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(ISRAEL RIGHT-OR-RIGHT) S. Res. 226: Introduced 5/19 by Scott (R-FL) and currently having 31 cosponsors (all Republicans), “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the United States supports Israel, our greatest ally in the region, and its right to defend itself against terrorist attacks.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Scott’s speech on the Senate floor seeking Unanimous Consent for consideration of the bill – and Sanders’ speech objecting, is here; Sanders press release is here.

Letters

(SELL MORE ARMS TO ISRAEL ASAP) McCaul-Risch letter to Biden: On 5/20, Rep. McCaul (R-TX) and Sen. Risch (R-ID), ranking minority members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, sent a letter to President Biden encouraging the administration to stand by Israel, resist calls to delay the sale of important munitions, and expedite the processing and delivery of those munitions as much as possible. McCaul press release is here.

(SUPPORT  ABRAHAM ACCORDS) Hagerty letter to Biden: On 5/20, Sen. Hagerty (R-TN) sent a letter to President Biden, per his press release, “concerning an alarming statement made by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to a reporter’s question about whether the Administration still supports the Abraham Accords and asking President Biden to confirm whether or not there has been a fundamental change in Administration policy on the Abraham Accords, a series of historic peace agreements under which the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco each agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

(SUPPORT ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO SELF-DEFENSE) House Republicans letter to Biden: On 5/19, Rep. McCaul (R-TX) led a letter to President Biden, cosigned by 108 House colleagues (all Republicans) supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. The letter calls on the President to maintain U.S. security assistance to Israel without any added conditions. The letter also urges the President to undertake efforts to weaken Hamas, including by targeting Iran’s support for Hamas and sanctioning Hamas for its use of civilians as human shields [note: Hamas, as a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, is already sanctioned under U.S. law in pretty much every way imaginable]. Press releases: McCaul [See the previous edition of the Round-Up for the Senate version of this letter, led by Rubio, R-FL and sent 5/12]

(SCHEDULE ISRAEL HEARING) Jackson letter to Deutch & Meeks: On 5/17, Rep. Jackson (R-TX) led a letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Meeks (D-NY) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism (MENAGC) Deutch (D-FL) calling on them to schedule a hearing regarding the unfolding military conflict in Israel. In his press release on the letter, Jackson noted that he told the Free Beacon: “The world is watching as innocent Israelis are targeted by Hamas terrorists yet the subcommittee of jurisdiction in Congress is only planning to work on ‘Transnational White Identity Terrorism’ this month. It is unacceptable that Democrat leaders would rather push their divisive agenda and focus only on identity politics instead of holding hearings or doing the bipartisan, substantive work Israel needs. As the lone democracy in the Middle East and America’s most loyal ally, Israel deserves our attention and support. What is happening in Israel also has national security implications for America, something our constituents want to see us working on as we fulfill our promise to keep them safe. It is time our subcommittee drop identity politics and focus on the real issues.”

B. Sticking it to the Palestinians

(NO FUNDING FOR GAZA) S. 1899: Introduced 5/27 by Scott (R-FL), Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Ernst (R-IA), “A bill to prohibit any direct or indirect United States funding for the territory of Gaza unless certain conditions are met,” aka, the “stop Taxpayer Funding of Hamas Act.” In effect, this bill would bar US funding of even emergency humanitarian aid — food, health assistance, and medicine — to people in Gaza, either direct aid or aid through the UN, unless it first put into place a mechanism for and implements deep vetting (in the midst of a humanitarian crisis) of every single man, woman, and child who might benefit from that aid, in order to screen out anyone having any possible relationship with or support for groups designate by the US as terrorist organizations. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Scott’s press release is here.

(USE GAZA HUMANITARIAN FUNDING TO PAY FOR IRON DOME) S. 1751: Introduced 5/20 by Hagery (R-TN) and 5 cosponsors (all Republican), “A bill to provide that funding for Gaza shall be made available instead for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press releases: Cruz (R-TX). NOTE: this provision was also offered as an amendment to S. 1260 – see details above.

(SANCTIONING EVERYONE WHO GOES NEAR HAMAS or PIJ) HR 261: On 5/18, Mast (R-FL) made a speech on the House floor pushing for immediate consideration of this bill. Background: Introduced 1/11 by Mast (R-FL) and Gottheimer (D-NJ), along with 11 bipartisan cosponsors, To impose sanctions with respect to foreign support for Palestinian terrorism, and for other purposes,” aka, “the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Financial Services. This legislation was previously introduced in the last Congress as HR 1850, where it was actively supported by AIPAC. HR 1850 attracted 44 bipartisan cosponsors and was passed by the House – after zero discussion of the substance of the bill, either in committee or on the floor – under suspension of the rules and by a voice vote. Also see: my Twitter thread; Mast press release; US House reintroduces bill to sanction fiscal supporters of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (JNS)

(SANCTIONING EVERYONE WHO GOES NEAR HAMAS or PIJ) S. 1904: Introduced 5/27 by Rubio (R-FL) and 15 cosponsors (all Republicans), “A bill to impose sanctions with respect to foreign support for Palestinian terrorism, and for other purposes.” This appears to be the opportunistically-timed intro of the Senate version of HR 261 (above). Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

C. Palestinian Lives Matter, too

(DISAPPROVING OF NEW WEAPONS SALES TO ISRAEL) S. J. Res.19: Introduced 5/20 by Sanders (I-VT) and no cosponsors, “A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed transfer to Israel of certain defense articles, including defense services and technical data.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Also see: Sanders press release; Bernie Sanders Drops Effort to Stop Weapons Sales to Israel (Wall Street Journal, 5/25); Sanders drops opposition to guided bombs sale to Israel (Al-Monitor)

(DISAPPROVING OF NEW WEAPONS SALES TO ISRAEL) H. J. Res. 49: Introduced 5/20 by Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and 14 cosponsors, “Providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed direct commercial sale to Israel of certain weaponry and munitions.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Also see: Ocasio-Cortez press release

(PALESTINIAN & ISRAELI LIVES BOTH MATTER) S. Res. 225: Introduced 5/19 by Sanders (I-VT) and 10 cosponsors (all Democrats), “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the value of Palestinian and Israeli lives and urging an immediate cease-fire and diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(PALESTINIAN & ISRAELI LIVES BOTH MATTER) H. Res. 429: Introduced 5/21 by Bowman (D-NY) and McGovern (D-MA), “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the value of Palestinian and Israeli lives and urging an immediate cease-fire and diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Bowman floor statement announcing the resolution is here. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Letters

(RELEASE AID FOR PALESTINIANS) Raskin et al letter to Sen. Risch: According to the JTA, Rep. Raskin (D-MD) is currently seeking cosigners on a House letter to Sen. Risch (R-ID), asking him to stop blocking aid to the Palestinians. The letter reportedly states: “We write with a great sense of urgency to respectfully request that you release your hold on tens of millions of dollars in appropriated humanitarian aid that is so desperately needed to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands civilians suffering in Gaza and the West Bank in the wake of the horrific violence that took place in the last several weeks.” 

(STOP SILENCING PALESTINIANS ON SOCIAL MEDIA) Tlaib letter to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok: On 5/25, Rep. Tlaib (D-MI) sent a letter to the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok urging the social media platforms to cease censorship of Palestinian political speech in the wake of a report they’ve been censoring content and disabling user accounts raising awareness about recent Israeli state-backed violence on Palestinians. Press release is here.

(US HUMANITARIAN RELIEF FOR PALESTINIANS) Dingell et al letter to Blinken: On 5/21, Reps. Dingell (D-MI) and Lowenthal (D-CA) led a letter, cosigned by 56 House colleagues, to to SecState Blinken, urging the Biden Administration to provide additional humanitarian relief for Palestinians and to work to support the current ceasefire. The letter requests that the Administration, in addition to working to sustain the ceasefire, support increased humanitarian access to Gaza by urging Israel to open the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings and fully and robustly fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Dingell press release is here.

(CEASEFIRE NOW! DELAY WEAPONS SALE TO ISRAEL UNTIL CEASEFIRE) Johnson et al letter to Biden:  On 5/20, Reps. Johnson (D-GA) and Jayapal (D-WA) led a letter – cosigned by 6 other House Democrats – urging President Biden to call for an immediate ceasefire agreement in Israel and the Palestinian territories to prevent further loss of life and further escalation of violence. The letter also calls on the President to delay a $735 billion arms sale to Israel until a cease fire has been achieved. Press release is here.

(GET A CEASEFIRE/NEED BOLD US LEADERSHIP) House Democrats letter to Biden: On 5/19, Reps. Price (D-NC), Connolly (D-VA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Welch (D-VT), Lee (D-CA), Lowenthal (D-CA), Pocan (D-WI), Doggett (D-TX), Khanna, and Yarmuth (D-KY) led a letter to President Biden, cosigned by 128 House colleagues (all Democrats), urging him to boldly lead and take decisive action to immediately end the violence in Israel and Gaza. Press release is here.

(BIDEN ADMIN – ACT TO DE-ESCALATE GAZA FIGHTING) Nadler et al letter to Biden: On 5/14, Rep. Nadler (D-NY) and 11 other Jewish Members of Congress sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging the Biden Administration to facilitate de-escalation to stop the pain and suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians. Press release is here.

D. Antisemitism

(CONDEMNING ANTISEMITISM) S. Res. 252: Introduced 5/27 by Rosen (D-NV) and 61 cosponsors, “A resolution unequivocally condemning the recent rise in antisemitic violence and harassment targeting Jewish Americans, and standing in solidarity with those affected by antisemitism, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Rosen press release is here. Also see report in the Jewish Insider.

(LINKING ANTISEMITIC HATE CRIMES WITH PROTESTS AGAINST ISRAELI POLICIES/ACTIONS) HR 3515 & S. 1939: Introduced 5/25 by Kustoff (R-TN) and McCarthy (R-CA), and 5/27 by Cotton (R-AR) and 22 all-Republican cosponsors, “To facilitate the expedited review of anti-Semitic hate crimes, and for other purposes.” Per Kustoff’s press release, the bill would “help combat the drastic surge of anti-Semitic incidents and violence in the United States by ensuring the Department of Justice (DOJ) facilitates the expedited review of these hate crime threats against the Jewish community. Additionally, this bill states the Attorney General will issue guidance to enhance our state and local law enforcement’s efforts to prevent and respond to anti-Semitic hate crimes.” Commenting on the bill for that press release, Sen. McConnell (R-KY) is quoted as saying: “From anti-Israel efforts like the BDS movement to violent crimes on American streets, we must confront anti-Semitism every single place it rears its ugly head.” Kustoff’s press release notes that the bill is supported by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Cotton/McConnell press release is here. Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Also see report in Jewish Insider and Jerusalem Post.

(BLAMING CRITICS OF ISRAELI ACTIONS TOWARD PALESTINIANS & BDS FOR ANTISEMITISM) S. Res. 250 (pdf): Introduced 5/27 by Risch (R-ID) and no cosponsors, “A resolution condemning the rise in anti-Semitism incidents globally since terrorists in the Gaza Strip triggered several days of violence against Israel on May 10, 2021.” Risch press release is here. Also see: Risch introduces resolution focusing on international antisemitism (Jewish Insider – “The senior Republican’s resolution condemns the BDS movement and anti-Israel activism as fueling antisemitism”)

(BLAMING MEDIA & CRITICS OF ISRAELI ACTIONS TOWARD PALESTINIANS FOR ANTISEMITISM) S. Res. 232: Introduced 5/26 by Hawley (R-MO) and 14 cosponsors (all Republican), “Expressing the sense of the Senate that acts of violence against Jewishpeople in the United States and around the world and the poisonous rhetoric from politicians and others promoted by the media that has helped inspire such violence is condemnable and has no place in society.” Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Press releases – Hawley (R-MO) Kennedy (R-LA), Cruz (R-TX), Blackburn (R-TN), Cramer (R-ND), Crapo (R-ID), Tillis (R-NC), Marshall (R-KS)

(IT’S ALL ABOUT ISLAMIC TERRORISM & ANTISEMITISM, STUPID!) H. Res. 422: Introduced 5/20 by Fallon (R-TX), the “Maintaining Our Resolve to Defend, Encourage, and Conserve our Alliance with Israel Resolution” aka, the “MORDECAI Resolution”. This resolution includes many of the favorite arguments used by those who cannot countenance even the tiniest hint of criticism of Israeli policies, culminating in the “resolved” clause: “It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the State of Israel is a crucial ally of the United States and that anti-Semitism and hostility against the State of Israel should be rejected in all forms.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Also see: Fallon press release

(LINKING ANTISEMITISM TO CRISIS IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE) H. Res. 428: Introduced by Sessions (R-TX), “Condemning the horrific anti-Semitic events in the wake of rising tensions in Israel, and reaffirming the House of Representative’s commitment to combating hate, bigotry, and violence against the Jewish community.” Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

(SINGLING OUT ANOTHER FEMALE MEMBER OF CONGRESS OF COLOR WITH ACCUSATIONS OF ANTISEMITISM) H. Res. 431: Introduced 5/21 by Reschenthaler (R-PA), “Condemning the statements of Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington.” According to the resolution Jayapal’s suggestion that Israeli policies/actions play any role at all in the outbreak of violence – even as she explicitly condemned Hamas for firing rockets – amounts to “blaming Israel for Hamas rocket attacks and justifying terrorism,” which it stats is “a form of anti-Semitic speech,” and that “spreading hateful misinformation about the State of Israel feeds anti-Semitism against Jewish people at home and abroad.” Referred to the Committee on Ethics, and in addition to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, and the Judiciary.

Letters

(DON’T USE ONLY THE IHRA TO DEFINE ANTISEMITISM) House Dems letter to Blinken: On 5/27, Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL), Pocan (D-WI), Jayapal (D-WA), Levin (D-MI), and Raskin (D-MD) led a letter, cosigned by 31 other House Democrats, to thank him “and the entire Biden Administration for your commitment to fighting against the rising threat of antisemitism, both globally, and here in the United States. We applaud your prioritization of combating this ancient hatred. In carrying out this critical work, we urge you to consider multiple definitions of antisemitism, including two new definitions that have been formulated and embraced by the Jewish community.” Specifically, the letter urges the Biden Administration to not rely exclusively on the (controversial) IHRA definition, but to also use the Nexus Document and the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism.

(FIGHTING ANTISEMITISM) Deutch-Meng et al letter to Biden: According to a 5/28 Jewish Insider report, “A bipartisan group of House members, led by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), is expected to send a letter to President Joe Biden on Friday urging him to take swift action to combat rising antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes.” See article for text of letter.

(TAKE A STAND AGAINST ANTISEMITISM, defined to include some criticism of Israel) Gottheimer-Luria-Manning letter to Biden: On 5/25, Reps. Gottheimer (D-NY), Luria (D-VA) and Manning (D-NC) sent a letter to President Biden highlighting concerns about antisemitic incidents/attacks linked to demonstrations of support for Palestinian rights and of oppositon to Israeli actions in the context of recent and ongoing violence. The letter also states: We also reject comments from Members of Congress accusing Israel of being an ‘apartheid state’ [a characterization also made by the likes of Btselem and Human Rights Watch) and committing ‘act[s] of terrorism.’” The letter asserts that such statements “are antisemitic at their core and contribute to a climate that is hostile to many Jews.” The letter concludes with a call for united, bipartisan, national-level commitment to confront and address the threat of antisemitism head-on.”  Press release is here. Also see: Calling Israel ‘apartheid’ and ‘terrorist’ is antisemitic, say 4 Jewish Democrats targeting party colleagues (JTA); Jewish Democrats accuse colleagues of antisemitism over Israel criticism (Times of Israel); Jewish Democrats call out colleagues for ‘antisemitic’ statements on Israel (i24 News); Pro-Israel Congress members pen letter to Biden, criticizing internal anti-Semitic rhetoric (JNS)

E. Normalizing Greater Israel

(PRO-SETTLEMENT RIDER ON CHINA BILL) S. 1260: This bill,  the “Endless Frontiers Act”  – which has nothing to do with Israel/Palestine – was debated on the Senate floor over the past week. As noted in the May 13th edition of the Round-Up, an amendment offered by Senator Cruz on 5/12 during the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s consideration of the bill (and adopted by the Committee), purported to target countries that boycott Israel (of which there are none, outside of the Arab League’s boycott of Israel, which is fading and in any case which US law already targets). It can now be confirmed that, as predicted in that Round-Up (before the text of the amendment was available), the Cruz text is focused on erasing the Green Line to legitimize settlements and normalize permanent Israel control over the West Bank. As noted in that Round-Up, this is consistent with previous Congressional efforts in the same vein – including two trade-related laws signed by President Obama. Indeed, the amendment – which is now part of the base bill and was also included in Chairman Schumer’s (D-NY) substitute amendment on the floor (which in effect became the new base text) explicitly references one of those laws — laws that I warned at the time (repeatedly) would be repurposed in precisely this manner. In all of these cases, the real goal is not to fight Arab League-style boycotts of the state of Israel, but to coerce the entire world into treating the West Bank and Israeli settlements in it as part of Israel.

(NO BACKSIES ON RECOGNITION OF GOLAN) S. 1641 & HR 3190: As previewed in last week’s Round-Up, on 5/13, Sen Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Gallagher (R-WI) introduced a bill in both the House and Senate aimed at blocking any “de-recognition” by the United States of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. Notably, the Biden Administration has not suggested any plans to reverse Trump’s recognition of the Golan as part of Israel, underscoring the fact that this bill is an exercise in straw-man point-scoring. Also notably: Congress has no authority when it comes to US recognition with respect to the status of foreign territory — as validated only a few years ago by the US Supreme Court, ironically enough in the context of a case (backed by many members of Congress) that sought to force the Executive to treat all of Jerusalem as part of Israel. Press release is here.

F. Iran

(BLOCKING RETURN TO THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL) S. 1950: Introduced 5/27 by Lankford (R-OK), Cornyn (R-TX), and Scott (R-SC), “A bill to impose strict conditions on the lifting of sanctions imposed with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

(BLOCKING RETURN TO THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL) HR 3465 (pdf): Introduced 5/21 by Good (R-VA) and Jackson (R-TX), “To impose certain requirements relating to the renegotiation or reentry into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or other agreement relating to Iran’s nuclear program, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Iran China Accountability Act.” Per Good’s press release, the bill “aims to prevent another nuclear deal between the United States and Iran.” It does so by seeking to block “any taxpayer dollars from being used to advance a nuclear agreement with Iran until Iran has terminated its cash ties with China and requires Iran to terminate its ties to terrorist groups like Hamas. In addition, the bill requires Iran to destroy all its nuclear and missile capabilities and infrastructure before any nuclear agreement is advanced.”   The press release notes that the bill is supported by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(BLOCKING RETURN TO THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL) S. Amdt. 2028 & S. Amdt. 1955  to S. 1260: This bill,  the “Endless Frontiers Act” – the purpose of which is “To establish a new Directorate for Technology and Innovation in the National Science Foundation, to establish a regional technology hub program, to require a strategy and report on economic security, science, research, innovation, manufacturing, and job creation, to establish a critical supply chain resiliency program, and for other purposes” has become the latest Senate Christmas Tree bill – as in, lots of senators seem to want to hang their favorite legislative ornament on it (see above for ornaments related to Israel-Palestine). It is thus no surprise that this week also saw effort to attach an Iran-related amendment to the bill, offered (twice) by Johnson (R-WI), and backed by Iran deal opponents Risch (R-ID), Cruz (R., TX), Rubio (R-FL), and Barrasso (R-WY). The amendment – which as of this writing has not been considered (and, given that it is wholly non-germane, will likely not be considered), would require approval by two-thirds of the Senate for any agreement with Iran. Also see: GOP Senators move to condition new Iran nuclear deal on congressional approval (i24 News)

Letters

(BLAMING IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL TALKS FOR HAMAS ROCKETS) Wittman letter to Blinken: On 5/17, Rep. Wittman (R-VA) sent a letter to SecState Blinken urging the Biden Administration to refrain from re-entering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on the grounds that the prospect of returning this controversial agreement has intensified the conflict between Israel and Hamas. He writes: “I write to you today with concerns that the Biden Administration’s attempts to reenter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known in its colloquial form as the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal,’ are causing increased unrest in the conflict between Israel and Palestine and jeopardizing the lives of civilians of both states by emboldening Hamas.” NOTE: Anyone else notice that Wittman seems to think that Palestinians have a state?

(ATTACKING BIDEN OVER SYRIA SANCTIONS/IRAN) Steil et al letter to Biden: On 5/26, the Free Beacon reported that Reps. Steil (R-WI), Banks (R-IN), and Wilson (R-SC) sent a letter to President Biden expressing concern that he “is failing to enforce U.S. sanctions law on one of the worst human rights violators in the world, which has killed half a million people, as a concession to Iran to re-enter the failed Iran nuclear deal.”

G. Other Matters

(TARGETING HIZBALLAH/LEBANON ) S. 1637: Introduced 5/13 by Blackburn (R-TN) and 3 Republican cosponsors, “A bill to impose certain measures with respect to Hizballah-dominated areas in Lebanon and to impose sanctions with respect to senior foreign political figures in Lebanon supporting Hizballah.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. This appears to be the bill Blackburn announced on 5/11 (covered in last week’s Round-Up) – the “Hezbollah Money Laundering Prevention Act of 2021” [it seems she can’t decide which spelling she prefers for the groups, so she is using both]. For more details see Blackburn’s press release; also see: Sen. Blackburn moves to cut off funds for terrorists targeting Israel (Fox News).

(TARGETING HIZBALLAH/LATIN AMERICA) S. 1651: Introduced 5/13 by Blackburn (R-TN) and Rosen (D-NV), “A bill to impose certain measures with respect to Hizballah-affected areas in Latin America and the Caribbean and to impose sanctions with respect to senior foreign political figures in Latin America who support Hizballah, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Blackburn press release is here.

(REPEAL 1991 MIDEAST AUMF) HR 3261: Introduced 5/14 by Spanberger (D-VA) and 31 cosponsors, “To repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution.” Passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee 5/19. Watch HFAC markup here.

(REPEAL 1957 MIDEAST AUMF) HR 3283: Introduced 5/17 by Meijar (R-MI), “To repeal the joint resolution entitled ‘A joint resolution to promote peace and stability in the Middle East’.” Passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee 5/19 – see Meijar’s tweet – “Yesterday @HouseForeignGOP passed my bill to repeal 1957 AUMF to defend Middle East nations from aggression by “any country controlled by internat’l communism.’ This AUMF was enacted 64 yrs ago. Laws passed since have rendered it obsolete. The Soviet Union no longer exists.” Watch HFAC markup here.

(US EXPORTS & HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES) S. 1846: Introduced 5/26 by Cornyn (R-TX) and 3 cosponsors (bipartisan), “A bill to require a review and controls on the export of items with critical capabilities to enable human rights abuses.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

(FREEDOM OF THE PRESS) S. Res. 241: Introduced 5/26 by Menendez (D-NJ) and 12 cosponsors (bipartisan). “A resolution widening threats to freedom of the press and free expression around the world, and reaffirming the vital role that a free and independent press plays in informing local and international audiences about public health crises, countering misinformation and disinformation, and furthering discourse and debate to advance healthy democracies in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2021.” Among the countries mentioned as threatening freedom of the press and free expression are: Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Letters

(ADDRESS LEBANON CRISIS) Meeks et al letter to Blinken: On 5/18, Rep. Meeks (D-NY) led a letter to SecState Blinken, cosigned by 24 House colleagues, calling for the U.S. to take urgent steps with international partners to address Lebanon’s worsening crisis and prevent further instability. Press release is here.

2. Hearings & Markups

June 17: The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing entitled,  A Review of the FY 2022 Department of Defense Budget Request.

June 8:  The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, A Review of the FY22 State Department Budget Request, with SecState Blinken was scheduled to testify (originally scheduled for May 25).

May 27: The House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee held a hearing entitled, Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Defense Budget. Witnesses were: SecDef Lloyd J. Austin III (statement) and Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (statement). Video of the hearing is here.

May 26: The Senate Appropriations Committee’s SFOPS subcommittee held a hearing entitled, Review of the Fiscal Year 2022 U.S. Agency for International Development Budget Request. The sole witness was USAID Administrator Samantha Power (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

May 26: The House Appropriations Committee’s SFOPS subcommittee held a hearing entitled, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) FY22 Budget Request. The sole witness was USAID Administrator Samantha Power (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. Also see: Power pledges Gaza aid will comply with Taylor Force Act, not benefit Hamas (Jewish Insider)

May 26: The House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing entitled, The State Department’s Foreign Policy Strategy and FY22 Budget Request (at which SecState Blinken was scheduled to testify) was postponed.

3. On the Record

Note to Round-Up readers: Normally I try to track every statement and tweet made by every member of Congress with respect to the Middle East. Given the sheer volume of such statements over the past 3 weeks, doing so is (for now) impossible. If you want to know what a particular member has said, check the Congressional Record, or their website, or their social media accounts, or try using Google.

Selected media stories

Jewish Insider 5/27: House Dems respond to GOP ads accusing them of opposing security funding to Israel

Haaretz 5/26: Before Retiring: Israeli President Set to Meet With Biden, Address Congress

Washington Examiner 5/26: GOP group hits House Democrats on Israel as Republicans reel from Marjorie Taylor Greene

Vox 5/26: The progressive foreign policy moment has arrived

Haaretz 5/26: These Young Jewish Staffers Are Bringing Their Disillusionment With Israel to Capitol Hill

St Louis Post-Dispatch 5/26: Editorial: Cori Bush needs to explain her stand on the anti-Israel boycott movement

Jewish Insider 5/25: How one congressional candidate evolved her position on Israel in recent weeks

City & State NY 5/25: Unquestioning support for Israel is no longer safe for NY Democrats

BBC 5/21: Israel-Gaza: The Democrats’ ‘tectonic’ shift on the conflict

Haaretz 5/23: Israel Has Biden’s Support, but It’s Losing Life-long Friends in Congress

The Hill 5/23: Progressives ramp up scrutiny of US funding for Israel

Wall Street Journal 5/22: Progressives Pressure Top Democrats on Israel Arms Deal, Policing

Fox News 5/21: Rep. McCaul calls out members of Congress for engaging in anti-Semitic behavior: We must stand behind Israel

MSNBC 5/21: Democrats are finally willing to speak up on Israel. It’s about time.

NPR 5/21: How The Gaza Violence Marked A Shift In The American Political Debate Over Israel

Washington Post 5/20: Eight minutes with the president: Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the lone Palestinian American in Congress, gains relevance in Israel debate

American Prospect 5/20: ‘Palestinian Rights Are Worth Fighting For,’ Says Congress’s Champion of Human Rights

AP 5/19: GOP seeks political opening amid tense Israel-Hamas fighting

Politico 5/19: U.S.-Israel politics heat up on the Hill as liberals try to stop arms sale

Jewish Currents 5/19: Progressive Legislators to Introduce Resolution Blocking Bomb Sale to Israel

CNN 5/18: Biden administration notified Congress of $735 million weapons sale to Israel earlier this month, before violence began

Huffington Post 5/17: Democrats Are Slowly Getting More Critical Of Israel

Yahoo 5/16: Most of Congress silent on Israeli-Palestinian fighting

New York Times 5/15: Tensions Among Democrats Grow Over Israel as the Left Defends Palestinians

Middle East Eye 5/14: Israel-Palestine: US lawmakers speak up for Palestinian rights in Congress

NBC 5/14: Biden followed pro-Israel U.S. precedent. But new critics shake the status quo.

Jewish Insider 5/14: Democratic split on Israel on display in competing House speeches

The Intercept 5/14: Rank-and-File Democrats Slow to Call for Restricting Aid to Israel