Legislative Round-Up: June 25, 2021

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

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

More great FMEP programming over the past week:

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(TARGET: HIZBALLAH/LEBANON) HR 4073: Introduced 6/22 by Zeldin (R-NY) and 3 Republican cosponsors, “To restrict security assistance to Lebanon, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Also see: Zeldin press release – Rep. Zeldin Pushes Legislation to Rollback Hezbollah’s Influence Over Lebanese Military; JNS 6/24 – Zeldin reintroduces bill to cut Lebanese military’s ties to Hezbollah

(TARGET: SAUDI EDUCATION) S. 2142: Introduced 6/21 by Rubio (R-FL) and Wyden (D-OR), “A bill to require annual reports on religious intolerance in Saudi Arabian educational materials, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(THREE CHEERS FOR NORMALIZATION – just don’t mention the Palestinians!) S.1061: As noted in last week’s Round-Up, this week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a business meeting to consider (among other things) the Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021, introduced 3/25 by Portman (R-OH) and having 57 bipartisan cosponsors. As expected, the committee approved the legislation (two days later than originally planned) – which promotes a bipartisan approach to “peace” embraced by both the Trump Administration and the Biden Administration. At the same time, the SFRC business meeting was marked by some drama, as Cruz (R-TX) sought to amend the bill – which he had cosponsored – to remove the bill’s sole reference of support for a two-state solution. After that gambit failed, Cruz announced that he was retracting his support for the bill (and removing himself as a cosponsor).  The bill now goes to the floor for a vote. Also see:

  • Video of the 6/24 SFRC business meeting
  • Full report on the SFRC hearing – and the drama – from Jewish Insider
  • The Managers’ Amendment adopted in the SFRC is here. A threatened Hagerty (R-TN amendment dealing with the JCPOA was not brought for a vote
  • Portman (R-OH) tweet – “Earlier today @SenateForeign approved my legislation encouraging normalization of relations btwn Israel & other countries in the region, which will help build on the success of the Abraham Accords, support our ally Israel & lay the groundwork for peace & prosperity in the region.”
  • Portman (R-OH) press release – “Portman, Booker Applaud Senate Committee Passage of S.1061, the Israel Relations Normalization Act”
  • Risch (R-ID) press release – “Risch Applauds Committee Passage of Legislation on Uyghurs, Israel, Georgia”, and Tweet
  • JNS 6/25: AIPAC lauds Senate Foreign Relations Committee for bill supporting Abraham Accords

(SUPPORTING SUPPRESSION OF FREE SPEECH IN STATES) S. 2119: As noted in last week’s Round-Up, on 6/17 by Rubio (R-FL) and Manchin (D-NV), “A bill to provide for nonpreemption of measures by State and local governments to divest from entities that engage in certain boycott, divestment, or sanctions activities targeting Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories, and for other purposes.” As reported in that Round-Up, this is, indeed, the re-introduced Combating BDS Act, last seen in 2019 in the form of S. 1 (details of that saga are here).  For more on the reintroduction of this deeply problematic piece of legislation, see:

(BAD IRAN) H. Res. 497: Introduced 6/24 by Cicilline (D-RI) and Kim (R-CA), “Condemning the murder of Alireza Fazeli Monfared and the practice of so-called ‘honor killings’ in Iran, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Coming soon?

(TARGETING HAMAS) Last week’s Round-Up noted an op-ed published 6/11 in The Hill, authored by two fellows at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), recommending to Congress a new way to target Hamas and, implicitly, to further squeeze Palestinians in Gaza. On 6/23 FDD came out with a new policy brief on the topic – Hold Hamas Accountable for Human-Shields Use During the May 2021 Gaza War.  As a reminder, FDD has historically enjoyed remarkable success in getting its Middle East/Iran-related recommendations adopted by legislators (especially but not exclusively Republicans).

Letters

(US TRAINING LINK TO KHASHOGGI MURDER?) Menendez et al letter to Blinken: On 6/25, Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) and 5 fellow Senate Democrats sent a letter to SecState Blinken and SecDef Austin calling on the Department of State and Department of Defense to assess and reevaluate the full extent of training, military cooperation and arms sales that the U.S. Government and U.S. private contractors provide to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The letter reflects concerns stemming from a recent report by The New York Times which revealed Saudi officials who participated in the assassination of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi previously received State Department-authorized paramilitary training from a U.S. private security contractor. Press release is here.

(F**CK CONGRESSIONAL CONCERNS ABOUT THE IHRA DEFINITION) State response to Schakowsky et al: As previously reported in the Round-Up, on 5/27 a group of House Democrats – led by Schakowsky (D-IL), Pocan (D-WI), Jayapal (D-WA), Levin (D-MI), and Raskin (D-MD) – sent a letter to SecState Blinken, cosigned by 31 other House Democrats, urging 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. According to a 6/25 report in Haaretz, in its response to Schakowsky the State Department not only ignored the members’ concerns about the IHRA definition, but “doubled down” (the words used in the Haaretz headline) in the Biden Administration’s embrace of the IHRA definition. Haaretz writes:

“The State Department’s response to Schakowsky, obtained by Haaretz, does not once address the alternate definitions, but highlights the IHRA definition as ‘the gold standard.’ ‘The Department agrees that it is crucial that governments and public are able to recognize anti-Semitism in its many forms, traditional and contemporary, so that we can call hate by its proper name and take effective action,’ wrote Acting Assistant Secretary Naz Durakoğlu from the Bureau of Legislative Affairs. ‘To those ends, like prior U.S. administrations of both political parties, the Biden Administration embraces and champions the IHRA nonlegally binding working definition of anti-Semitism in its entirety, including its examples, and the Administration continues to encourage other countries as well as international bodies to do the same.’”

(ROLL BACK TRUMP’S ISRAEL-PALESTINE POLICIES) Connolly et al letter to Biden: On 6/24 Reps. Connolly (D-VA), Welch (D-VT), and Schakowsky (D-IL) led 70 members of Congress (all Democrats) in sending a letter to President Biden, urging him to reverse the previous administration’s abandonment of longstanding bipartisan US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, including: withdrawing Trump’s “peace plan”; insisting on Hamas ending rocket attacks against Israel; re-opening a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem; reissuing State Department and U.S. customs guidance that make clear that the US considers settlements to be inconsistent with international law by; opposing the forced expulsion via eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem and throughout Palestinian territory; ensuring that all relevant official US documents/communications consistently refer to the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as “occupied”; ensuring that all remaining congressionally appropriated aid to the Palestinians is disbursed without undue delay, consistent with US laws/congressional requirements; and consistently issuing public condemnations of actions that violate the rights of either party or undermine the prospects for peace. Press release is here.

 

2. Hearings & Markups

On 6/22, the House Appropriations Committee released its FY22 markup schedule. These include:

  • June 28: Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs markup of the FY22 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee Appropriations Bill at 7:30pm ET (really). Watch it here.
  • June 30: Subcommittee markup the FY22 Defense and Homeland Security appropriations bills (as yet no further details)
  • July 1: Full Committee markup of the FY22 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee Appropriations Bill  (as yet no further details)
  • July 13: Full Committee markup of the FY22 Defense and Homeland Security appropriations bills (as yet no further details)

June 23: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled,COVID-19 in the MENA Region: Addressing the Impacts of the Pandemic and the Road to Recovery. Witnesses were: Carla Humud, Congressional Research Service (statement); Eman Moankar, CARE International (statement); and Hallam Ferguson, The Wilson Center (statement). Video is here.

June 22: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a business meeting where it was supposed to mark up a number of pieces of legislation including: S. J. Res. 10, a joint resolution to repeal the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq, and for other purposes, S. 1061, Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021 (with an amendment); and S. Res. 154, a resolution congratulating the people of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the centennial of the founding of the Jordanian state (with an amendment). What happened instead was:

  • Chairman Menendez (D-NJ) pushed consideration of S. 1061 to the SFRC business meeting on 6/24 – for details see Section 1, above; hearing video/details here.
  • Menendez took S. J. Res. 10 off the agenda for the time being, based on request(s) from an SFRC member(s). In making the announcement that the resolution was off the agenda, Menendez noted that his staff is available to answer members’ questions and committed to bringing Administration officials in for a briefing before bring it back up for a vote.
  • Menendez took S. Res. 154 off the agenda for the time being, based apparently on a request(s) from an SFRC member(s). No further explanation was given and the bill was not dealt with at the 6/24 meeting.

3. On the Record

Members on the Record

Tlaib (D-MI) 6/25: Tweet – “Because Israel believes Palestinians are disposable, less human. They are committing war crimes paid for by U.S. taxpayers with no accountability. The apartheid and killings must stop.” Linked to New York Times investigative video report, Gaza’s Deadly Night: How Israeli Airstrikes Killed 44 People

Hill (R-AR) 6/25: Tweet – “As I have said before, returning to the Iran nuclear deal should be a non-starter for the US. It gave up too much leverage to a tyrannical regime with little promise of actual change, placing the national security of America and Israel in jeopardy.” Linked to article, Diplomats meet in Vienna for more Iran nuclear talks (CNBC)

Palazzo (R-MS) 6/25: Tweet – I stand in unwavering support of one of America’s longest standing allies. I #standwithisrael.” Accompanied by Palazzo next to a sign reading “Stand With Israel”.

Lamborn (R-CO) 6/25: Tweet – “Huge news! The Honduras embassy is now open in Jerusalem. Like President Trump and the United States, they recognize the fact that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel. #StandWithIsrael”

Smith (R-MO) 6/24: Tweet – “Israel is one of America’s most important allies and the only democracy in the Middle East, yet Biden’s budget flatlines defense putting alliances with Israel and others further at risk. Today @HouseBudgetGOP Members and I had a chance to speak w/ @DeptofDefense.” (includes link to video clip)

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 6/23: Tweet – “Pleased to see that @SecDef approved critical security investment for Israel, so that our key ally can replenish its supply of Iron Dome missile interceptors. This is critical to our joint efforts to fight terror.” Linked to article, US Defense Department approves replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome system (Jerusalem Post)

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 6/23: Press release – Gottheimer, Mast Introduce Bipartisan Hamas International Financing Prevention Act (referring to HR 3685, introduced 6/4/21)

McConnell (R-KY) 6/22: Floor statement on Iran

Beyer (D-VA) 6/22: Egypt Human Rights Caucus Co-Chairs’ Statement On Visit to Washington of Abbas Kamel, Director of Egypt’s General Intelligence Services

Cotton (R-AR) 6/24: Tweet – Hamas is using bitcoin to get around sanctions and fund terrorism against Israel. This needs to be stopped.” Linked to article, Israel-Gaza Conflict Spurs Bitcoin Donations to Hamas (Wall Street Journal)

Cotton (R-AR) 6/24: Tweet – “The Golan Heights is sovereign Israeli territory. Reversing this U.S. policy would betray our Israeli allies and give a gift to mass murderer Bashar al-Assad.” Linked to article, Biden Admin Walks Back U.S. Recognition of Golan Heights as Israeli Territory (Free Beacon)

Tlaib (D-MI) 6/24: Tweet – “The new Israeli PM has been in power for less than two weeks and it’s already bombed Gaza, sprayed sewage water on the Al-Aqsa compound, and expanded settlements.” Linked to article, Under Bennett, Israel Approves Construction in West Bank for First Time in Six Months (Haaretz)

Khanna (D-CA) 6/23: Tweet – “Ramy Shaath turns 50 years old today. Egypt should free him and all other prisoners of conscience immediately.”

Rice (D-NY) 6/23: Tweet – “This is leadership. Thank you @NassauExecutive for taking action to combat antisemitism in Nassau County.” Linked to tweet announcing Nassau County Executive signing an Executive Order adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Pocan (D-WI) 6/22: Tweet – “Another night of violent outbursts by Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents in #SheikhJarrah. How many Palestinians must be displaced from their homes, attacked, or killed before the United States demands an end to Israel’s state-sanctioned police violence?” Linked to AJ+ tweet, “Israeli police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinians in #SheikhJarrah, occupied East Jerusalem — where Israeli settlers want to forcibly displace dozens of Palestinian families. Settlers threw stones & reportedly pepper-sprayed 4 children. 20 Palestinians were hurt.

Omar (D-MN) 6/22: Tweet – “Egypt engaged in routine human rights violations. It’s also clear Egyptian intelligence was complicit in the Khashoggi murder. We need a human rights advocacy that is consistent around the world.” Linked to article, Egyptian intelligence chief to face questioning over alleged involvement in Khashoggi killing (Yahoo)

Scott (R-FL) 6/22: Tweet – “American taxpayer dollars should never be used to prop up terrorists, like Hamas, backed by Iran’s ruthless regime who want to destroy our great ally, Israel. @POTUSmust stand with Israel & our allies & refuse to rejoin the failed Iran deal.” Linked to CNN clip of Scott.

Tlaib (D-MI) 6/22: Tweet – “REMINDER: Egypt is another country the US must halt all aid and arms sales to until they address and are held accountable for their many, ongoing human rights abuses. We cannot continue to turn blind eyes to lives being lost.” Linked to article, Powerful countries break their silence on Egypt’s human rights abuses (PRI)

Boebert (R-CO) 6/21: Tweet – “There have been two nations created for God’s glory, Israel and the United States of America. We will glorify God!

Scott (R-FL) 6/21: press release – Sen. Rick Scott: Biden’s Iran Appeasement Threatens American Security; also see Scott (R-FL) 6/21: Tweet – Appeasing Iran’s murderous regime does nothing but hurt the U.S. & Israel. @POTUS must end his feeble attempts to re-enter the failed Iran deal & make clear that the U.S. won’t ease sanctions or tolerate Iran’s support of terrorists

Carson (D-IN) 6/21: Tweet – “Egypt’s mass trial of the Rab’a protesters and unjust death sentences are egregious human rights violations. President al-Sisi should commute these death sentences, and he must hold accountable the members of the security forces responsible for the mass killings at Rab’a Square.

Rice (R-NY) 6/21: Tweet – I met with @AIPAC National Council members to discuss security assistance to Israel, the Abraham Accords, and last month’s ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”

Cotton (R-AR) 6/21: Tweet – “Of course the Biden administration won’t threaten the Chinese Communist Party. They only use threats against our allies like Israel.” Linked to screenshot of headline reading “Biden Adviser on COVID-Origin Probe: U.S. Won’t Issue Threats to China ‘at This Point’”

Kinzinger (R-IL) 6/21: Tweet – “On #WorldRefugeeDay, #Assad was once again attacking civilians in NW #Syria, adding to his 500k deathtoll. His brutality has forced 6.6 MILLION Syrians to become refugees & left another 5.2M displaced. We must hold war criminals like #Assad accountable.” With video clip of Kinzinger speaking on House floor.

Boyle (R-PA) 6/20: Boyle Statement On Exclusion Of Israeli Food Truck At Philadelphia Community Event

McCollum (D-MN) 6/19: Tweet – A big thank you to @RepBonnie for signing on to #HR2590 to promote human rights for Palestinian children & families. #HumanRightsChampion

Granger (R-TX) 6/19: Tweet – “This week, the @TexasGuard and Egypt formalized a partnership under the @USNationalGuard’s State Partnership Program. I am looking forward to a mutually beneficial relationship with our friends in Egypt.” Linked to US Embassy in Cairo press release, U.S. National Guard Visits Egypt to Begin Long-term Military Partnership

Media & Other Reports

Jewish Insider 6/24: Meeks details plans for committee’s Israel trip

Jewish Insider 6/24: Chuck Schumer called Yair Lapid to offer congratulations

Algemeiner 6/23: Bipartisan Bill to Sanction Those Financing Hamas Terror Introduced in Congress

Algemeiner 6/22: Jewish Democrats Rise to Defend Rep. Ilhan Omar Over Israel, Hamas Comparison

Al Jazeera 6/23: Aid to Palestinians promised by US blocked by Republican senator

Politico 6/22: Progressives count their foreign policy wins with Omar flap in rear view

Times of Israel 6/22: Lapid, Pelosi discuss bipartisan US support for Israel in first phone call

Haaretz 6/22: Why This Proudly Jewish Lawmaker Is One of Israel’s Biggest Critics in Congress

Arutz Sheva 6/22: When will congressional Jews pull the fire alarm?

Middle East Monitor 6/22: Dawn calls on Congress to interrogate Egypt intelligence chief over Khashoggi murders

Jewish Insider 6/21: Congressional efforts to repeal Iraq war authorization raise questions about Iranian proxies

Jewish News Syndicate 6/21: Orthodox Union mobilizes to press US lawmakers to back Israel, combat domestic terror