Legislative Round-Up: October 8, 2021

1. Bills, Resolutions, Letters
2. The Great 2021 Iron Dome Supplemental Debacle (cont.)
3. Hearings & Markups
4. On the Record

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

More great FMEP programming:

  • New episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, Occupied Thoughts: Pogrom in Mufagara and ‘Fighting for our justice’, ft. journalist and activist Basil Adraa and activist and water management expert Natasha Westheimer, in conversation with FMEP’s Sarah Anne Minkin.

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(IRON DOME FUNDING, LINKED TO AFGHANISTAN) S. 2944: Introduced 10/6 by Paul (R-TX), the “Funding Iron Dome by Defunding the Taliban Act.” Referred to the Committee on Appropriations. NOTE: This bill is part of Paul’s move to block Iron Dome funding in the Senate this week. For details see Section 2, below.

UPDATE  — (FREE MARKET EXCEPTION TO PREVENT CRITICISM OF ISRAEL) HR 2829: Last week the Round-Up covered this bill, introduced by Rubio (R-FL) 9/23 (when all of us were busy tracking the Iron Dome debacle), the “Mind Your Own Business Act of 2021.” As noted last week, this bill aims to kick companies that adopt policies challenging Israeli policies — including distinguishing between Israel and settlements — out of the stock market, and to enable stockholders to sue them. The bill, which targets “woke” [yes, it actually uses that word] policies in general, specifically mentions “any entity that engages in a commerce- or investment-related boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity that targets Israel“. Missing from last week’s analysis was the fact that this mention of BDS  actually reflects an additional feature of the bill: with this phrase, the bill would on the one hand open up companies to shareholder lawsuits if they take business decisions that reflect their progressive political views/ideologies/conscience, while on the other hand, it would explicitly exempt from this same shareholder accountability companies that act to punish other companies for boycotting Israel/settlements. In practice, what this would mean is that a company could be sued by shareholders for refusing to operate in settlements, but it could not be sued by shareholders for boycotting a bank over that bank’s refuses to operate in settlements. Or as Matt Stoller tweeted – “ideology for me but not for thee.”

Letters

(ATTACKING VP HARRIS) Lamborn-Wilson letter to VP Harris: On 10/7, Reps. Lamborn (R-CO) and Wilson (R-SC) sent a letter to Vice President Harris regarding her recent failure to publicly shame/silence a university student for criticizing Israel (among other things). Per the press release, the letter “condemns  the comments of the Vice President and points out the rising anti-Semitic wave on U.S. campuses and around the globe. Finally it calls for her to apologize, and pledge to fight anti-Semitism moving forwards.” The letter, in fact, suggests that by failing to shut down/rebuke the student, Harris is guilty of “encouraging a false narrative” and that doing so “is anti-Semitic.” The letter also ties the student’s comments to the kerfuffle in the House last month over Iron Dome funding, characterizing the demand by some House progressives to remove the funding from the FY22 Continuing Resolution – notwithstanding the fact that all Republicans were committed to voting against the CR, irrespective of the fate of the Iron Dome funding, and notwithstanding the fact that funding was passed by the House days later; and notwithstanding the fact that the funds are now stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Republican senator (Rand Paul, R-KY). Also see: Lamborn press release, Lamborn tweet.

 

2.The Great 2021 Iron Dome Supplemental Debacle (cont.)

The political debacle that is the 2021 Iron Dome Supplemental continued – unresolved – this week, as for a second consecutive week the funding was blocked in the Senate. For those who need to catch up on the story, see:

What happened this week?

On 10/4, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez tried, again, to move HR 5323, the House-adopted Iron Dome supplemental, by Unanimous Consent (after announcing on the Senate floor on 9/30 that he had intended to do so but was block by Paul, R-KY). Menendez was blocked by Rand Paul (R-KY), who continues to demand that the Senate adopt an amendment to the bill, to cut funding for Afghanistan (you can read their 10/4 exchange on the Senate floor here). Of note:

  • In making the case, Paul’s talking points sounded a lot like those of many who raised questions/objections to the Iron Dome extra aid in the House [“…The billion dollars under consideration today is on top of the more than $1.6 billion the United States has already given for Iron Dome, and that is not all.  The United States provides Israel with just under $4 billion in aid annually. To date, the United States has provided over $146 billion in aid to Israel. In addition to Iron Dome, the United States has helped Israel fund other missile defense systems as well. We spent $2 billion on David’s Sling and $3.7 billion on Arrow programs. That means the United States has contributed $7 billion to Israel’s missile defense systems…”]
  • The latter is especially notable given the almost total silence from members of the House and Senate – from both parties – about Paul’s obstruction of the funding. This silence is in stark difference to the flood of statements attacking House progressives who opposed moving the funding in the Continuing Resolution (CR); attacking Democrats as a whole for taking the money out of the CR, notwithstanding the fact that they moved it immediately as freestanding legislation), and attacking the very small number of Democrats who voted “no” or “present” on the bill. The silence from these same members now, as the funding is being formally blocked by a Senate Republican, could not be more striking.
  • Notable exceptions – i.e., members that challenged Paul’s blocking of the funds – are Sherman (D-CA), Crist (D-FL), Smith (R-MO), and Risch (R-ID – also leaves out direct mention of Paul). With respect to Risch, the difference in tone between his criticism of Paul, and his criticism of House Democrats, speaks for itself: Risch Tweet, 10/5 – “Congress must act to replenish #Israel’s Iron Dome defensive system. Playing politics with this is irresponsible, there are lives at stake. Risch Tweet 9/21 – “It’s ridiculous that House Democrats are continuing to jeopardize assistance to our close ally, #Israel, which continues to face very real threats to its existence. At the end of the day, we must fund Iron Dome replenishment, radical left politics aside.”
  • Likewise, the difference in how the media is covering the Senate’s Iron Dome saga, vs. how it covered the drama in the House, could not be more striking. Indeed, two weeks ago Iron Dome was trending on Twitter for days, and there were more Iron Dome-related headlines than could be counted. This week? Comparatively light (and entirely non-sensationalized) media coverage, and certainly not trending on Twitter.
  • As an example of the very different tenor of media coverage of the Iron Dome drama in the House vs. in the Senate, see: Resistant to foreign spending, Sen. Paul stymies trajectory of Iron Dome funding (JNS, 10/6) vs The Squad loves dead Jews: Support for Hamas implies nothing less (JNS, 10/29), The complicated politics of hating Israel (JNS, 9/27), & The baleful significance of the Democrats’ Iron Dome fiasco (JNS, 9/23)
  • In addition, the very different handling by members of both parties of Paul’s opposition, compared to the House Democratic leaders’ apparent rush to move the bill and their readiness to ignore/stomp on opposition from within their own caucus in order to do so, could not be more striking – see:  Senate Dems give GOP more time to convince Rand Paul to back down on Iron Dome (Jewish Insider, 10/7)

On 10/7, Democrats took to the floor again to try to move HR 5323, this time with Sens. Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rosen (D-NV) making floor statements in support, and Sen. Paul (R-KY) standing firm in his opposition. See their floor exchange here; also see Rosen’s tweets here and here; and press release.

Also on 10/7, a new wrinkle appeared in the Senate’s Iron Dome story, when news broke (in Jewish Currents) that Sen. Sanders (I-VT) would vote “yes” on the supplemental $1 billion in Iron Dome funding (assuming Paul’s block of Unanimous Consent is not lifted, and the funding is brought up for a roll call vote), based on an agreement with Senate Majority leader Schumer (D-NY) to work with Senate appropriators to provide $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Gaza (see Sanders’ letter to Schumer, here). Remarkably, the news that Sanders will vote for the Iron Dome funding, as part of a deal to get more aid for Gaza, seems to have generated as much if not more media attention as Rand Paul’s continued action to block the funding altogether – for example, see: Haaretz, Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, Middle East Monitor, Arutz Sheva,

Also see:

Politico 10/7: Rand Paul bedevils fellow Republicans again with Israel aid holdup

Jewish Current 10/6: Iron Domegate is a victory in disguise for Palestine advocates

Jewish Insider 10/5: Senate remains at a standstill on Iron Dome after Menendez, Paul face off

Times of Israel 10/5: Republican senator blocks expedited US passage of Iron Dome funding

Mondoweiss 10/5: Bowman says voting for extra Iron Dome funding won’t stop him from fighting for Palestine

Politico 10/4: Partisan squabbling again delayed $1 billion in U.S. funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. This time it was a GOP obstructor.

 

3. Hearings & Markups

October 5: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a nominations hearing to consider (among other things) Lisa Carty to be the US Ambassador to ECOSOC, and Alternate U.S. Representative to UNGA (testimony); and Steven Bondy, to be US ambassador to Bahrain (testimony). Video is here.  Normalization figured heavily into the Bahrain-portion of the hearing. Also see:

  • Opening statement from Menendez (D-NJ), including:  U.S.-Bahrain ties are long-standing. As the host to the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain is an essential U.S. partner in our shared efforts to maintain stability and security in the Arabian Gulf. As the region continues to face instability and threats, most concerning from Iran, it is critical that we have a skilled diplomat in place to strengthen and maintain our partnership. Bahrain has also led the charge for more regional diplomacy as an original signatory to the Abraham Accords, and I have full confidence you will work to further their political, economic, and cultural normalization with Israel. Your extensive experience in the Middle East, including time spent as the Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs in Bahrain and more recently as the Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’affairs in Abu Dhabi will certainly serve you well and the country well in navigating our embassy in Manama.”
  • Opening statement from Risch (R-ID), including: “The Biden Administration has also decided to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council. The council is known for its anti-Israel bias and troubling countries, including the worst human rights offenders on the planet, like China, Cuba, Russia, and Venezuela. I strongly oppose any attempt by the United States to rejoin this sham group until reforms have been achieved. On the nomination of ambassador to Bahrain – the United States and the Kingdom of Bahrain have enjoyed a close relationship since the 1940s. Home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the International Maritime Security Construct, Bahrain is a lynchpin for regional stability and serves as a critical front against Iran’s regional aggression. I remain concerned that Iran continues its efforts to destabilize Bahrain and arm the terrorist groups that operate there. On the human rights front, Bahrain has come a long way since the Arab Spring. While there is more work to be done certainly, the kingdom has made strides in effective policing, advancing human rights, and curbing trafficking in persons. It is vital that we continue this important work. Finally, I applaud Bahrain’s growing relationship with Israel with its signing of the Abraham Accords. These agreements finally offer a path forward for peace in a troubled region. And the recent visit of the Israeli Foreign Minister and embassy opening were encouraging steps. Should you be confirmed, it is critical that you work to encourage Bahrain and Israel to deepen their diplomatic, economic, and security relationship. This is a priority effort.

4. On the Record

Still going after VP Harris for failing to scold/silence student

Van Duyne (R-TX) 10/5: Tweet – “Kamala Harris has long been a best friend to drug cartels and #humantraffickers and now, Iran loves her. #Kamala is little more than a useful idiot for thugs, criminals, and terrorists. America deserves so much better.” Linked to article, Iran state media promotes video of Kamala Harris not pushing back on Israel ‘ethnic genocide’ claim (Fox News)

Banks (R-IN) 10/4: Tweet – “We’ve gone from the most pro-Israel administration in American history under Donald Trump to one of the least under Joe Biden.”

Kim (R-CA) 10/4: Tweet – Israel is one of our strongest allies & has historically received bipartisan support from Congress. VP Harris agreeing with a student accusing Israel of ‘ethnic genocide’ is dangerous & has consequences abroad & home as we see a rise in antisemitism.” Linked to article, Harris’ office does damage control over student’s Israel ‘ethnic genocide’ comment (Politico)

Roy (R-TX) 10/4: Tweet – “READ: ‘[@VP] is not doing our undergraduates any favors by encouraging them to believe they can imagine the truth to be anything they want. …the truth is that …Israel is America’s great… ally which has flourished for… decades as the only democracy in the Middle East…’” Linked to op-ed he co-authored with former Cruz (R-TX) staffer Victoria Coates, Kamala Harris and the Truth about Israel (Newsweek)

Steel (R-CA) 10/2: Tweet – “After the Far-Left pushed for pulling aid to Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, it is alarming to see our Vice President praise anti-Israel sentiment coming from our youth. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. I stand with Israel.” Linked to article, Kamala Harris praises student who accused Israel of genocide for telling ‘your truth’ (New York Post)

Israel-related matters

Scott (R-FL) 10/8: Tweet – Is @Nike targeting Israeli businesses? We need answers NOW.    Nike must explain how this is not an anti-Israel move or we have to assume this is its first step toward full BDS.” Linked to article, Nike to terminate sales in Israeli stores (Jerusalem Post)

Blackburn (R-TN) 10/8: Tweet – “.@Nike’s reasoning was: ‘Israel stores no longer match the company’s policy and goals.’ Does that mean they will end their use of slave labor? Or do Nike’s policies and goals support that?”  Linked to article, Nike to terminate sales in Israeli stores (Jerusalem Post)

Blackburn (R-TN) 10/8: Tweet – “Stand with Israel.”

Jerusalem Post 10/7: Rashida Tlaib speaks at ‘Gaza is Palestine’ online event

Levin (D-MI) 10/7: Tweet – “America must reassert its role in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together and helping create the conditions for real peace and security. Which is why we need the Two-State Solution Act. If you agree, sign on to be a Grassroots Cosponsor today”

Levin (D-MI) 10/7: Tweet – “I’m incredibly honored to have MK Yair Golan, member of Israel’s coalition government & retired major general, endorse the Two-State Solution Act and to see the impact our movement is having.” Linked to J St tweet reporting Yair Golan’s endorsement of the bill.

Balderson (R-OH) 10/7: Tweet – “Always enjoy catching up with @OSU_BUCKiPAC ! Pleased to be back in-person this year to talk about the importance of protecting the U.S.-Israeli alliance.”

Deutch (D-FL) 10/7: Tweets – “This awful violence must be condemned. I agree w/ Israeli Foreign Minister @yairlapid that, ‘This violent incident is horrific & it is terror.’ And I appreciate his acknowledging that Israel “ha[s] a responsibility to bring them to justice.” & “Insightful observation from @mkoplow: ‘You have to be on the margins to view Israel defending itself from rockets aimed at its cities as reprehensible,but you also have to be on the margins to view Israelis’ attacks on Palestinians as aberrant or unworthy of condemnation.” Linked to 10/1 Times of Israel article, US ‘strongly condemns’ settler assault on Palestinians in South Hebron Hills

Green (R-GA) 10/7: Twitter rant targeting Sen. McConnell (R-KY), including: “4. For your information Mitch, anything you do that helps the America & Israel hating Progressives get their way betrays our country and our allies. Republican leaders should not be providing aid and comfort to likes of Omar, Jayapal, and AOC.”

Mast (R-FL) 10/5: Tweet – “I will always stand with Israel. This should not be partisan.”

Sherrill (D-NJ) 10/4: Rep. Sherrill Holds Roundtable on Confronting Antisemitism with Community Leaders [excerpt: “‘For too long, Jewish students (and others) have been on the front lines of the new antisemitism on college campuses, facing harassment and hostility for their support of Israel,’ said Linda Scherzer, Director of the Community Relations Committee at Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. ‘We’re deeply grateful to Congresswoman Sherrill for listening to our concerns and soliciting ideas from rabbis, Jewish leaders and professionals in our community to combat antisemitism on a federal level.’”]

Mast (R-FL) 10/2: Tweet – “The U.S. must not support a two-state solution if one of those states will be a terrorist nation run by Hamas.” Linked to article, House Foreign Affairs approves Israel Relations Normalization Act (Jewish Insider)

Deutch (D-FL) 10/1: Tweet – “I was proud to support the Israel Relations Normalization Act in @Houseforeign expand & strengthen these normalization agreements. A year after the Abraham Accords, there remains strong bipartisan support for normalization & a commitment to continue to advance these agreements.” Linked to video clip of Deutch speaking during the markup of the bill.

Salazar (R-FL) 10/1: Tweet – Los socialistas radicales del partido demócrata siguen intentando destruir lo que hace a Estados Unidos tan especial. Intentaron y fracasaron en dañar nuestra relación con Israel. Mientras sigamos luchando juntos contra ellos, nuestra nación triunfará.” [Translation: The radical socialists of the Democrat party continue to try to destroy what makes the United States so special. They tried and failed to damage our relationship with Israel. As long as we continue to fight together against them, our nation will triumph.”] With video clip [in Spanish] of Salazar saying that “the socialists in Congress are also antisemites,” attacking the Squad and Pelosi, etc.

Other matters

Jewish Insider 10/7: Auchincloss: Any Iran deal should be sent to Senate as a ‘treaty’

Jewish Standard/Times of Israel 10/6: Menendez urges focus on Iran

Sullivan (R-AK) 10/5: Tweet – “Frances Haugen said that Facebook knows its platform is being used by America’s adversaries–from the #CCP to Iran—to undermine U.S. interests & conduct espionage. As I told my fellow @SenateCommerce colleagues, this troubling revelation warrants a deeper dive from Congress.” Linked to video clip from hearing

Tenney (R-NY) 10/4: Tweet – “Biden’s agenda isn’t just failing Americans. It’s just as bad for our allies. Iran says ??? w/ Israel has started North Korea tests new missile UK & NATO allies abandoned China provoking Taiwan Afghanistan falls to Taliban No support to Cuban ppl What’d I miss?”

Bilirakis (R-FL) 10/4: Tweet – “I agree that we must continue to support those in Iran who are fighting for freedom.” Linked to tweet from former SecState Pompeo, “We must support the Iranian people as they fight for a freer & more democratic Iran. There is so much work that American civil society can do to further this goal, & the Iranian American Community of NY is actively engaged in that work – keep up the fight”, which is accompanied by a video of Pompeo speaking at an event held by “Organization of Iranian American Communities,” which is linked to the MEK.

Velaquez (D-NY) 10/4: Tweet – “The struggles of the Yemeni community are our own, and we shall continue to support a route for peace in Yemen, and for dignity and respect for our Yemeni-Americans. Proud to join Yemeni Heritage Day on Saturday in Brooklyn.”

Menendez (D-NJ) & Risch (R-ID) 10/1: Menendez, Risch Statement Following Reports of Suspended Investigation into Port of Beirut Blast [also see Menendez tweet, 10/4, linked to article, Beirut blast probe to resume as court rejects challenges (AP)]

Himes (D-CT) 10/1: Tweet – “66 yrs ago today, my constituent #MoradTahbaz was born. He remains unjustly detained in Iran’s Evin Prison. We call on the UK Govt to ensure the release of Morad & ALL dual nationals #FreeMorad @BorisJohnson @trussliz @KarenPierceUK @FCDOGovUK @StateDept @Rob_Malley @StateSPEHA

Hill (R-AR) 10/1: Tweet – “Met today with the Syrian Negotiation Commission. We discussed the current situation in Syria and the need for a solution for UNSCR 2254. This resolution calls for a ceasefire in Syria, the return of refugees, and a cohesive government working together to move forward.”