APN Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending 3/22/13

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Consolidated Appropriations Bill Passes (HR 933)
3. Hearings
4. Members on the Record
5. From the Press


Lara Friedman at the Daily Beast's Open Zion 3/21: Savoring the Afterglow of Obama's Speech
APN Press Release 3/21: APN Applauds Obama's historic speech to the Israeli people

NOTE: During the March 20th joint Netanyahu-Obama press conference, Obama stated: "As part of our long-term commitment to Israel's security, the Prime Minister and I agreed to begin discussions on extending military assistance to Israel. Our current agreement lasts through 2017, and we've directed our teams to start working on extending it for the years beyond." Obama also noted, "I'm also pleased to announce that we will take steps to ensure that there's no interruption of funding for Iron Dome. As a result of decisions that I made last year, Israel will receive approximately $200 million this fiscal year and we will continue to work with Congress on future funding of Iron Dome."

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

(BAN AID TO THE PA) HR 1337: Introduced 3/21 by DeSantis (R-FL) and 6 cosponsors, "To restrict funds for the Palestinian Authority, and for other purposes." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Coverage in Red State, here, Freebeacon, here. DeSantis press releasehere, tweets here and here. Text of the bill, posted by the Freebeacon and not on Thomas as of this writing, is available here. The bill targets the PA, UNRWA, and U.S. funding for the UN.

(BAN FMF TO EGYPT) HR 1302: Introduced 3/20 by Scott (R-GA) and no cosponsors, "To prohibit foreign military financing to Egypt." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(FORCE THE MOVE OF THE U.S. EMBASSY IN ISRAEL TO JERUSALEM) S. 604: Introduced 3/19 by Heller (R-NV) and three cosponsors, "A bill to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to relocate to Jerusalem the United States Embassy in Israel, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Heller press release here. Text of bill (not on Thomas as of this writing) here.

(SYRIA) S. 617: Introduced 3/18 by Casey (D-PA) and Rubio (R-FL), "A bill to provide humanitarian assistance and support a democratic transition in Syria, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press release and summary of bill, entitled the "Syria Democratic Transition Act of 2013" (text still not on Thomas as of this writing) available here. Report in Washington Times is here.

(SYRIA) HR 1327: Introduced 3/21 by Engel (D-NY) and 2 cosponsors, "To improve United States humanitarian and other assistance to the Syrian people, facilitate the transition of Syria to a democratic government, provide for United States support to the post-Assad government, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committees on Financial Services, and the Judiciary. CNN reporting on the bill is available here.

(TURKEY) H. Res. 136: Introduced 3/21 by Maloney (D-NY) and 7 cosponsors, "Urging Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(GREECE) S Res. 84: Introduced 3/20 by Menendez (D-NJ) and having 30 cosponsors, "A resolution recognizing the 192nd anniversary of the independence of Greece and celebrating democracy in Greece and the United States." Agreed to 3/20 by Unanimous Consent. The whereas clauses note, "Whereas Greece, located in a region where Christianity meets Islam and Judaism, maintains excellent relations with Muslim countries and Israel" and "Whereas the Government of Greece has taken important steps in recent years to further cross-cultural understanding, rapprochement, and cooperation in various fields with Turkey, and has also improved its relations with other countries in the region, including Israel, thus enhancing the stability of the wider region..."

(NEW IRAN SANCTION) S. Amdt. 364 to S. Con. Res. 8: An amendment offered 3/21 by Senators Kirk (R-IL), Manchin (D-WV) and Heller (R-NV) to S. Con. Res. 8 (a resolution setting forth thecongressional budget for the federal government for FY2013, including the appropriate budgetary levels for FY2015-FY2023). According to a memo backing the amendment circulating widely, "the Kirk amendment would support all efforts to block Iran from doing business in Euros and from accessing its euro-dominated foreign exchange reserves. Iran's ability to access the euro remains one of the largest loopholes in our Iran sanctions policy. To prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, we must close this 'Euro loophole.'" Reporting on the amendment hereherehere, and here.


(SYRIA) Levin-McCain letter: On 3/21 Senators Levin (D-MI) and McCain (R-AZ) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to "take more active steps to stop the killing in Syria and force Bashar al-Assad to give up power."

(OBAMA ISRAEL TRIP) House letter: As noted in a press releaseissued byWaxman (D-CA), "over one hundred members of the House Republican Israel Caucus and Democratic Israel Working Group sent a letter to President Obama, supporting his upcoming visit to Israel. The letter was led by co-chairs of their respective groups, Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ), and Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO), and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Representative Gene Green (D-TX) and Representative Linda Sánchez (D-CA)." Roskam (R-IL) floor statement on the letter, here.

(OBAMA ISRAEL TRIP) Senate letters: As covered in last week's Round-Up, two letters were circulated in the Senate related to the Obama trip - an excellent Feinstein letter (supported by APN and J Street) and a not-so-excellent Cardin-Collins letter (supported by AIPAC, NORPAC, and the like). Members issuing press releases touting the letters included: King (I-ME), Menendez (D-NJ), Feinstein (D-CA). Press reporting on the letters (some also on the House letter) included:

The Algemeiner, 3/21: Letter signed by 78 senators urges Obama to "reaffirm commitment to Israel"
JPost 3/20: AIPAC, J Street back separate letters to Obama
Times of Israel 3/19: Obama's Israel visit sparks letter-writing blitz in Congress
Washington Spectator 3/19: Twenty-Seven Senators Sign a Reasonable Israel Letter!
JTA 3/17: Senate letters on Mideast trip compete for Obama's attention
JTA, 3/17: Congress sends three different letters to President Obama supporting Israel

2. Consolidated Appropriations Bill Passes (HR 933)

On 3/20 the Senate passed its version of HR 933, the FY13 Consolidated Appropriations bill. As covered in last week's Round-Up, a number of amendments dealing with aid to Egypt were offered (S. Amdt. 27S. Amdt. 28S. Amdt. 44S. Amdt. 52S. Amdt. 61S. Amdt. 110S. Amdt. 117). In the end, none of these amendments was considered. Nonetheless, the amendments offer a good indication of where things may be headed in terms of Egypt-related legislation.

On 3/21 the House considered and passed this same version of HR 933. The bill now goes to the President. Middle East-related details of bill were covered in last week's Round-Up. A quick review:

Israel $$$ in the CR: HR 933, which when passed will be the baseline to which sequester cuts would be applied, earmarks $479,736,000 for Israeli Cooperative Program, a program funded annually as part of the Defense Budget (Section 8071 of the bill). Notably, the relevant language (as passed by the House and now being considered in the Senate) is identical to language reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee in August 2012 as part of the Senate version of HR 5856, the 2013 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (never voted on in the Senate). Of the earmarked funding, $211 million is sub-earmarked for the procurement of the Iron Dome defense system. Another $146,679,000 is sub-earmarked for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, of which $39.2 million is slated for "production activities of SRBMD missiles in the United States and in Israel to meet Israel's defense requirements consistent with each nation's laws, regulations, and procedures" and $74,692,000 "shall be available for an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture," while $44,365,000 "shall be for the Arrow System Improvement Program including development of a long range, ground and airborne, detection suite." The section includes a provision a portion of the funds available in this section to be used as FMF. The Israel-related provision was left unchanged in S. Amdt. 26, adopted by the Senate in the nature of a substitute.

SYRIA: Syria is not addressed in HR 933, but S. Amdt. 26 adds language stating, "prior to obligating funds made available by this Act for assistance for Syria, the Secretary of State shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives."

3. Hearings

3/20: The House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade held a hearing entitled: "Hezbollah's Strategic Shift: A Global Terrorist Threat" (video). Witnesses were: Will Fulton (AEI - testimony), Matthew Levitt (WINEP - testimony), and Roger Noriega (Visions Americas LLC, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Former Ambassador to the Organization of American States - testimony),

3/20: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled "Crisis in Syria: The U.S. Response." (video) Witnesses were: Robert Ford (US Ambassador to Syria - testimony), Anne Richard (Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration - testimony), and Nancy Lindborg (Assistant USAID Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance - testimony).

3/19: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs held a hearing to examine Syria's humanitarian crisis (video). Witnesses were Anne Richard (Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration -testimony), Nancy Lindborg (Assistant USAID Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance - testimony), Antonio Guterres (UNHCR - testimony), Tom Malinowski (Human Rights Watch -testimony), and Michael Singh (WINEP - testimony).

3/15: The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, "The Posture of the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command." Witnesses were General Carter F. Ham, USA Commander, U.S. Africa Command (testimony) and Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN Commander, U.S. European Command, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (testimony). Admiral Stavridis' testimony includes discussion of U.S.-Israel military relations. His testimony notes that one of the 2013 "Theater Priorities" is, "Maintain particular focus on four key countries: Israel, Poland, Russia, and Turkey." His testimony also includes discussion (on page 16) of European Command's role with respect to Israel and the Levant and to U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Additional discussion of the role of European Command with respect to Israel and the Levant is found on page 20, with discussion of the Arab Spring and noting that "European Command continues to work with our IDF partners to ensure strong U.S. support to the defense of Israel. European Command works closely with U.S. Central Command to keep abreast of all emerging threats and intelligence regarding Iran, Syria, the Sinai, Hamas, and Hezbollah, ranging from missile threats to terrorist activity. Lastly, European Command continues a robust program of security cooperation and military-to-military activities with Israel to demonstrate U.S. resolve and ensure a high degree of defense synchronization between our two nations."

4. Members on the Record

Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) 3/21: Statement following Obama's Jerusalem speech
Kirk (R-IL) 3/21: Statement in defense of human rights in Iran
Feinstein (D-CA) 3/20: Senator Feinstein's letter asks President Obama to reaffirm commitment to a two-state solution
Leahy (D-VT) 3/20: On the President's Middle East trip.
McConnell (R-KY) 3/19: The Senate Minority Leader, commenting on the Obama trip and, notably, omitting any mention of the Palestinians: "I join in conveying a message of congratulations to Prime Minister Netanyahu in having formed a new government, in restating our determination to use all available means to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and in pledging to work with Israel to meet the regional challenge caused by civil strife within Syria. The fighting in Syria has produced refugee flows of at least 1 million people into Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Also of concern to Jordan, Israel, and other allies in the region is the flow of foreign fighters into Syria, especially the al-Nusra Front. During his visit, I hope the President makes progress in working with our allies to address these threats that have developed while Bashar al-Asad remains in power and to begin the important planning to address the challenges that will come with his fall, such as how best to secure chemical weapons stockpiles. None of these threats or challenges can be addressed with simple, easy answers, but I fully support America working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and King Abdallah to craft original strategy that serves all of our national interests."
McDermott (D-WA) 3/19: Statement: The CIA Takes Opposite Sides in Syria and Iraq
Lamborn (R-CO) 3/18: Press release: Congressman Lamborn Critical of Obama's Decision to Skip Knesset on Trip to Israel (sent letter to Knesset speaker). JPost coverage of Lamborn's statement/letter here.
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 3/18: Condemning UN action regarding Israeli settlements: "Today's Anti-Israel Action is Another Example of Anti-Semitic Agenda at the UN, and a Prime Example of Why the UN Needs to be Reformed"
Gohmert (R-TX) 3/15: Accusing the White House of (among other things) embracing terrorists.
Sanchez (D-CA) 3/15: In Solemn Remembrance of the 25th Anniversary of the Halabja Massacre

5. From the Press

Arutz Sheva 3/21: Rep. Engel Joins Obama, 'Brings Voices of New Yorkers' to Israel
Foreign Policy 3/21: Levin presses Obama for U.S. military intervention in Syria
The Cable 3/21: Democrats and Republicans unite around calls for more aggressive Syria policy
The Hill (blog), 3/21: Sens. Levin and McCain, push Obama to take military action in Syria
NYT 3/20: Weapons Experts Raise Doubts About Israel's Antimissile System
Politico 3/20: House Republicans were invited on Obama's Israel trip
JTA 3/20: Letters backed by AIPAC, J Street urge Obama on Israel defense, peace
Haaretz, 3/20: U.S. aid to Israel totals $233.7 billion over six decades
The Hill (blog), 3/20: In Israel, Obama promises to investigate use of chemical weapons in Syria
Politico, 3/20: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers - Time for U.S. to act in Syria
ABC News 3/19: Drumbeat Grows Louder in Congress for Obama to Act on Syria
The Cable, 3/19: Top Democrat endorses Syria no-fly zone
The Cable, 3/19: Graham calls for American boots on the ground in Syria
conpats.blogspot.com, 3/19: Senator Heller revives legislation for U.S. embassy in Jerusalem
The Washington Post, 3/19: U.S. ambassador to Syria, "no evidence" of chemical weapon use
The Hill (blog), 3/19: Obama has 3 days to mend relationship with the Israeli people
The Hill (blog), 3/19: Obama's visit to Israel an opportunity to push for WMD-free Middle East
Time, 3/19: Congress pays for Israel's "secret weapon"
ABC News, 3/19: Senators McCain and Graham demand President Obama to act against Assad
JTA, 3/19: Obama's Israel delegation includes top Jewish Democrats, Reps. Engle and Wasserman-Schultz
The Cable, 3/19: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) calls for U.S. military intervention in Syria to secure WMD
politics365.com, 3/19: AIPAC lobbying efforts doubled since 2008
NorthJersey.com 3/18: Opinion: Lessons of Iraq guide us as we confront Iran (Menendez, D-NJ)
FoxNews 3/18: Republicans pressure Obama to clarify decision not to address Israeli Knesset
The Hill (blog), 3/18: More active role of women could yield progress towards Middle East peace
The Hill (blog), 3/18: Rep. Engel wants lethal aid for vetted Syrian rebels
The Economist, 3/16: Obama must keep the two-state solution alive
Clarion-Ledger, 3/16: Mississippi Senate passes legislation commending Israel (legislation here)
The Cable, 3/15: Senate Republicans battle to influence Egyptian aid
Sun Times, 3/15: Mississippi Senate debates Israel's borders
The Hill (blog). 3/15: 10 years later, Rachel Corrie's parents still searching for answers
The Wall Street Journal, 3/15: Rep. Eliot Engel wants to train and arm Syrian rebels