APN Legislative Round-Up: March 14-28, 2014

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters

2. Hearings 

3. Members on the Record

4. Odds & Ends


1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) HR XXXX:  It was reported this week in Al-Monitor that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Engel (D-NY) are preparing new Iran sanctions legislation, reportedly targeting Iranian support for terrorism.  The report states, “The bill remains a work in progress, but sources cited the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 as a model.”

(SYRIA) H. Res. 520:  Introduced 3/14 by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Engel (D-NY), “Calling for an end to attacks on Syrian civilians and expanded humanitarian access.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Royce and Engel statements on the introduction of the bill are here.

(UKRAINE/RUSSIA/IRAN) HR 4278:  Introduced 3/21 by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce (R-CA) and having 8 cosponsors, “Ukraine Support Act.”  Passed by the House 3/27 under suspension of the rules by a vote of 399-19.  Section 304 of the bill deals with Syria and Iran.  The HFAC summary describes the section as follows: “This section recognizes that Russian companies have been sanctioned in the past for proliferation to Syria and Iran.  Unfortunately, the Administration has been delinquent in implementing the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act, which could trigger additional sanctions. This section requires the President to develop a plan to fully implement the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act, including sanctions against Russian companies.

(TURKEY) S. Res. 403 : Introduced 3/27 by Murphy (D-CT) and Johnson (R-WI), “A resolution condemning the actions of the Government of Turkey in restricting free expression and Internet freedom on social media.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(SYRIA) S. Res. 384: Introduced 3/14 by Kaine (D-VA) and having 21 cosponsors, “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate concerning the humanitarian crisis in Syria and neighboring countries, resulting humanitarian and development challenges, and the urgent need for a political solution to the crisis.”  On 4/1, the bill is scheduled to be considered in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


(RECONCILIATION FUNDING) Crowley Dear Colleague: On 3/26 Crowley (D-NY) circulated a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to Chairwoman Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Lowey (D-NY) of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.  The letter seeks continued support for Middle East people-to-people reconciliation and co-existence programs in FY 2015.  The letter reportedly will be open for signatures until 4/4.  APN is encouraging members to cosign the letter.

(SYRIA) Menendez-Corker letter: On 3/14, a group of 9 senators, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Corker (R-TN) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to “engage Congress as your team moves forward in developing and implementing policy options” on Syria.

(CHRISTIANS IN MIDDLE EAST) Wolf letter: On 3/27, Rep. Wolf (R-VA), sent a letter to President Obama urging “the creation of a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia…”

(IRAN) Cantor-Hoyer letter: On 3/18, the Cantor-Hoyer Iran letter – one of the centerpieces of the recent AIPAC policy conference – was sent to president Obama, signed by 394 House members (216 Republicans and 178 Democrats).  For background on the letter, see the March 14 edition of the Round-Up.  Cantor’s (R-VA) press release is here.  Also see press releases from Engel (D-NY) and Rigell (R-VA).  The AIPAC database of signers is available here (and indicates as of this writing a total of 391 signers, as opposed to the 394 referenced in the Cantor press release).

(IRAN) Menendez-Graham letter:  On 3/18, the Menendez-Graham Iran letter – one of the centerpieces of the recent AIPAC policy conference – was sent to president Obama, signed by 83 senators. For background on the letter, see the March 14 edition of the Round-Up. Menendez’s (D-NJ) press release is here. Kirk’s (R-IL) press release on the letter is here.  The AIPAC database of signers is available here.  Non-signers of the Menendez-Graham letter were: Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader; Boxer (D-CA, Jewish), Committee on Environment and Public Works Chair; Carper (D-DE), Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair; Corker (R-TN), Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member; Feinstein (D-CA, Jewish), Select Intelligence Committee Chair; Harkin (D-IA), Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair; Johnson (D-SD), Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chair; Leahy (D-VT), Committee on the Judiciary Chair; Levin (D-MI, Jewish), Armed Services Committee Chair; Rockefeller (D-WV), Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chair; Sanders (D-VT, Jewish), Committee on Veterans' Affairs chair; Baldwin (D-WA); Brown (D-OH); Flake (R-AZ), SFRC; Inhofe (R-OK); Paul (R-KY), SFRC; and Schatz (D-HI, Jewish).

(IRAN) Sen. Levin (Cantor-Hoyer) letter:   On 3/22, a letter led by Levin (D-MI) – comprised of the Cantor-Hoyer text, discussed above – was sent to President Obama, cosigned by 22 of Levin’s fellow senators.  For background on the Levin letter initiative, see the March 14 edition of the Round-Up.  Also see the JTA’s report: “Sen. Carl Levin garners 23 Dems for softer-toned Iran talks letter.”  The Levin-Cantor-Hoyer letter was signed by:  The Senate letter was signed by: Levin (D-MI), Wyden (D-OR), Heinrich (D-NM),Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Johnson (D-SD), Kaine (D-VA), Udall (D-NM), Walsh (D-MT), Cardin (D-MD.), Mikulski (D-MD), Whitehouse (D-RI), McCaskill (D-MO), Reed (D-RI), Brown (D-OH), Hirono (D-HI), Tester (D-MT),  King (I-ME), Warner (D-VA), Shaheen (D-NH), Warren (D-MA), Manchin III (D-WV), and Nelson (D-FL).

2. Hearings 

3/26: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled “Syria After Geneva: Next Steps for U.S. Policy”.  Panel 1 witnesses were Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson (testimony); and Tom Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation (testimony).  Panel 2 witnesses were David Kilcullen, Caerus Associates (testimony); Vali Nasr, SAIS (testimony); and Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (testimony).  Menendez opening remarks are here.

Selected media reports communicate well the tone of the hearing: Senate panel takes administration to task over Syria (Al-Monitor); Senators Eviscerate 'Delusional' Administration for Having No Strategy in Syria (National Journal);  Lawmakers bash Obama administration's 'delusional' Syria policy (Reuters); Senators unleash criticism of Obama administration over handling of war in Syria (Washington Post); US Official Can’t Say Syria Chemical Weapons Fully Tracked Down (ABC News)


3.  Members on the Record

Durbin (D-IL) 3/27: On the situation in Syria and the need for a Syrian War Crimes Tribunal

Griffin (R-AR) 3/27: Press release - Griffin Cosponsors Resolution Urging Protection of Iraqi Jewish Archives

Bilirakis (R-FL) 3/27: Press release - Bilirakis Expresses Concerns Regarding Turkey

Graham (R-SC) and Ayotte (R-NH) 3/26: Making case for U.S. support for Ukrainian military and Ukrainian people, arguing that failure to do so will impact decisions of leaders in Iran (among other things)

Johnson (D-SD) 3/27: Using Iran sanctions as an example of what is needed to do with Ukraine/Russia

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/27: Arguing that failure to punish Russia will encourage Iran to demand more or to walk away from negotiations

Cornyn (R-TX) 3/25: On Russia, Iran, and the Ukraine (and bashing Obama’s “naivete” about Russia)

Blumenthal (D-CT) 3/25: Using Iran sanctions as an example of what is needed to do with Ukraine/Russia, slamming Russia for its support for the Syrian regime

Donnelly (D-IN) 3/25: press release - Senator Donnelly Visits Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Israel

Lynch (D-MA) 3/25: Press release - Lynch Joins Bipartisan Delegation to Afghanistan; Mission Also Includes Stops in Ukraine, Israel (with Senators Ayotte, R-NH and Donnelly, D-IN)

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 3/25: Press Release (pix) - Ros-Lehtinen Receives Guardian of Israel Award

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/24: Making the case about Putin’s bad behavior, including with respect to Syria and Iran, and suggesting that failure to be tough with Putin will encourage bad behavior by Iran and North Korea

Cornyn (R-TX) 3/24: Oped in NRO, “Cornyn Op-ed: How to Maximize Our Leverage with Putin”

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/22: Remarks at German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum (incl. on Syria & Iran)

Lowey (D-NY) 3/21: Congresswoman Lowey and JCC-Rockland CEO to Call for End to Bias Against U.S. Visas for Young Israelis

Lynch (D-MA) 3/20: Press release - Congressman Lynch Joins Delegation to Ukraine, Israel (with Senators Ayotte, R-NH and Donnelly, D-IN)

Pelosi (D-CA) 3/20: Pelosi Statement on the Persian New Year

Ayotte (R-NH) 3/20: S Press release - Senator Ayotte Leads Congressional Delegation Mission That Includes Stops in Ukraine, Israel

Royce (R-CA) & Engel (D-NY) 3/18: Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel Support U.S. Expulsion of Syrian Diplomats

Corker (R-TN) 3/18: Press release - Corker Urges Clear Consequences for Any Iranian Violations of Nuclear Agreement

Fudge (D-OH) 3/18: in Cleveland Jewish News -“Meeting [Shimon] Peres 'meeting of a lifetime'

Lynch (D-MA) 3/18: Marking the Third Anniversary of the Conflict in Syria and the Plight of Syria's Refugees

Poe (R-TX) 3/18: Oped in the Jerusalem Post – “Crime pays - for Palestinian terrorists”

Lamborn (R-CO) 3/17: On Obama-Abbas meeting: “It was disappointing that President Obama did not firmly press President Abbas on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already expressed his nation's willingness to recognize a Palestinian state or at least autonomy, so it is important that Palestine extends the same recognition. It is a denial of thousands of years of history for President Abbas to not grant this recognition to the Israeli people.”

McGovern (D-MA) 3/14: Syria Needs Unrestricted Humanitarian Access Now

Menendez (D-NJ) 3/14: Statement on the Third Anniversary of Syrian Civil War

Hastings (D-FL) 3/14: The Need for Refocusing American Humanitarian Aid in Syria

Rohrabacher (R-CA) 3/14: Arguing that what is happening in Egypt is far more important than the Crimea situation and slamming the U.S. failure to support/fund the military government there (“The Egyptian army is the most potent force standing between radical Islam and its objective to terrorize and subjugate whole populations throughout the Middle East and thus put themselves into a position of facing down and defeating Western civilization” and “our reluctance to back the stance of Egypt is emboldening the radical Islamic terrorist elements”).

Ayotte (R-NH) 3/14: Press release - Senate Unanimously Passes Ayotte-Bennett Bill to Award Israeli President Shimon Peres with Congressional Gold Medal

Casey (D-PA) 3/14: Press release - Casey Pushes for Resolution Calling for New Humanitarian Strategy in Syria with Bipartisan Group of Senators

Landrieu (D-LA) 3/14: News Star: Landrieu renews push for Poverty Point (problem: cutoff of US funding to UNESCO….)


4.  Odds & Ends

Yeshiva World 3/28: In New Row, Israel at Odds With US Over Visas (AP)

Algemeiner 3/28: Yoram Ettinger oped - Congressional Muscle and U.S. Foreign Policy

Cleveland Jewish News 3/26: Congressman’s Israel trip [sponsored by the Israel Allies Foundation] an eye-opener [Johnson (R-OH):  “It was staggering to me…how little real religious freedom and liberty the people of Israel have over the very land that they are supposed to be the owners of…” – referring to the Temple Mount]

Times of Israel 3/26: ‘US denying visas for Israeli security personnel in West Bank’

Politico 3/26: Mitch McConnell’s foreign policy evolution

JTA 3/25: State Dept.: Israel’s discrimination keeps it out of visa waiver deal

NY Jewish Week 3/24: Schumer: Iran’s Economy Must Continue To Decline

Steubenville Herald Star 3/23: McKinley (R-WV), Johnson (R-WV) talk natural gas in trip to Israel