APN Legislative Round-Up: May 16, 2014

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Hearings  
3. Members on the Record
4. From the Press


1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(HEZBOLLAH) S. 2329:  Introduced 5/13 by Shaheen (D-NH) and 9 cosponsors, “A bill to prevent Hezbollah from gaining access to international financial and other institutions, and for other purposes.”  Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Rubio (R-FL) press release on the bill is here.   Shaheen one-pager summarizing the bill (being circulated in Senate in effort to get additional cosponsors) is here.  Also see: Senate sanctions bill targets Hezbollah enablers (5/13, Al-Monitor)

(BEST-ALLIES-WITH-BENEFITS) S. 462:  As predicted in last week’s Round-Up,  S. 462, the “United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013” is finally going to be marked-up in the Senate Foreign Relations committee.   As covered in previous editions of the Round-Up, this bill was introduced 3/5/13 as a lobbying focal point of AIPAC’s 2013 conference in Washington.  The bill failed to go anywhere, in large part, it seems, due to concerns over its attempt to legislate Israel into the Visa Waiver program.  This year, the bill was again a lobbying focal point of the AIPAC conference in Washington, held at the beginning of March, yielding an 8 additional cosponsors (bring the current total to 63), but still no movement on the bill.  Now, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled the bill to be marked up on 5/20, with a note that it will be “with an amendment.”  That amendment is expected to deal at least in part with the visa waiver portion of the bill, although how it seeks to resolve concerns about the issue remains to be seen.

(NDAA) HR 4435  Introduced 4/9 by McKeon (R-CA), the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015.”  As reported in last week’s Round-Up, Iran-related amendments were added to the bill during the markup in the House Armed Services Committee.   Additional Iran-related amendments, as well as amendments related to other Middle East issues, are expected when the bill comes to the floor for consideration (expected May 20-22).  The deadline to submit amendments is May 19, and the Rules Committee will meet May 20 to consider what amendments to allow. As has been noted in the past, this bill is “must-pass” legislation and is thus a magnet for amendments.  Already, Roskam (R-IL) has offered an Israel/Iran-related-amendment (not yet known if it will be considered).  This amendment seeks, in effect, to ensure that Israel has what it needs to attack Iran.  The amendment summary states that it would require the President “to submit to the appropriate committees every 90 days a report that identifies that the United States has taken all necessary steps to ensure that Israel possesses and maintains an independent capability to remove existential threats to its security and defend its vital national interests.”  The amendment includes a Sense of Congress that “It is the sense of Congress that air refueling tankers and advanced bunker-buster munitions should immediately be transferred to Israel to ensure our democratic ally has an independent capability to remove any existential threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program and defend its vital national interests.”



(SYRIA) Casey letter to Obama: On 5/9, Sen. Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to President Obama calling for a more robust strategy in Syria.

(IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS) Schakowsky-Jenkins letter:  On 5/13, Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL) and Jenkins (R-KS) circulated a Dear Colleague letter seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama. The letter expresses “grave concerns regarding the ongoing human rights crisis in Iran” and urges the President to “continue to raise this important issue as the administration engages with Iran.”


2.  Hearings

5/22: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing entitled “The Gulf Cooperation Council: Deepening Rifts and Emerging Challenges”.  Scheduled witnesses are: David Andrew Weinberg, FDD, and Simon Henderson, WINEP.

5/21: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a two-panel hearing entitled, “Authorization For Use Of Military Force After Iraq And Afghanistan.”  Scheduled Panel 1 witnesses are Mary Mcleod, Principal Deputy Legal Adviser, Department of State; and Stephen Preston, General Counsel, Department of Defense.  Scheduled Panel 2 witnesses are Hongju Koh, Former State Department Legal Adviser; and Michael Mukasey, Former U.S. Attorney.   The right-wing Washington Free Beacon reported 5/7 that “some senior Senate hands say that Iran also could be brought up in such a hearing.  Some on the Hill and in the think-tank world have been pushing for Congress to ready a war authority measure on Iran should it fail to strike a final deal with the West over its contested nuclear program. An AUMF on Iran could provide the White House with leverage in forcing Iran to either ink a deal or face a U.S. military strike.”

5/21: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing entitled, “The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria: Views from the Ground”.  Scheduled witnesses are: Andrea Koppel, Mercy Corps; Holly Solberg, CARE; Michael Holsten, Global Communities; Zaher Sahloul, Syrian American Medical Society; and Bernice Romero, Save the Children.

5/13: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nominations of the Ambassadors to Jordan, Djibouti, Bahamas & USAID Assistant Administrator (Bureau of the Middle East.  Video of the hearing is here.  See: statement of Alice G. Wells, Ambassador Designate to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan & statement of Paige Eve Alexander, nominee to be o be Assistant USAID Administrator, Bureau for the Middle East.

Newly released transcripts:

HFAC/MENA subcommittee hearing 4/8/14: Lebanon’s Security Challenges & U.S. Interests
HFAC/MENA subcommittee hearing 3/4/14: Iran’s Support for Terrorism Worldwide


3. Members on the Record

More Tributes on Israel’s Independence Day

Israel (D-NY) 5/9; Engel (D-NY) 5/13); Sinema (D-AZ) 5/9


Schumer (D-NY) 5/15:  Press release, “Schumer Announces Iraqi Jewish Archive Permitted to Stay in the U.S. Until Permanent Location in America Is Determined” [note: According to the statement issued by the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., Iraq has agreed to extend the stay of the archive in the U.S., but nothing in the statement implies that this will be permanent].

Nadler (D-NY) 5/15: Press release, “Rep. Nadler Welcomes Agreement Extending the Presence of the Iraqi Jewish Archives in the United States”

Cornyn (R-TX) 5/14: Oped, “The Perils of Foreign-Policy Weakness”

Durbin (D-IL) 5/14: Photo release, meeting with Ahmad Jarba, Syrian Opposition Coalition President

Rubio (R-FL) 5/13: Press/photo release: “Rubio Meets With Syrian Opposition Leader, Reaffirms Need For Strategy To Deal With Crisis”

Stockman (R-TX) 5/12: Press release: “Stockman shames MoveOn over terrorist support” (“Along with pumping millions of dollars into Democrat campaign accounts MoveOn also hosts numerous petitions supporting Palestinian terrorists and anti-American tirades.  What is their money buying?”)

Lamborn (R-CO) 5/12: Press release touting last week’s Iran amendments to the NDAA; includes text of AIPAC press release lauding his effort

Gohmert (R-TX) 5/9: Another rant, entitled “Fascist Intolerance,” focused on Islam, the Middle East, etc…

Daines (R-MO) 3/13 (just ran across it now, and no, not from the Onion): Press release - “Daines Brings Together Crow, Israeli Nations” (“…Daines today joined members of Montana’s Crow Tribe in presenting Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer with a formal resolution from the Tribe, supporting the State of Israel on a nation-to-nation basis.”  That resolution includes, “Whereas, the State of Israel has faced similar historic challenges as the Crow Tribe to its territorial integrity and survival, many of which are still ongoing today…”)


4. From the Press 

Algemeiner 5/16: After ‘Occupied Territories’ Flap, Chris Christie Faces Next Big Test With Jewish Donors

IsraelDefense.com 5/15:

Arutz Sheva 5/15: Hagel Dismisses Reports Israel Spied on US

ForeignPolicy.com 5/15: Dem Lawmaker (Sherman, D-CA) Dismisses U.S. Warnings of Israeli Espionage

JTA 5/15: Iraq extends Jewish archive stay in U.S.

Times of Israel 5/15: Israel likely to lose out on Polish missile defense contract

Jerusalem Post 5/14: Congressmen, MKs to push for keeping Jerusalem united (Green, D-TX, and Blackburn, R-TN)

Reuters 5/14: Exclusive: Israel's David's Sling will not win Polish missile tender - official

Jerusalem Post 5/13: Liberman: US aid funds Palestinian Authority stipends for killers of Americans [NOTE:  Take note of this theme.  It has come up repeatedly on the Hill in recent months, including in recent hearings with Administration officials.  The argument is that because the PA provides support for families of Palestinians in Israeli jails, it is supporting/encouraging terror.  And since money is fungible, the U.S. is supporting terror by providing funding to the PA.  The argument in effect demands that the U.S. stop all funding to the PA until it stops this policy (presuming, it seems, that demanding that the wives and children of Palestinians in Israeli jails should become homeless or starve will not simply build more hatred and sow the seeds for more violence).  And notably, this argument requires cutting all aid to the PA irrespective of whether there is successful reconciliation with Hamas].

Newsweek 5/13: Feinstein Takes Trust But Verify Approach on Israeli Spying

JTA 5/13: Rand Paul’s Jewish outreach finds receptive if wary audience

AP 5/13: US Sen. Cruz of Texas to visit Ukraine [and Israel]

Newsweek 5/12: Top Israeli Official to Meet with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Feinstein

San Diego Jewish News 5/9: Congress celebrates likely prospect of awarding Israel’s President Shimon Peres the Congressional Gold Medal

Washington Free Beacon 5/9: Congress to Boost U.S. Military Presence Against Iran

Al-Monitor 5/9: Week Ahead: Levin asks for Syrian opposition's wish list

Al-Monitor 5/9: Syrian opposition leader not giving up on appeal for anti-aircraft weapons