(Congress is in recess August 2 – September 2; the Round-Up will likewise be in recess during this period)
(EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL $$$ FOR IRON DOME) H.
J. Res. 76: Passed in the House and Senate 8/1, “National Nuclear Security Administration Continuing
Appropriations Resolution, 2014.” On 8/1, an amendment offered by Reid (D-NV) – adopted in the Senate by Unanimous
Consent and then agreed to in the House – deleted the entire contents of this bill and replaced them with an
$250 million $225 million [apologies for the typo! corrected 8/5] for
Iron Dome to the bill (and also renamed the bill, “A bill making an emergency supplemental appropriation for the
fiscal year ending September 30, 2014, to provide funding to Israel for the Iron Dome defense system to counter
short-range rocket threats”). Senate floor discussion of the amendment is here and here; other Senate statements: Graham (R-SC); Hoeven
(R-AZ); . House statements in support of the measure: Lowey (D-NY); Boehner
(R-OH); Pelosi (D-CA);
Frelinghuysen (R-NJ); Holt (D-NJ); Flores (R-TX); Frankel
Coffman (R-CO); Dent
Coburn (R-OK) initially objected to passage of H. J. Res. 76, but eventually relented and allowed the measure to pass. Earlier, on 7/31, Coburn had effectively killed the existing Iron Dome vehicle, S. 2648 (introduced 7/23 by Mikulski (D-MD), “A bill making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014, and for other purposes.”). That bill would have provided $225 million for Israel for Iron Dome, along with funding to deal with the wildfire crisis in the western United States and funding to address the humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. On 7/31, S. 2648 was brought to the Senate floor (see Mikulski, D-MD, statements here and here), where Coburn (R-OK) blocked it, objecting to the non-Iron Dome portions of the bill and then objecting to the fact that funding for Iron Dome was not offset by cuts elsewhere (Read the entire debate in the Congressional Record (in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).
For further reading on the whole sordid affair – which leaves wildfires and the southern border situation unfunded – see: Mikulski statement on the GOP decision to block the bill is here. From the media: Congress Backs Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense (AP 8/2); Congress backs aid to Israel (Politico 8/1); Congress approves bill to replenish Israel's Iron Dome missile defense (Fox News 8/1); Senate Passes Iron Dome Funding (The Hill 8/1) Senate blocks aid to Israel (Politico 7/31); US partisan squabbling delays Iron Dome funding (Times of Israel 8/1); US Senate blocks Iron Dome funding to Israel (Jerusalem Post 8/1); Immigration debates stalls 'Iron Dome' funding in US Senate (YNet 8/1); Several GOP senators block infusion of cash for Iron Dome (JTA 8/1); Republicans call for ‘clean’ Iron Dome funding bill (The Hill 7/29);
(BEST-ALLIES-WITH-BENEFITS) S. 2673: (Re-)Introduced 7/28 by Boxer (D-CA) and having 80 cosponsors, “United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014.” Read the second time 7/29 and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar. This is the updated version of S. 462 (introduced 3/5/13), a central AIPAC “ask” on the Hill since its 2013 Washington Conference. As reported in the 5/22/14 edition of the Round-Up (which also included extensive background on the bill), an amended version of the bill was set to move 2 months ago, but was killed by a partisan effort to attach Iran legislation to it.
- The new version of the bill would authorize $200 million for U.S. weapons in Israel.
- The bill’s language regarding Israel and the visa waiver program has been significantly amended to address concerns that it would in effect condone Israeli discrimination against U.S. travelers of Palestinian/Arab/Muslim descent. Numerous members spoke in support of the new bill, including Booker (D-NJ), Portman (R-OH), and Brown (D-OH). Grassley (R-IA) spoke 7/29 in support but also expressed concerns about the Visa Waiver section of the bill, “because it sets a precedent for other countries not to have to abide by all the terms of the program. Neither Congress or the executive branch should be making exceptions to the rules. I support the bill because it reaffirms the United States' partnership with Israel, however, we need to be cautious in relaxing the rules regarding the Visa Waiver Program.”
- The new version of the bill includes the statement, “The Government of Iran continues to pose a grave threat to the region and the world at large with its reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons.” This is in contrast not only to U.S. intelligence reports (which indicate that the U.S. does not believe Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons at this time), but also to the earlier version of the bill, in which the language of the comparable clause reads, “The Government of Iran continues to pose a grave threat to the region and the world at large with its reckless uranium enrichment program and defiance of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.” It is not clear why the language would have been edited in this way now, particularly given that this version of the bill was introduced in the middle of the Iran diplomacy effort.
Momentum to pass the bill at this time – as a sign of support for Israel, as a signal of support for more Iron Dome funding, and as a show of strength (belatedly) for AIPAC—seemed strong. However, when Sen. Boxer (D-CA), the bill’s primary sponsor, sought unanimous consent to bring the bill to the floor for a vote on 7/30, Sen. Corker (R-TN) blocked it – despite a major floor statement made in support of the bill by lead cosponsor Sen. Blunt (R-MO). Corker demanded (as he did in May) that the bill be brought to the SFRC where amendments could be offered. Corker feigned puzzlement and hurt feelings over the suggestion by Boxer that GOP members would try to play politics with amendments – apparently believing that nobody would remember what happened with this bill in May (for more, see: Boxer, Corker spar in heated exchange on Israel – The Hill 7/31). Notably, in its reporting on this mess on 7/31, CQ noted (in a subscriber-only article) that one amendment planned for the bill, if it were brought up in the SFRC, would be from Barrasso (R-WY), and would seek to block any sanctions relief for Iran during the extension of the current talks unless the President could certify to Congress that Iran has ceased support for terrorist groups and is not using the funds for its nuclear or missile program or to commit human rights violations (exactly the kind of amendment that would be opposed by the Obama Administration, for obvious reasons, and would thus force Senate Dems into a politically painful vote).
On 8/1, Boxer again tried to get unanimous consent to move the bill – apparently having overcome the objections raised by Corker and others the previous day. This time, she was blocked by Sessions (R-AL), who explained that his objections were over the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (and suggested moving the bill without the Visa Waiver provision. And with that, the bill is once again dead in the water, at least for the time being (and as of this writing, there has been no public comment from AIPAC about having one of its centerpiece bills blocked, yet again). What will come next? On 7/31 Boxer and Blunt introduced the text of S. 2673 as S. Amdt. 3782 to S. 2410, the FY15 NDAA (a piece of upcoming must-pass legislation). Stay tuned.
(SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL/DENOUNCE HAMAS “HUMAN SHIELDS”/DENOUNCE UNHRC) S. Res. 526: Introduced 7/29 by Reid (D-NV) and 6 cosponsors, “A resolution supporting Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas, and for other purposes.” Passed in Senate 7/29 (same day) by Unanimous Consent. Reid statement: “Reid Remarks Condemning The United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution Against Israel.” Notably, the resolution expresses support for “United States mediation efforts for a durable ceasefire agreement that immediately ends Hamas's rocket assault and leads to the demilitarization of Gaza.” This formulation is consistent with that of President Obama, as opposed to the formulation embraced by some in Congress (and the Israeli government) demanding demilitarization as a precondition for a ceasefire.
(MORE $$$ FOR IRON DOME) HR 5235: Introduced 7/29 by Engel (D-NY) and 8 cosponsors, the “Emergency Iron Dome Replenishment Act” Marked up and passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on 7/30; full details/video of markup (including text of Royce (R-CA)-Engel amendment in the nature of a substitute) here. Engel statement on passage of bill by HFAC here.
(SUPPORT ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO SELF DEFENSE) S. Res. 537: Introduced 8/1 by Graham (R-SC) and Menendez (D-NJ), “A resolution reaffirming support for Israel's right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. This resolution (text here) appears to be an effort to quickly update and expand upon previously introduced and/or adopted measures mainly by demanding that “Hamas return the IDF soldier kidnapped on August 1, 2014” (Israel subsequently declared the soldier dead), and by adding text that in effect gives blanket endorsement for Israel’s military actions in Gaza, noting that the Senate “recognizes that the Government of Israel must be allowed to take actions necessary to remove the present and future threats posed by Hamas' rockets and tunnels and supports the Government of Israel's efforts to deal with the threats posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels.”
(REJECTING ANTI-SEMITISM) H. Res. 707: Introduced 7/31 by Nadler (D-NY) and two cosponsors, “Condemning all forms of anti-Semitism and rejecting attempts to justify anti-Jewish hatred or violent attacks as an acceptable expression of disapproval or frustration over political events in the Middle East or elsewhere.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(SANCTION PA & UN) S. 2766: Introduced 7/31 by Rubio (R-FL), “A bill to combat terrorism and promote reform in the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations, and for other purposes.” In his press release on the bill, Rubio described the bill in less diplomatic terms, saying its purpose was to “combat PA and UN support for terrorism.” The bill would designate the current PA as “Hamas-controlled,” making it ineligible for any U.S. assistance; would employ far-reaching certification requirements to cut off U.S. funding to UNRWA and the UN Human Rights Council, and would re-direct any planned U.S. funding for the PA, UNRWA, or the UNHRC to Israel.
(DENOUNCING HAMAS FOR USING “HUMAN SHIELDS”) H. Con. Res. 107: Introduced 7/16 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and having a total of 102 cosponsors, “Denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in violation of international humanitarian law.” Passed under suspension of the rules 7/30 by voice vote. This resolution is backed strongly by AIPAC (see here). Statements on the resolution’s passage: Engel (D-NY), and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). For 7/30 floor statements on H. Con. Res. 107, see here (Royce, R-CA; Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL; Deutch, D-FL; Engel, D-NY; Yoho, R-FL; Moore, D-WI). Also, 8/1 statement (dated 7/3) from Jackson-Lee (D-TX).
(REWARD FOR CATCHING PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS) S. 2577: Introduced 7/9 by Cruz (R-TX) and having 2 cosponsors, “A bill to require the Secretary of State to offer rewards totaling up to $5,000,000 for information on the kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, a dual United States-Israeli citizen, that began on June 12, 2014.” Passed by the Senate 7/29 by Unanimous Consent. Cruz press release on passage of bill is here.
(PRESSING FOR SENATE PASSAGE OF NDAA – FOR ISRAEL’S SAKE) House members letter to Senator Reid: On 8/1, HASC Chair McKeon (R-CA) led a letter, signed by 30 members of the HASC, calling on Reid (D-NV) to bring the FY15 NDAA to the Senate floor. While the NDAA is considered must-pass legislation because it funds the U.S. military, the letter – in a rather extraordinary twist – makes its case for NDAA passage based NOT on funding for any U.S. programs, but instead on the needs of Israel. The letter’s opening paragraphs state: “We write to you today to ask you to support our allies in Israel by immediately bringing the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Mark of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 to the floor. This bill has been languishing on the Senate’s calendar, holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance for vital missile defense cooperation with Israel, for far too long. As you know, the House NDAA (H.R. 4435) provided the $176 million the President requested, as well as a $175 million plus-up, for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system. This $351 million in funding for Iron Dome, on top of the $268 million provided for David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 weapons systems, is a significant increase from the level provided by the SASC Mark. We believe that Hamas’ violent attacks on Israeli citizens will help us make the case for the higher level of funding provided in H.R. 4435. Unfortunately, the Senate’s failure, under your leadership, to consider the FY15 NDAA is needlessly tying up more than $620 million in vital defense support for Israel at a time when it is fighting for its survival from Hamas and its Iranian sponsors.” The letter goes on to state that, “On the matter of Iran, we also encourage you to schedule an immediate vote, upon completion of debate on the FY15 NDAA, on legislation increasing sanctions on Iran. For example, H.R. 850, the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which passed the House on a 400 to 20 vote, has been waiting for Senate action for 364 days. Further delay on both measures strengthens only Israel’s enemies.”
(SLAMMING UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL) Boxer et al letter: On 7/31, 35 Senators sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressing their “profound concern about the response of the United Nations Human Rights Council to the recent tragic events in Israel and Gaza” and noting, “The United Nations has an obligation to unequivocally condemn any and all actions that endanger the lives of civilians. Anything less damages any meaningful efforts to achieve a resolution to this conflict.”
(CALLING ON UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL TO DENOUNCE “HUMAN SHIELDS”) Israel- Ros-Lehtinen-Deutch-Cole letter: As reported in last week’s Round-Up, last week Reps. Israel (D-NY), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Deutch (D-FL) and Cole (R-OK) began seeking cosigners on a letter to the head of the UN Human Rights Council calling on the council to condemn Hamas’ use of Palestinian civilians as “human shields” and denouncing the UNHRC for its actions so far. On 7/28, the leaders on the letter issued a press release stating that “more than 100 bipartisan Members of Congress joined them in sending a letter to Navi Pillay, the U.N.'s top human rights official, calling on the UN to condemn Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields, which is a direct violation of international law.” In addition, Shweikert (R-AZ) press release on the letter is here.
(CALL ON UN TO DEMILITARIZE GAZA) Schneider-Lamborn letter: On 7/31, a bipartisan list of 147 members of Congress, led by Reps. Schneider (D-IL) and Lamborn (R-CO), sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling on the UN to “formally recognize Gaza's rockets as an impenetrable barrier to regional peace, and to make their immediate removal a top priority” [not specified how they expect the UN to accomplish this].
(MISSILE DEFENSES FOR CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT?) Schumer-Israel letter: On 7/28, Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Israel (D-NY) sent a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense (DoD), and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to “swiftly study whether American passenger planes should be equipped with anti-missile devices, such as onboard lasers, warning systems, flares, or infrared countermeasure systems, to protect against both man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and surface-to-air missiles.” The letter links the request to the “tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, plus numerous missiles being fired near the Tel Aviv airport…”
(NO WAIVERS ON IRAN SANCTIONS) S. 2672: Introduced 7/28 by Cruz (R-TX) and no cosponsors, “to terminate the authority to waive certain provisions of law requiring the imposition of sanctions with respect to Iran, to codify certain sanctions imposed by executive order, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
(CONGRESSIONAL VETO ON ANY DEAL) S. 2650: Introduced 7/23 by Corker (R-TN) and an all-GOP line-up of 5 cosponsors, “A bill to provide for congressional review of agreements relating to Iran's nuclear program, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. UPDATE: Since it was introduced, the bill has gained 5 more cosponsors, all Republicans.
(NO WAIVER OF SANCTIONS) S. 2667:
Introduced 7/24 by Kirk (R-IL) and an all-GOP line-up of 6 cosponsors, “A bill to prohibit the exercise of
any waiver of the imposition of certain sanctions with respect to Iran unless the President certifies to Congress
that the waiver will not result in the provision of funds to the Government of Iran for activities in support of
international terrorism, to develop nuclear weapons, or to violate the human rights of the people of
Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. UPDATE: Since it was introduced, the bill gained 5 more cosponsors, all Republicans.
(ON THE EXTENSION OF TALKS) H. Con. Res. 109: Introduced 7/23 by Franks (R-AZ) and Lipinski (D-IL), “Expressing the sense of Congress relating to extending the interim agreement with the Government of Iran regarding its nuclear program.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. UPDATE: This week, the bill gained 8 more cosponsors, all Republicans.
(RED LINES FOR AN IRAN DEAL) Menendez-Graham Letter: Since July 11, Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Graham (R-SC) have been seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama laying out unrealistic red lines for any agreement with Iran. An excellent analysis of the problems in the letter is available here, authored by Edward Levine (who served for more than 14 years as a senior professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and over 20 years with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence). UPDATE: As reported in last week’s Round-Up, the letter apparently continues to circulate but is reportedly not attracting a large number of signers.
7/31: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened a briefing entitled, “Assad’s Killing Machine Exposed: Implications for U.S. Policy.” Briefers were: “Caesar” (an alias), Syrian Army defector (appearing in disguise); David Crane, Syracuse University; Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University; and Fred Hof, Atlantic Council. The briefing was not webcast. Opening statements: Royce (R-CA), Engel (D-NY). Samples of some of the photos smuggled out of Syria by “Ceasar” are here (GRAPHIC). Times of Israel report on the briefing is here; Al-Monitor report is here.
7/30: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs marked up and passed a number of measures, including H.R. 5041, the “Naftali Fraenkel Rewards for Justice Act of 2014” and HR 5235, to authorize further assistance to Israel for the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Video of the markup is here. Engel statement at the markup is here.
7/29: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Iran: Status of the P-5+1.” Panel 1 witnesses were Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (testimony); and David Cohen, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (testimony). Panel 2 witnesses were: Gary Samore, Harvard; Olli Heinonen, Harvard (testimony); and Michael Singh, WINEP (testimony). Video of the hearing is here. Member statements: Menendez (D-NJ) and Rubio (R-FL).
7/29: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “Iran Nuclear Negotiations: From Extension to Final Agreement?” Witnesses were Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (statement); and David Cohen, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (statement). Video of the hearing is here. Member statements: Royce (R-CA), Engel (D-NY)
Coverage of these two Iran hearings: Seeing Past the Theatrics on the Iran Debate (NSN 7/30); Lawmakers Not Happy With Iran Talks–but Aren’t Meddling (National Journal 7/29); US tells Congress new sanctions could derail Iran deal talks (Al-Monitor 7/29); Lawmakers Voice Skepticism on Iran Nuclear Deal (New York Times 7/29); U.S. nuclear negotiator declines setting deadline on Iran deal (Reuters 7/29); Rubio, Republicans Demand Role in Iran Nuclear Talks (Newsmax 7/29)
7/29: The House Committee on Armed Services held a hearing entitled, “Security Situation in Iraq and Syria: U.S. Policy Options and Implications for the Region.” Witnesses were Steven Biddle, GWU; Max Boot, CFR; Brian Fishman, New American Foundation; and Duncan Hunter, Former HASC Chairman. Video of the hearing is here.
7/25: The Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a markup of H. Res. 665, “Condemning the murder of Israeli and Palestinian children in Israel and the ongoing and escalating violence in that country” and H. Con. Res. 107, “Denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in violation of international humanitarian law.” Video here. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) statement is here.
Again this week, given the pace of events, Members of Congress have been all over the place making statements about Israel, the Middle East, Iran, etc. Below is just a selection of statements, as found in the Congressional Record and on the websites of Members of Congress.
Statements of solidary with/support for Israeli military action in Gaza - House
Engel (D-NY) 8/1
Hoyer (D-MD) 8/1
King (R-IA), Lamborn (R-CO), Franks (R-AZ), Broun (R-GA), and Bachmann (R-MN) 8/1 – supporting Israel, bashing the Obama Administration for ceasefire efforts (and blaming Obama and Kerry for soldiers killed)
Salmon (R-AZ) 8/1
Roskam (R-IL) 7/31 – urging Obama to “end partnership” with “chief Hamas sponsor” Qatar
Duncan (R-SC) 7/31 – criticizing Obama Admin’s ceasefire efforts
Wilson (R-SC) 7/31
Jeffries (D-NY) 7/30 – on “the cancer of anti-Semitism”
Engel (D-NY) 7/30
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 7/30
Brooks (R-AL) 7/30 – on Cantor (R-VA) and Israel
Brooks (R-AL) 7/30
McClintock (R-CA) 7/30
Royce (R-CA) 7/30 – in support of more $$$ for Iron Dome
Holding (R-NC) 7/30 – in support of more $$$ for Iron Dome
McClintock (R-CA) 7/30
Griffith (R-VA) 7/30
Jeffries (D-NY) 7/30
Special order floor speeches in support of Israel 7/29: Stewart (R-UT), Wenstrup (R-OH), King (R-IA), Daines (R-MT), Hartzler (R-MS), Engel (D-NY), Collins (R-GA), Clawson (R-FL), Walorski (R-IN), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Lance (R-NJ), Franks (R-AZ), Perry (R-PA), Bentivolio (R-MI), Smith (R-NJ)
Frankel (D-FL) 7/29
Smith (R-NJ) 7/29
Gohmert (R-TX) 7/29
Rokita (R-IN) 7/29
Meng (D-NY), Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), and Deutch (D-FL) 7/29– colloquy on anti-Semitism
DeSantis (R-FL) 7/28
Barletta (R-PA) 7/25
Engel (D-NY) 7/25
Bilirakis (R-FL) and Deutch (D-FL) – condemning Erdogan criticism of Israel
Statements of support for Israeli military action in Gaza - Senate
Cardin (D-MD) 8/1
Landrieu (D-LA) 7/31
Inhofe (R-OK) 7/30 – linking war to bashing Iran talks/potential deal
Mikulski (D-MD) 7/30 – on supplemental funds for Iron Dome
Hatch (R-UT) 7/30
Blunt (R-MO) 7/30
Colloquy in support of Israel 7/29: Graham (R-SC), McConnell (R-KY), Ayotte (R-NH), Thune (R-SD), Cruz (R-TX), Mikulski (D-MD), Durbin (D-IL)
Cardin (D-MD) 7/29 – Condemning UN Human Rights Council
Reid (D-NV) 7/29
McConnell (R-KY) 7/29 – supporting emergency supplemental funding for Israel
Reid (D-NV) 7/28 – making case for emergency supplemental funding for Israel
Statements in support of a ceasefire or communicating any real concern for Palestinians
Duncan (R-TN) 8/1 – expressing concern again for fate of children in Gaza
Leahy (D-VT) 7/31
Garcia (D-FL) 7/28
Duncan (R-TN) 7/25 – expressing concern for fate of children
Wolf (R-VA) 7/29 – has last Christian left Mosul after 2000 years?
Wolf (R-VA) 7/25 – listing Christians sites destroyed by ISIS in Mosul
Bentivolio (R-MI) 7/28 – on the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt
Roskam (R-IL) 7/25 – Worldwide say of prayer for Christians suffering in the Middle East