APN Legislative Round-Up: Oct 1 - Nov 21, 2014

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

Following a lengthy hiatus for High Holidays, Congressional recess, etc…, the Round-Up is back! (But will be off again, along with Congress, for Thanksgiving…  Expect an erratic schedule until the new Congress convenes).

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(IRAN HUMAN RIGHS ABUSES) H. Res. 754:  Introduced 11/14 by Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY), “Condemning the Government of Iran for its gross human rights violations.”  Passed/agreed to in House 11/19 by a voice vote.  Floor statements (including many critical comments on Iran diplomacy, and one strong pro-diplomacy statement from Ellison, D-MN) on the resolution are here.  Royce/Engel press release on the resolution is here. Boehner (R-OH) statement on the resolution is here.  Engel floor statement is here. RSC Chair McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) statement is here.

(CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT OF IRAN DEAL) S.2650: Introduced 7/23 by Corker (R-TN) and having 11 cosponsors, the “Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act of 2014.”   On 11/13, Graham (R-SC) sought unanimous consent to bill to Senate floor for a vote no later than 11/24.   Murphy (D-CT) objected to timing.  See Congressional Record for long Graham statement slamming Iran negotiations and potential deal, and making case for passing new sanctions before 11/25 deadline, followed by lengthy Corker (R-TN) statement to similar effect.

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 5709: Introduced 11/14 by Franks (R-AZ) and no cosponsors, the “Sanction Iran, Safeguard America Act of 2014.”   Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, Oversight and Government Reform, Ways and Means, and the Judiciary.

(LEGISLATING THE GREATER ISRAEL AGENDA) HR 5734:  Introduced 11/18 by Stockman (R-TX) and no cosponsors, the “Right of Return Act.”  The bill would direct the Secretary of State to press Israel to annex the West Bank and Gaza, and grant Palestinians living in those areas a “right of return” to Jordan and Egypt, respectively.   Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(SUPPORTING ISRAEL = SUPPORTING SETTLEMENTS) HR 5727:  Introduced 11/18 by Lamborn (R-CO) and no cosponsors, “To require certifications by prospective contractors with the United States Government that they are not boycotting persons, and for other purposes.”  The bill would effectively bar the US government from doing business not only with anyone who boycotts Israel, but anyone who boycotts settlements.   Referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Lamborn’s press release makes clear that the purpose of the bill is at least in large part to prevent boycotts of settlements, noting, “Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, a place where all men and women enjoy freedom regardless of their faith or ethnicity. In fact Jewish owned factories and companies in Israel and in Judea and Samaria are among the chief employers of the Palestinian community. Palestinian workers get equal pay and equal treatment and enjoy benefits.”

(ATTACKING UNRWA) HR 5647:  Introduced 9/18 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and having 3 cosponsors, the “UNRWA Anti-Terrorism Act.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  On 11/12, Ros-Lehtinen circulated a Dear Colleague seeking support for the bill.  While HR 5647 is ostensibly about concerns about UNRWA and terrorism (it effectively accuses UNRWA of supporting terrorism), the bill is actually just the latest attempt to “resolve” the Palestinian refugee issue by dismantling UNRWA and making Palestinian refugees the responsibility of UNHCR, and otherwise “re-defining” the Palestinian refugees out of existence (all of which is explicit in the Sense of Congress at the end of the bill).  For background on previous attempts of this same nature, and discussion of why they are futile, see this post from 5/24/12: Legislating the Refugee Problem.


(SLAMMING ABBAS FOR INCITEMENT) Appropriators’ letter:  On 11/20, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee sent a letter to Palestinian president Abbas threatening U.S. aid to the Palestinians if the Palestinian Authority fails to “act to counter the incitement of violence against Israelis.”  The letter notes, “The recent attacks against Israelis raise serious concerns that the Palestinians are not prepared to coexist peacefully with their neighbor Israel.  In addition, the use of degrading images in Fatah or PA produced media as well as inflammatory language used by you and other Palestinian leaders undermine the objectives of our support and threaten to further destabilize an already highly volatile situation.” 

(PREPARING TO OPPOSE IRAN DEAL) Kirk-Rubio letter: On 11/18, Senators Kirk (R-IL) and Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to President Obama, cosigned by every Republican member of the Senate except Rand Paul (R-KY), laying out maximalist demands for any Iran deal and threatening to scuttle a deal.

(CHICKENSH*T DEBACLE) Coats et al letter:  On 10/31, Sens. Coats (R-IN), Boozman (R-AR), Moran (R-KS), Kirk (R-IL) and Vitter (R-LA) sent a letter to President Obama expressing concern over “vulgar and disparaging characterizations of Prime Minister Netanyahu” reported in the Atlantic, made “by those whom work and speak on your behalf.” The letter closes with this: “While your administration’s official policy has been supportive of Israel, your refusal to hold those making these comments accountable gives the appearance of a faltering in a long standing friendship. It also significantly weakens our ability to broker an agreement that brings a sustainable peace to the Middle East. It is our hope that your administration will refocus its efforts from personal attacks to the faithful execution of Congressional instruction.”

(CONCERNS ABOUT UNRWA) Higgins et al letter: On 10/3, a bipartisan group of 67 House members sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing concern about “the repeated use of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) facilities to maintain rocket stockpiles during the course of the recent conflict…”  The letter notes that “While we do not advocate a cutoff of funding [to UNRWA] at this time, the issues must be addressed.” The end of the letter notes, “While we recognize UNRWA does not possess policing capabilities, or the ability to counter armed intruders, it must to more to prevent its facilities from being used to endanger the lives of civilians and commit acts of terrorism.  Consequently, as the agency overseeing UNRWA contributions, the State Department is responsible for ensuring these funds are being used in a manner consistent with their humanitarian purpose.  We therefore urge swift action to facilitation an independent investigation and ensure that UNRWA implements the necessary reforms to certify such incidents will not happen again.”

2.  Hearings

11/20: The House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled “Examining What a Nuclear Iran Deal Means for Global Security.” Witnesses were: General Michael Hayden, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (statement); Mark Dubowitz, FDD (statement); and Karim Sadjadpour, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (statement). Video of the hearing is available here.

11/19:  The House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing entitled “Next Steps for U.S. Foreign Policy on Syria and Iraq.”  Witnesses were:  Ambassador Robert Ford (statement); Elliott Abrams, CFR (statement); Kimberly Kagan, Institute for the Study of War (statement); and Steven Heydemann, USIP (statement).  Video of the hearing is available here.

11/18:The House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on  Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade held a hearing entitled “Iranian Nuclear Talks: Negotiating a Bad Deal?'' Witnesses were: Ray Takeyh, CFR (statement); J. Matthew McInnis, AEI (statement); and David Albright, ISIS (statement). Video of the hearing is available here: Part 1, Part 2.

11/13: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing entitled, “The Risk of Nation-State Conflict: China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.”  Witnesses were: General James Cartwright (USMC, ret.); Professor Walter Russell Mead, Yale University (Testimony), and Kathleen Hicks, CSIS (Testimony).  Chairman Rogers’ (R-MI) opening statement is here; ranking member Ruppersberger’s (D-MD) opening statement is here.


3.  Members on the Record

On 11/18 Jerusalem Terror Attack

Boozman (R-AR),Brown (D-OH),Cardin (D-MD), Cardin (D-MD), Crowley (D-NY),Cruz (R-TX), Delaney (D-MD),Deutch (D-FL),Engel (D-NY) ,Frankel (D-FL),Garrett (R-NJ),Grimm (R-NY),Hastings (D-FL),Hoyer (D-MD) ,Jeffries (D-NY),Kinzinger (R-IL),Kirk (R-IL),Lance (R-NJ), Roskam (R-IL), and Lamborn (R-CO) ,Lowey (D-NY,Maloney (D-NY),McCarthy (D-NY),Meeks (D-NY),Meng (D-NY),Mikulski (D-MD),Paul (R-KY),Portman (R-OH),Rangel (D-NY),Reid (D-NV),Rice (R-SC), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL),Rubio (R-FL),Schakowsky (D-IL),Scott (R-SC),Sherman (D-CA),Warner (D-VA)

 Expressing varying degrees of skepticism/opposition to Iran nuclear negotiations & possible deal or demanding hardline conditions for any such deal

Royce (R-CA)/Engel (D-NY) 11/20, Kirk (R-IL) and Rubio (R-FL) 11/20, Peters (D-MI) 11/20, Coons (D-DE) 11/20, Deutch (D-FL) 11/20, Enzi (R-WY) 11/20, Rubio (R-FL) 11/20, Boozman (R-AR) 11/20, Portman (R-OH) 11/20, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/20, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/19, Franks (R-AZ) 11/19, Wilson (R-SC) 11/19, Lamborn (R-CO), Walorksi (R-IN), DeSantis (R-FL) 11/18, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/18, Granger (R-TX) and Lowey (D-NY) 11/18, Warner (D-VA) 11/18, Meehan (R-PA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Dent (R-PA), Gerlach (PA), Costello (R-PA) 11/17, Sherman (D-CA) and Poe (R-TX) 11/17, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/17, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/14, Daines (R-MT) 11/14, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/13, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/12, Kirk (R-IL) and Menendez (D-NJ) 11/12, McCain (R-AZ) on 11/6, Graham (R-SC) 11/6, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/5, Scalise (R-LA) 10/29, Royce (R-CA) on 10/28 (linking human rights to nuclear deal), Cornyn (R-TX) 10/22, Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 10/22, Royce (R-CA) and McKeon (R-CA) 10/21

Expressing support for Iran nuclear negotiations/deal

 Grijalva (D-AZ), Ellison (D-MN), and Lee (D-CA) 11/19, Barbara Lee (D-CA) 11/19, Keith Ellison (D-MN) 11/19, McDermott (D-WA) 11/18, Hank Johnson (D-GA) 11/18, Christopher Murphy (D-CT) (11/13 (video): “Senator Murphy Objects to Republican Bill That Would Undermine Iran Nuclear Talks”)

 On the “chickensh*t” idiocy

(notably, there was no similar wave of outraged comments from Congress when Netanyahu suggested that Obama was “un-American” for criticizing Israeli settlement policy)

 Cardin (D-MD) ,Coats (R-IN) ,Cook (R-CA) ,Cotton (R-AR) ,Crowley (D-NY) ,Engel (D-NY) ,Hatch (R-UT) ,Holding (R-NC),Kirk (R-IL),Marchant (R-TX),McCain (R-AZ) and Graham (R-SC),Olson (R-TX), Scalise (R-LA) ,Sherman (D-CA) ,Vitter (R-LA) ,Warner (D-VA)

 Other issues

 Gohmert (R-TX) 11/20: Somehow in a statement on Ebola slamming Obama on Israel/Iran

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/19: Increase in Violent Attacks in Israel

Poe (R-TX) 11/19: Iranian Government Is Inhuman, Barbaric, and a Terror on the Iranian People

Fitzpatrick (R-PA) 11/17: On the plight of Saeed Abedini

Gohmert (R-TX) 11/14: Slamming Obama Administration policy across the Middle East. Money quote: “It is time for America to wake up. Because today, as an anniversary of what happened 100 years ago [the fatwa that was declared by the last Islamic caliph of the Ottoman Empire], is a really big deal for those who want to destroy our way of life and our lives if we are Christians.”

Stockman (R-TX) 11/13: Condemning recent wave of terror attacks in Israel

Corker (R-TN) 11/11:  Secretary Kerry “Undermines His Credibility and that of our Nation” by Denying Link between Iran Nuclear Talks and ISIS Strategy”

Kirk (R-IL) 11/9: Kirk Joins StandWithUs to Combat Anti-Semitism on U.S. College Campuses

McCain (R-AZ) and Graham (R-SC) 11/7: Statement by Senators Graham and McCain on President Obama's Secret Letter to Iran's Supreme Leader

Lowey (D-NY) 11/5: Statement on Jerusalem Terrorist Attack and Jordanian Ambassador Recall

Casey (D-PA) 10/27: On human rights in Iran

Gillibrand (D-NY) 10/24: Statement on Murder of Three-Month-Old Infant in Jerusalem

Lowey (D-NY) 10/23: Statement on Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem

Cruz (R-TX) 10/23: “We Stand in Solidarity with Israel and Canada”

Kirk (R-IL) and Rubio (R-FL) 10/22: U.S. Support to Gaza Cannot Come at Israel's Expense

Duncan (R-SC) 10/21 Oped: An ‘invisible’ Iran in the Western Hemisphere: America's strategic blind spot”