APN Legislative Round-Up: Nov 22-Dec 5, 2014

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


1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters


(BEST-ALLIES-WITH-BENEFITS) S. 2673:  On 12/3, the House agreed to suspend the rules and pass S. 2673 by a voice vote. This is the Senate version of the “United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014,” a bill that AIPAC and some other Jewish and evangelical groups have made a central focus of lobbying efforts for nearly two years (the House passed its own version of the bill, HR 938, back on 3/5/14 by a roll call vote of 410-1).  Both the House and Senate versions of the bill got held up in large part over efforts to use the bills to admit Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (enabling Israelis to travel to the U.S. without tourist visas), despite Israel apparently not meeting the conditions for participation in the program.  The current Senate version of the bill – which in its original form (S. 462, introduced 3/5/13) was far more problematic than the House version or the current Senate version – finally passed in the Senate back on 9/18/14.  S. 2673 now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it into law.   For background on the nearly 2-year saga of this legislation, as well as analysis of the various versions of the visa waiver language, see the 8/2/14 edition of the Round-Up (the visa waiver language was further improved/neutered before being brought to a vote, as discussed in the 9/19/14 edition of the Round-Up) and the 5/22/14 edition of the Round-Up. It now only remains to be seen what the legal implications will be of designating Israel a “major strategic partner of the United States” without actually defining what that designation entails…  Floor statements made during the 12/3 House consideration of the bill are here.  Royce (R-CA) statement is here; Engel (D-NY) statement is here; Boxer (D-CA)-Blunt (R-MO) statement on the passage of their bill is here.


(FUND FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE) HR 5795 Introduced 12/4 by Crowley (D-NY) and Fortenberry (R-NE) “to seek the establishment of and contributions to an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.


2.  Hearings


12/4:  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Dismantling Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program: Next Steps to Achieve a Comprehensive Deal.”  Witness were: David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security (Testimony); Gary Samore,

Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School of Government (Testimony); and Michael Doran, Hudson Institute (Testimony).  Video of the hearing is here.  Some have suggested that an effort was made to “stack” the panel with witnesses who could be expected to be welcoming of new sanctions against Iran (SFRC chair Menendez, D-NJ, has reportedly drafted yet another new Iran sanctions bill, for which he is currently rallying support); if this is true, then the hearing’s organizers were likely surprised to hear the witnesses all express reservations about Congress pursuing new sanctions at this time.  For more on this interesting turn of events, see this write-up of the hearing from NIAC.


3.  Members on the Record


Foxx (R-NC) 12/5: On the special relationship with Israel

Veasey (D-TX) 12/5:  Concerns for Israel in context of Iran negotiations extension

Isakson (R-GA) 12/4: Nuclear talks extension sends wrong message to Iran and the entire world

Poe (R-TX) 12/3: Slamming Palestinians for celebrating terrorism.

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 12/3:  Blasting UNESCO for its “anti-Israel agenda” and opposing restoring US funding to it

Hartzler (R-MO) 12/3:  Expressing concern about Iran talks extension and calling for new sanctions now

Israel (D-NY) 12/3: Placing 11/24 UNGA speech by Israel’s UN Ambassador Prosor into the record (speech in which Prosor argued basically that Israel has done and does no wrong.  Also speech where he slammed Europe as not a real friend of Israel).

Luetkemeyer (R-MO) 12/3: Opposing Iran talks extension, calling for more sanctions

Brownley (D-CA) 12/3:  “While I support the diplomatic process, I am concerned that additional delays without further sanctions are allowing Iran to advance their nuclear weapons program without penalty. In 2013, I voted for more sanctions in order to put pressure on Iran, and I am looking forward to working with a bipartisan Congress to build new sanctions to ensure we get to an acceptable final agreement between now and the new deadline of June 30, 2015.”

Republican Policy Committee statement, 12/2: Congress Must Strengthen Iran Sanctions

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 12/2: Accusing UNESCO members of viewing “the delegitimizing of Israel as its mission”— “We must not only block any attempt by the administration to restore funding to this entity which clearly has an agenda opposite to America's interests, but we must also work to block Abu Mazen's attempts at the U.N. to bypass his obligations to Israel by continuing his unilateral statehood scheme.”

Marchant (R-TX) 12/2: We must act now to increase sanctions on Iran

Wagner (R-MO) 12/2: Opposing Iran talks extension, calling for more sanctions

Brooks (R-IN) 12/1:  On Iran talks extension – “This indecisive action is unacceptable and directly undermines our strategic interests and those of our allies”

Lee (R-NE) 12/1:  Criticizing Iran talks extension, calling for more sanctions

Stivers (R-OH) 11/26: Opposing Iran talks extension, calling for more sanctions

Jolly (R-FL) 11/26:  Criticizing Iran talks extension, calling for more sanctions

Lowenthal (D-CA) 11/26:  Congressman Lowenthal Supportive of Iran Nuclear Talks Extension, Sanctions Must Continue

Neugebauer (R-TX) 11/26:  Opposing Iran talks extension, calling for more sanctions

Clawson (R-FL) 11/26:  Sort of critical of extension, kinda calling for new sanction

Peters (D-MI) 11/25: Calling for more sanctions on Iran

Scalise (R-LA) 11/26: Criticizing Iran talks extension, calling for more sanctions

Toomey (R-PA) 11/25: Statement describing Iran talks extension as “troubling”

Cardin (D-MD) 11/25: Expressing concerns about Iran talks extension

Baldwin (D-WI) 11/25: “It is in America’s national security interest to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities.  I continue to believe the diplomatic path—backed by tough international sanctions and a robust compliance regime—is the best option available to achieve that outcome.  The negotiations, which now have been extended, will continue to be governed by an agreement that secures from Iran concessions that amount to the first meaningful limits on its nuclear program in nearly a decade.  Progress was made during this negotiating period, so I believe it’s better for our national security to continue working for an agreement and keeping the pressure on Iran, than to walk away. While I recognize there are complex challenges to reach a long-term solution, I remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached that verifiably prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities.”

Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) 11/25: “Reaching a satisfactory deal to ensure that Iran never has the capability to build a nuclear weapon is hard work but the effort is certainly worthwhile.  I commend this Administration and everyone working on the negotiations for their tireless efforts.  To put it simply, our national security interests and that of our allies are better served with this interim agreement. But it remains just that, an interim agreement, while the parties continue to find the essential elements for a long-term deal. We must not accept a deal that leaves any of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon open. While the parties continue negotiating, we must continue to keep the pressure on through compliance and verification. Iran must address the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program; International inspectors must continue to have access to Iran’s key uranium enrichment sites; and any deal must include long-term plans for intensive verification measures.”

Takano (D-CA) 11/25: “I support the recently announced extension of talks to dismantle large parts of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Under no circumstances can Iran acquire nuclear weapons, and I hope that the extra time allotted will allow for tough discussions so that the parties involved reach an acceptable solution.”

Murphy (X-FL) 11/25: “…While an extension is preferable to a bad deal – it is time that Congress step in to make Iran feel enough pressure to end its nuclear weapons ambitions.  Any final deal must include Iran verifiably dismantling their nuclear weapon capability and coming clean on past military dimensions to their program. Lastly, the Administration needs to come to Congress before removing any sanctions or significantly altering the sanctions structure as established by Congress.”​

Poe (R-TX) 11/25: “The United States and our allies are being played” by Iran…

Castor (D-FL) 11/25:  “While the delay in negotiations relating to Iran's nuclear disarmament is disappointing, it is vital that the lead negotiators -- United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia -- continue to press for a diplomatic resolution to ensure that Iran fully commits to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. A seven-month extension should not be an excuse for inaction.  Otherwise, additional economic sanctions will come up for discussion. All parties should re-engage again quickly. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is correct when he says that the 'talks are not going to get easier just because we extend them.' The context of a resolution will become more difficult, however, and will feed insecurity and instability that should be avoided.”

Burgess (R-TX) 11/25: “…this administration has showed weakness and fragility by offering a seven-month extension [to Iran talks].”

Rigell (R-VA) 11/25:  “Yesterday’s failure of the P5+1 to finalize negotiations with Iran over its troubling nuclear program should be a concern to all. Iran’s record of delay, lack of transparency with the IAEA, and most importantly, its continued threats against the State of Israel, require aggressive efforts from both the United States and the international community. Whether those steps include increased sanctions, one thing must be made certain: Iran must never gain the ability to develop a nuclear weapon. The world cannot wait on another extension of talks.”

Rogers (R-MI) 11/24: Calling on the Obama Administration to “reconsider its entire approach to Iran”

Thune (R-SD) 11/24:  Calling for new Iran sanctions now

Corker (R-TN) 11/24: ““Since the beginning, I have been concerned about a series of rolling extensions becoming the norm and reducing our leverage. However, I would rather the administration continue to negotiate than agree to a bad deal that would only create more instability in the region and around the world,” said Corker. “With so much riding on these talks for the security of our nation and that of the region, Congress must have the opportunity to weigh in before implementation of any final agreement and begin preparing alternatives, including tougher sanctions, should negotiations fail.” 

Rubio (R-FL) 11/24: “we need to once again increase the pressure on Iran in the weeks and months ahead to force the regime to abandon its nuclear weapons program.”

Johnson (D-SD) 11/24: “I support this interim agreement to continue to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in return for limited sanctions relief, while negotiators work to finalize a comprehensive agreement in the next few months.  As Chairman of the Banking Committee and author of many of the sanctions that helped force Iran to negotiate, I have urged my Senate colleagues to hold off on legislatively imposing new sanctions during ongoing P5+1 negotiations with Iran. While substantial progress has been made, and Iran continues to comply with its agreements, more must be done to give the US and the international community confidence they could detect and stop any move by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, either through a ‘breakout’ using existing nuclear facilities or a ‘sneak out’ using clandestine sites. Having Congress impose new sanctions on Iran or place unworkable timetables and conditions on negotiators now would be grossly counterproductive, potentially shattering the international coalition formed to isolate Iran and escalating toward war.  Members of the President’s national security team are consulting closely with Congress on the talks, and Congress should continue to ask tough questions of negotiators. But a diplomatic resolution is within reach, and we in Congress should support efforts to reach a final agreement which closes down Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon in return for sanctions relief which can be quickly reversed if Iran fails to comply, and provides for intrusive verification.”

Barrasso (R-WY) 11/24: Criticizing Iran talks extension, calling for more sanctions

Murphy (D-CT) 11/24: “While I am disappointed that there was not a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached today in Vienna, the decision to extend the negotiations is a far better outcome than a bad deal or no deal at all. President Obama has consistently said the United States would not accept an agreement that did not place sufficient constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. The US negotiating team and our partners in the P5+1 made significant progress over the last year, but significant gaps remain on key issues. It is worth taking the time to continue these negotiations in the interest of achieving a better deal. Today’s agreement to extend the terms of the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) means that as long as the talks continue, Iran’s nuclear program will be frozen and tough sanctions will remain in place. Furthermore, inspectors can continue to access key facilities, including unannounced inspections at Iran’s Fordow and Natanz facilities. The sanctions relief offered to Iran is minimal in comparison to the sanctions that remain in place. The talks are not going to get easier for Iran with this extension. Crippling sanctions and international isolation will continue, with low oil prices magnifying the strain on Iran’s economy. As long as talks continue under these conditions, it is important that the United States not be responsible for a breakdown in negotiations, which is why I believe it would be unwise for Congress to pass new sanctions legislation at this time. Iran has adhered to its commitments under the interim agreement. Imposing new sanctions now would be a violation of that agreement by the United States, opening the door for Iran to retaliate by resuming uranium enrichment to 20%, adding new and advanced centrifuges, or other dangerous and escalatory measures.”

Menendez (D-NJ) 11/24: “I commend the Administration's diplomatic efforts in pursuit of a comprehensive agreement with Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear program. The burden of proof to resolve questions about Iran's nuclear weapons program lies squarely with the Iranians. It is disappointing and worrying that after a year of serious talks with Iran that we do not have a deal, while Iran simultaneously stonewalls international weapons inspectors seeking access to suspicious sites in Iran.  The cycle of negotiations, followed by an extension, coupled with sanctions relief for Iran has not succeeded. I continue to believe that the two-track approach of diplomacy and economic pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table is also the best path forward to achieve a breakthrough. I intend to work with my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state.”

Kirk (R-IL) 11/24: “Today's announcement means that the Administration will continue to block sanctions and allow the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime to make $700 million a month—roughly $23 million per day—even as Iran advances its nuclear bomb-making program and sparks an arms race in the Middle East. Now more than ever, it’s critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran’s mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency full and unfettered access to assure the international community’s security."

King (I-ME) 11/24: “The threat of a nuclear armed Iran is real and unacceptable. That is why I support Secretary Kerry and our P5+1 partners in their endeavor to achieve this important – and historic – goal to ensure Iran can never develop nuclear weapon capability. Our national security and the security in the region hinges on the success of these negotiations…While the announcement of another extension is disappointing, I look forward to hearing the details of the extension from Administration officials to determine if we are on the right path to achieving our objectives. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but the issues are complex. I encourage our negotiators to stay at the table and explore every pathway to an acceptable resolution.”

Boxer (D-CA) 11/24: “I support this extension because it maintains a strong sanctions regime, keeps Iran’s program frozen in place and subject to rigorous inspections, and continues talks toward a peaceful end to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, which is in the best interests of America and the world.”  

Levin (D-MI) 11/24: “I support the decision to extend nuclear talks with Iran. To this point, the interim agreement reached a year ago has been a net plus as it has maintained the tough sanctions regime, limited Iran’s uranium enrichment and provided inspectors with expanded access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. The extension keeps that interim agreement in place while negotiations continue. But our goal is and should be a comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran does not build a nuclear weapon, and because such an agreement is apparently within reach, it is in the interests of the United States and our partners in this endeavor to pursue it.  This extension demonstrates the international community’s strong desire to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We and our allies will be more secure with such a comprehensive agreement in hand.”

Kaine (D-VA) 11/24: “While I am disappointed the P5+1 missed today’s deadline to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, I believe the extension announced today is better than the alternatives: an inadequate agreement that fails to sufficiently curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or a complete collapse of  negotiations.  The Joint Plan of Action has proved to be a successful interim measure, and I believe some extension is appropriate to allow time and space for further negotiations. Moving forward, I expect to see demonstrable progress toward a robust deal that blocks all potential pathways to a bomb and lays out a comprehensive inspections and verification regime, with no ambiguity on the consequences should Iran cheat.”

Moran (R-KS) 11/24: Expressing skepticism about Iran negotiations extension”

Scott (R-SC) 11/24: Slamming Obama Administration for Iran talks extension

Graham (R-SC), Ayotte (R-NH) and McCain (R-AZ) 11/24:  “…We believe this latest extension of talks should be coupled with increased sanctions and a requirement that any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval. Every Member of Congress should have the opportunity to review the final deal and vote on this major foreign policy decision.”

Royce (R-CA) 11/24: “Better an extension than a bad agreement that at one point looked like it might be coming...” – and calling for more sanctions now.

Boehner (R-OH) 11/24: “At this point, all an extension does is leave open the possibility this administration will make additional concessions to an Iranian regime that has not agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program.  Every day these negotiations go on is another day this administration fails to address Iran’s role as lead state sponsor of terrorism with an abysmal human rights record and no interest in a strong, stable Iraq.  Instead of giving Iran more flexibility, we should be holding this regime accountable for the threat it poses to the region and our allies.”

Hoyer (D-MD) 11/24:  “…I have concerns about continued extensions of these negotiations…  It is my expectation that the Administration will be briefing the Congress prior to its adjournment on the specifics of this extension.  I look forward to receiving those briefings, and I will continue to monitor developments closely.”  

Smith (D-WA) 11/24: “While I had hoped that we would have been able to reach a final deal, I support the extension of the interim deal that maintains a freeze on Iran’s nuclear program and makes progress towards a final deal. The President has made it abundantly clear through his words as well as his actions, that under his leadership the United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.  I firmly support that goal, which is why I support the extension of negotiations. During negotiations, Iran’s nuclear program will remain frozen and the painful sanctions will stay in place. The extension keeps the pressure on Iran.”

McDermott (D-WA) 11/24: “Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Sherman deserve enormous credit and our sincere thanks for their tireless effort these past many months pursuing a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program. I know all parties involved would have preferred to leave Vienna with a comprehensive framework in place. However, I welcome the news that American, Iranian, and P5+1 negotiators will extend their talks until June 30, 2015 with the hope of organizing a framework as early as March.  U.S.- Iranian relations have markedly improved since negotiations began one year ago; it is imperative we maintain that positive momentum. Many in Congress will see this as the end of the road, the signal to toughen up already crippling sanctions. That would be the wrong move, a slap in the face to a year's worth of hard fought and honest negotiations by U.S. diplomats. Worse still, it could prompt Iran to drive its nuclear program back under ground, bringing us right back to the perilous situation we were faced with one year ago. With so much of the Middle East marred by violence, it is certainly in our interest, and Iran's, to return to the drawing board, to keep the conversation going, and hopefully arrive at a compromise that would do much to bolster a region in desperate need of stability and peace."

Ellison (D-MN), Lee (D-CA), Conyers (D-MI), McGovern (D-MA), Price (D-NC), Johnson (D-GA), Moran (D-VA), and Schakowsky (D-IL) 11/24: Members of the House Support Extension and Urge Congress Not to Give Up on Diplomacy

Deutsch (D-FL) 11/24: “Today's announcement that nuclear negotiations will extend with no new concessions from Iran while providing continued sanctions relief is disappointing. While continued discussions are preferable to a bad deal, such extensions without Iran making any public concessions on any of the key points is unsatisfactory. I don't believe that any additional sanctions relief is currently warranted, necessary, or appropriate. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to develop new sanctions that will be triggered should Iran fail to agree to a satisfactory framework in the coming months or reject an acceptable final deal by the June 30th deadline. Iran must feel the urgency to reach a final deal that halts all pathways to a bomb, dismantles centrifuge infrastructure to prevent Iran from becoming a threshold nuclear state, addresses the regime's past work on possible military dimensions, and provides a robust verifiable monitoring mechanism to ensure Iran cannot breakout undetected.”

Holding (R-NC) 11/24:  Expressing skepticism about Iran talks extension

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/24:  “Ros-Lehtinen calls latest Iran nuclear extension an example of Administration’s naiveté, egregious failure to secure U.S. national security interests”

Schakowsky (D-IL) 11/24:  “I am disappointed that the parties to the Joint Plan of Action nuclear negotiations were unable to reach an agreement by today’s deadline, but I support the decision to continue these talks until July 1, 2015.  I will work with my colleagues to see that nothing is done to impede the negotiations as they continue.”

Rooney (R-FL) 11/24: No concessions to Iran until total victory against Iran’s nuclear program

Byrne (R-AL) 11/24: “Time to Abandon Iran Nuclear Talks”

Sherman (D-CA) 11/24: Criticizing Iran talks extension, calling for new sanctions

Bennett (R-CO) 11/21:  "Any potential deal resulting from the ongoing negotiations must prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear-armed state. It should limit Iran's use of certain technologies, and include a strong international verification regime to ensure Iran cannot use any ‘break out' or covertly ‘sneak out' tactic to complete such a weapon. Relief from sanctions should be contingent on Iran holding up its end of the bargain. The current negotiations with Iran represent a historic shift in Iran's relations with the United States and the West. We are hopeful that a deal can be reached and that Congress will be sufficiently consulted throughout this process.”

Leahy (D-VT) 11/21: "I strongly support the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran and hope that a verifiable agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon can be reached by the November 24th deadline.  I recognize that some of our allies in the region have voiced concerns about the process.  I urge all parties to engage in a constructive dialogue, which is crucial for progress and for the integrity of any outcome.  Over the past year there has been progress toward eliminating the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran, and any actions taken should not undermine that progress.  I look forward to reviewing the outcome of the negotiations."

Moore Capito (R-WV):  GOP Senators-Elect: Eliminate Iran’s Nuclear Program