by Lara Friedman
[As we have over the past few months, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now about what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran.]
Bills, Resolutions & Letters
(UPDATE ON PRO-SETTLEMENTS LANGUAGE IN TWO MAJOR TRADE BILLS) S. 995/HR 1890/HR 1314 (TPA) and S. 1269/HR 1907/HR 644 (Customs): For details of these bill and prior actions on them, including discussion of the pro-settlement provisions included in the House and Senate version of both bills, see last week’s edition of the Round-Up. Action this week was limited to HR 1314, which was on the Senate floor at various points during the week (for all actions, see here); on 5/21, cloture was invoked on Hatch substitute amendment SA 1221 by vote of 62-38, clearing major hurdle for the bill (see Roll Call article, here).
(BAD PALESTINIANS – NO ICC FOR YOU!) H. Res. 270: Introduced 5/18 by Franks (R-AZ) and Vargas (D-CA), “A resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding the Palestinian Authority’s purported accession to the International Criminal Court for the purpose of initiating prosecutions against Israeli soldiers, citizens, officials, and leaders.” Referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This resolution is notable for its extraordinary amateurish drafting, as exemplified right from the start in the measure’s short title, which refers repeatedly to the “purported” accession of the “Palestinian Authority” to the ICC. The drafters of the resolution either fail to understand what the word “purported” actually means (inconceivable!) or fail to understand that the fact of the Palestinians’ accession to the ICC is in no way a claim that is in dispute (even if it is a fact the drafter of H. Res. 270 don’t like). Likewise, the repeated references to the “Palestinian Authority” betray either ignorance or a fundamental misunderstanding of what is happening today at the ICC and at the UN – where the PA in fact has no standing. Rather, the Palestinians’ accession to the ICC derives from the UN General Assembly’s recognition of the State of Palestine as a non-member observer state at the UN – and it is this State of Palestine that has acceded to the ICC, not the PA.
(HUMAN RIGHTS IN TURKEY) H. Res. 279: Introduced 5/20 by Grayson (D-FL) and 20 cosponsors, “A resolution urging respect for freedom of expression and human rights in Turkey. Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(CONGRATULATIONS TUNISIA) H. Res. 277: Introduced 5/19 by Schweikert (R-AZ) and Hastings (D-FL), “Honoring the Tunisian People for their democratic transition.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Note: Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi visited Washington this week, meeting with President Obama on 5/21.
(DEMANDING RELEASE OF PENTAGON IRAN REPORT) Cruz-Isakson-Perdue-Rubio letter: On 5/21, Senators Cruz (R-TX), Isakson (R-GA), Perdue (R-GA) and Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter expressing “strong concern over the delay in publishing the Annual Report on the Military Power of Iran.” The letter concludes with a thinly-veiled threat: “It is unreasonable to expect Congress to fully assess the implications of any nuclear agreement with Iran without access to the information in this report. Given the June 30, 2015 deadline for final negotiations with Iran, we ask that the report be published no later than May 30, 2015. In the event that this deadline cannot be met, we ask that you provide a thorough explanation for any delays.” Cruz press release on the letter is here.
(PROTECT MINORITIES IN IRAN) Schiff-Franks letter: On 5/15, a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 73 House members, led by Schiff (D-CA) and Franks (R-AZ), was sent to Appropriations Committee Chairman Rogers (R-XX), Ranking Member Lowey (D-NY), and Chair of the ForOps Subcommittee Granger (R-TX). The letter urges appropriators to extend the “Lautenberg Amendment,” which it describes as “a critical lifeline for threatened religious minorities trapped in Iran.” The letter states, “Today, the provision is more necessary than ever. Iranian Jews, Christians, and Baha’is continue to suffer systematic persecution and discrimination by the Iranian government….”
(DEMANDING RELEASE OF HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT ON IRAN) Cruz et al letter: On 5/12 (not previously reported), Senators Cruz (R-FL), Enzi (R-WY), Isakson (R-GA), Kirk (R-IL), Perdue (R-GA), and Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of State Kerry expressing “strong concern over the ongoing postponement of the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, in particular the Iran Human Rights Report.” The letter concludes with a thinly-veiled threat: “…it would be unreasonable to expect Congress to do its proper due diligence on any deal reached with Iran without access to this information. Given the June 30, 2015 deadline for negotiations with Iran, we ask that the report be published no later than May 15, 2015. In the event that this deadline cannot be met we ask that you provide a thorough explanation for the delay by that date.”
5/21: The House Financial Services Committee’s Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing held a hearing entitled “A Dangerous Nexus: Terrorism, Crime, and Corruption” (including focus on Hezbollah operations). Witnesses were: David Asher, FDD (statement); Richard Barrett, Soufan Group (statement); Douglas Farah, CSIS (statement); and Celina Realuyo, National Defense University (statement).
5/20: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia will hold a hearing entitled, “Egypt Two Years After Morsi: Part I.” Scheduled witnesses are: Eric Trager, WINEP (statement); Samuel Tadros, Hudson (statement); and Nancy Okail, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (statement).
Members on the Record
Kirk (R-IL) 5/20: Kirk Statement on Reports That Iran Continues to Break International Rules
McClintock (R-CA) 5/19: Opposing an Iran nuclear agreement and backing this up by making the case that Iranian-Americans oppose an Iran nuclear deal and believe that “the economic sanctions and international isolation of the regime were bringing Iran to the brink of revolution.” [for a different perspective on the views of Iranian-Americans, see: Washington Post 5/21: Iranian exiles respond in unexpected ways to idea of U.S.-Iran nuclear talks]
Kinzinger (R-IL) 5/20: Urging Obama to “stand up” on Syria
Wilson (R-SC) 5/19: Hoping Obama will “change course” in terms of dealing with Iran
Cole (R-OK) 5/20: Essay on his website – All Eyes on Iran (“At the insistence of the Administration and despite warnings from our allies in the Middle East, these nuclear talks are expected to result in a deal that lifts sanctions and allows Iran to maintain much of its ability to enrich uranium. That means Iran would be only a few short steps away from creating a nuclear weapon whenever it chose to do so.”)