by Lara Friedman
As we have over the past two years, 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
(DEFENSE APPROPS) HR 1301: Introduced 3/2 by Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), “Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2017.” Passed by the House 3/8 by a vote of 371-48. The bill includes $600,735,000 for Israel Cooperative Programs (Sec. 8072) and $43 million for the Israeli anti-tunneling program (under Title II).
(1992 BOMBING OF ISRAELI EMBASSY IN ARGENTINA) H. Res. 201: Introduced 3/16 by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and 5 cosponsors, “Expressing support to the Government of Argentina for its investigation into the terrorist bombing of the Embassy of Israel in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Notably, the “resolved” clauses focus on Iran and include a statement that this bombing: “reminds us that the international community must cooperate and work together to combat and defeat international terrorism and its state sponsors, such as Iran.” The resolution doesn’t clarify what the authors mean by calling for the international community to “defeat” Iran. Ros-Lehtinen’s floor statement introducing the resolution is here.
(ROBERT LEVINSON DISAPPEARANCE) S. Res. 85: Introduced 3/9 by Nelson (D-FL) and Rubio (R-FL), “A resolution calling on the Government of Iran to fulfill repeated promises of assistance in the case of Robert Levinson, the longest held United States civilian in our Nation’s history.” Referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Nelson floor statement 3/9 is here.
(ROBERT LEVINSON DISAPPEARANCE) H. Res. 185: Introduced 3/9 by Deutch (D-FL) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), “Calling on the Government of Iran to fulfill repeated promises of assistance in the case of Robert Levinson, the longest held United States civilian in our Nation’s history.” Referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Deutch statement ishere; Ros-Lehtinen statement is here.
(SLAMMING IRAN FOR 1988 MEK MASSACRE) H. Res. 188: Introduced by McCaul (R-TX) and 15 cosponsors (bipartisan), “Condemning the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and calling for justice for the victims.” Referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. McCaul statement (with Engel, D-NY) is here.
(6 YEARS OF CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA) S. Res. 87: Introduced 3/15 by Sens. Kaine (D-VA), McCain (R-AZ), Rubio (R-FL) & Murphy (D-CT), “A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate concerning the ongoing conflict in Syria as it reaches its six-year mark in March, the ensuing humanitarian crisis in Syria and neighboring countries, the resulting humanitarian and national security challenges, and the urgent need for a political solution to the crisis.” Referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Press release is here.
(TRANSPARENCY OF JUDGMENT FUND) S. 565: Introduced 3/8 by Fischer (R-NE), Gardner (R-CO), Grassley (R-IA), and Crapo (R-ID), “A bill to amend title 31, United States Code, to provide for transparency of payments made from the Judgment Fund.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Fischer/Gardner 3/8 press release is here (key excerpt: “…the Obama administration used the Judgment Fund to deliver $1.3 billion to Iran’s Central Bank in 2016. Ransom for American hostages was coordinated with this payment.”). Also see Fischer 3/13 statement, “Shining Daylight on the Judgment Fund” [key excerpt: “In 2016, the Obama administration used the Judgment Fund to deliver $1.3 billion to Iran’s Central Bank.”]
(MIDEAST AUMF) H. J. Res. 89: Introduced 3/15 by Banks (R-IN) and Jones (R-NC), “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(BEWARE OF ONE-STATE OUTCOME) Price-Connolly letter: On 2/28 Reps. Price (D-NC) and Connolly (D-VA) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Trump, warning of the dangers of a one-state outcome. As of 3/13, the letter had 124 signers. Reportedly, as of the morning of 3/16, it had at least 175 signers, and word is that the letter closed with nearly the entire Democratic caucus signing on (plus two Republicans – Jones (R-NC) and Duncan (R-TN).
(PRESERVE JCPOA) Foster et al letter: On 2/27, Rep. Foster (D-IL) led a letter to President Trump, co-signed by 59 colleagues, urging the preservation of the JCPOA. Press release (issued 3/7) is here.
(DEMANDING ANSWERS ON JCPOA) Fitzpatrick et al letter: On 3/10, Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and 45 GOP colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson demanding answers to questions regarding the JCPOA (questions implying duplicity on the part of the Obama Administration regarding the JCPOA).
(REOPEN YEMEN PORT TO URGENT HUMANITARIAN AID) Lieu-Conyers letter: On 3/13, Reps. Lieu (D-CA) and Conyers (D-MI) led 52 Members of Congress in sending a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson urging him to “use all diplomatic tools to help open the Yemeni port of Hodeida to international humanitarian aid organizations to allow them to deliver critical food, fuel and medicine into northern Yemen.” Press release is here.
SFRC Approves David Friedman (Party-Line Vote)
On 3/9, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a business meeting at which SFRC members voted to approve the nomination of David Friedman as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, by a vote of 12-9 (video is here). The vote was party-line, with all GOP members voting in favor of the nomination, and all Democrats – except for Menendez (D-NJ) – voting against. This appears to be unprecedented; in the past, nominees for this position have consistently enjoyed bipartisan, consensus support. But of course, it is also unprecedented for the President to nominate to this position a person who is (a) so partisan – both with respect to the U.S. and Israeli politics and policies – in his personal political views and activism, (b) so completely unqualified, by any traditional or objectively rational measures, for the job, or (c) so polarizing in terms of his behavior/temperament, having personally slandered/insulted/maligned huge numbers of Americans, past U.S. presidents, and sitting members of the Senate.
SFRC Chairman Corker’s (R-TN) opening statement in support of Friedman’s nomination is here. SFRC statements in support: Menendez (D-NJ) and Cruz (R-TX). Corker’s press release touting the SFRC’s approval of Friedman nomination is here.
SFRC Ranking Minority Member Cardin’s (D-MD) statement opposing the nomination (issued 3/8) is here. Other SFRC Democrats issuing statements opposing the nomination were Kaine (D-VA), Markey (D-MA), Booker (D-NJ), Coons (D-DE) and Udall (D-NM). In addition, Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Feinstein (D-CA) weighed in against the nomination, as did House members Bass (D-CA) and Clarke (D-NY). For a full list of Members of Congress who have come out in opposition to Friedman’s nomination since it was first announced back in January (with links to original sources), see this handy resource at FCNL.
The nomination now awaits a vote by the full Senate (as of this writing).
3/22: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations will hold a hearing entitled, “Anti-Semitism Across Borders.” Scheduled witnesses are: Paul Goldenberg (Secure Community Network – “The national homeland security initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America & the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations”); Rabbi Andrew Baker (OSCE); and Mark Weitzman (Simon Wiesenthal Center). NOTE: It is a good bet that this hearing will include some argument/analysis predicated on the premise that criticism of Israel and criticism/activism targeting Israel or even settlements/occupation is a form of anti-Semitism (the SWC treats “anti-Semitic/anti-Israel” incidents as a single category and named UNSCR 2334 the worst such incident in 2016).
3/21: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “America’s Role in the World.” Scheduled witnesses are Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.
3/15: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Six Years of War in Syria: The Human Toll.” Witnesses were: Drs. Farida, Abdulkhalek, and Rajab, Syrian American Medical, Aleppo (testimony, testimony, testimony); Neal Keny-Guyer, Mercy Corps (testimony); David Miliband, International Rescue Committee (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.
3/9: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy.” Witnesses were: Thomas Joscelyn, FDD (testimony); Dafna Rand, NDU (testimony); and Gerald Feierstein, MEI (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.
3/9: The House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs held a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Department of State and Foreign Operations Programs.” Witnesses were Ann Calvaresi Barr (USAID Inspector General) and Steve Linick (DOS/BBG Inspector General). Video of the hearing is here.
On the Record
Gohmert (R-TX) 3/10: Floor statement, “There Are Radical Islamists Who Want To Destroy Our Way Of Life”
Reed (D-RI) 3/9: Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at SASC Hearing on US Central Command & US Africa Command [“Turning back to the CENTCOM AOR, over the last few years there has been a persistent focus on Iran’s nuclear program – and appropriately so. We passed the one-year anniversary of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA in January, and Iran appears to be living up to its commitments under the agreement. However, the JCPOA only addressed one facet of the challenge posed by Iran. Its destabilizing activities in the region, ballistic missile development efforts, and unprofessional and dangerous behavior in the maritime environment continue. Sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program were successful because of the extraordinary unity within international community. We must approach the remaining challenges in a similar way if we are to be successful in changing Iran’s behavior. Any new sanctions must be carefully applied in concert with our international partners so that we do not give Iran a pretext to withdraw from the JCPOA and risk reversing the progress that has been made on limiting their nuclear ambitions.”]
Lieu (D-CA) 3/9: Rep. Ted Lieu Statement On Deployment Of U.S. Ground Troops In Syria
Pittinger (R-NC) 3/8: Congressman Pittenger Commends President Sisi For Strong Support Of Egyptian Christian Minority
Chabot (R-OH) 3/7: Chabot Statement on ZTE’s $1 Billion Settlement (Chinese cellphone equipment company will plead guilty to charges that it violated sanctions restricting technology sales to Iran.
Zeldin (R-NY) 3/6:Op-ed, “The Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism” (including, “Anti-Semitism is rearing it’s ugly head on college campuses with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, and in foreign countries and companies trying to harm the Israeli economy today. Anti-Semitism is rising at the United Nations as well where the Security Council recently passed a resolution seeking to ethnically cleanse Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem. For the first time ever, the United Nations formally declared it a violation of international law for Jews to live in this area, which is the same land that the Macabees lived on, prayed, and fought for freedom. It is that fight celebrated on Hanukkah, which started just one day after the United Nations Security Council passed their anti-Jewish, anti-Israel resolution.
Israel, our greatest friend and ally, is surrounded by terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and ISIS that would like nothing more than to wipe Israel off the map. Israel is a beacon of liberty and freedom in a very dark region of the world, and we as a nation must do everything we can to protect our ally and the Israeli people from these disparaging, divisive and dangerous tactics that threaten both their national security and ours.”
Corker (R-TN) 3/6: Corker Statement on Iranian Ballistic Missile Tests
Cotton (R-AR) 3/6: Cotton Statement on Iran and North Korea’s Recent Testing of Ballistic Missiles
Culberson (R-TX) 3/3: Addressing threats to US Jewish communities – “This wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic behavior is a dangerous trend and meant to marginalize the Jewish community. Our country is founded upon freedom of religion and we must unite to denounce this behavior.”