FMEP Legislative Round-Up: May 10, 2019


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

*Brought to you in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Round-Up was born!

1. Bills, Resolutions, & Letters

(TURN THE SCREWS MORE ON IRAN) S. Res. 195: Introduced 5/8 by Cotton (R-AR) and 12 all-GOP cosponsors, “A resolution opposing the lifting of sanctions imposed with respect to Iran without addressing Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, and other destabilizing activities.” Referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Cotton press release is here, with Cotton noting: “Any attempt to invest in the Iranian market, under any circumstances other than Iran’s complete and verifiable cessation of its full range of malign activities, will be fraught with huge legal and financial risks. Businesses should not put themselves in that compromising position, and our European partners should not give in to Iran’s high-stakes nuclear blackmail.”


(NO WAR ON IRAN WITHOUT CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORIZATION) Levin letter to Pompeo: On 5/2, Rep. Levin (D-MI) sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo expressing concern that the administration may believe it is empowered to use military force against Iran without seeking authorization from Congress. The letter notes Pompeo’s recent SFRC testimony, during which Pompeo refused to state unequivocally that the administration will not use military force without first obtaining authorization from Congress. Press release is here.

(ISRAEL – DON’T EXPEL HRW REP) McGovern et al letter: On 4/21 (not previously reported) Reps. McGovern (D-MA) and 16 House Democratic colleagues sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu — cc’d to to the Israeli Supreme Court Justices, the Israeli Minister of Interior, and the Israeli ambassador to the United States — urging Israel to reconsider its decision to deport Human Rights Watch’s Israel-based representative Omar Shakir. The letter points out that, “To carry out our own human rights work and responsibilities…we rely on the reports of Human Rights Watch for balanced accounts of human rights violations wherever they may occur, including here in the United States” and states that deporting HRW’s representative would “reinforce the impression that Israel is increasingly hostile to human rights defenders.” Media coverage is here.

2. Hearings

5/15: The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Assessing the Use of Sanctions in Addressing National Security and Foreign Policy Challenges.” No further details are available at this time.

5/10: The House Appropriations Committee marked up the draft FY2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill. Video is here. Bill text is here; press release is here. Stay tuned for next week’s Round-Up for a full analysis of Middle East-related provisions in the House text and report.

5/9: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism held a hearing entitled, “Chinese and Russian Influence in the Middle East.” Witnesses were: Jon Alterman, CSIS (testimony); Andrew Exum, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy (testimony); Christine Wormuth, RAND (testimony); and Anna Borshchevskaya, WINEP (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

5/9: The House Appropriations Committee held a markup of the FY2020 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, FY 2020 and the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, FY 2020. Notably, during the markup Rep. Graves (R-GA) offered an amendment to have the Department of Defense restrict the U.S. government from doing business with any entities that boycott Israel or settlements (similar to legislation that has been ruled unconstitutional in 3 U.S. states so far). Graves pitched the amendment as consistent with previously introduced bipartisan anti-BDS legislation. Graves cited his first-hand experience visiting a settlement industrial zone, where he saw Jewish companies employing Palestinian laborers, as evidence for why boycotts of Israel/settlements are evil. Graves implied that Democrats who might object to the amendment or seek to delay dealing with it are insufficiently pro-Israel. Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) spoke in response, emphasizing her own deep commitment to and connection with Israel (talking about Israel being attacked by Hamas, talking about just now sending her daughter to Israel on Birthright, making clear that she is a cosponsor of every piece of anti-BDS legislation that has been introduced) but opposed the amendment on the grounds that it turns Israel into a partisan political football and hurts our military (in effect, she said she agreed with the amendment in substance but opposed the way it was being pursued). Lowey echoed Wasserman Schultz’s arguments. Graves responded by very politely calling Democrats either anti-Israel or hypocrites. All of this starts at 3:50:30 in the video. The video is worth watching in full, as it underscores once again how BDS is the gift that keeps on giving for the GOP — and will remain so until Democrats find the courage to stop punching left and recognize boycotts of Israel and settlements as legitimate free speech that they unapologetically defend. This gift-that-keeps-on-giving was underscored by the thread Graves subsequently tweeted out on Twitter, with his final “gotcha” tweet reading: “If there’s one issue that should unite us in Congress, it’s support for Israel. Why not stand in support of our ally? (5/5)”. The House GOP likewise posted a gloating tweet: “WATCH: Today @RepTomGraves brought forward an amendment during @AppropsDems hearing that would have condemned the BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize Israel. Not a single Democrat voted for it. Their party continues to enable anti-Semitism.” That was re-tweeted by Brady (R-TX) who giddily commented: “The BDS movement wages economic war against our friend Israel & people of Jewish faith. Sadly, every Democrat refused to stand for Israel, refused to denounce anti-Semitic/anti-Israel attacks. This used to have bipartisan support. No more. #Democrats proudly anti-Israel.” It remains to be seen if the GOP will now seek to add unconstitutional Israel-focused anti-boycott/anti-free speech provisions to every approps bill…

5/8: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism held a hearing entitled, “Opportunities and Challenges in U.S. Relations with the Gulf States.” The sole witness was Timothy Lenderking, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

5/8: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Review of the FY 2020 USAID Budget Request.” The sole witness was USAID Administrator Mark Green (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

3. On the Record

On Israel/Gaza Violence
statements expressing solidarity with/empathy for Israelis; making clear that cycle of violence kicked off with rockets from Gaza – no mention of IDF killing Palestinians on Gaza fence previous day); if mentioning Palestinian casualties at all (mostly not), absolving Israel of any responsibility for them) Hoyer (D-MD), Maloney (D-NY), McCaul (R-TX), Boyle (D-PA), Biggs (R-AZ), Schneider (D-IL)/ Engel (D-NY)/Lowey (D-NY)/Ted Deutch (D-FL), Gottheimer (D-NJ), Johnson (R-OH), Smith (R-NJ), Pelosi (D-CA), Wlison (R-SC),  Hurd (R-TX who used this as an opportunity to aslo bash BDS/boycotts & plug legislation to quash US free speech), Cruz (R-TX)

Israel Independence Day
(support for Israel + solidarity re: Gaza)
Hoyer (D-MD), Deutch (D-FL), Johnson (R-OH), Pelosi (D-CA), Hoyer (D-MD)

Iran (a non-exhaustive selection)

Murphy (D-CT) 5/8: Murphy Statement On Iran Restarting Nuclear Activity

Cotton (R-AR) 5/8: Cotton Celebrates the One-Year Anniversary of U.S. Withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal

Hoyer (D-MD) 5/8: Hoyer: Congress Must Be Briefed in Full on Iran

Cruz (R-TX) 5/8: Sen. Cruz Marks One Year Since Iran Deal Withdrawal, Condemns Iran Nuclear Blackmail

Risch (R-ID) 5/8: Risch Statement on Iran’s Pullback from Nuclear Deal

Markey (D-MA) 5/8:  Markey: One Year Later, Trump Administration’s Unilateral Withdrawal from Iran Nuclear Deal Begets Destabilizing Consequences

Smith (D-WA) 5/8: Chairman Smith Statement on Iranian Conflict and Potential Escalation in the Region

Lee (D-CA) 5/8: Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo are stoking the flames of war with Iran and putting the #IranDeal at the risk of collapsing. We need to prioritize real diplomacy and uphold our word on the international stage.

Omar (D-MN) 5/8: Tweet – “The same people who falsified intelligence before the Iraq War are now beating the drums for war with Iran. All of us have a responsibility to view their claims with skepticism.”

Castro (D-TX) 5/8: Tweet – “The Trump Admin’s recklessness has prompted Iran to seek a renegotiated version of the landmark nuclear accord. At a time when the need for discipline & expertise is acute, President Trump has shown that he has no strategy.   My full statement” (here)

Sanders (I-VT) 5/8: Tweet – “By withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, a move opposed by his own top security officials, Trump has isolated the U.S. from its closest allies and put us on a dangerous path to conflict. We should rejoin the deal and work with allies to effectively enforce it.”

Udall (D-NM) 5/8: Tweet – “I couldn’t agree more. The Trump administration’s playbook on Iran looks just like the disastrous march to war with Iraq. All of us need to speak up and act before it’s too late. Thanks to @SenSanders for joining my bill to prevent unconstitutional war with Iran.”

Murphy (D-CT) 5/8: Tweet – “The Trump administration is playing a dangerous game with Iran and it has the potential to make all of us less safe. [VIDEO]”

Murphy (D-CT) 5/8: Tweet – “I dozed off tonight and had a dream where we actually had an agreement w Iran where they gave up nuclear weapons. Man, could you imagine??”

Carper (D-DE) 5/8: Tweet – “One year ago today, @realDonaldTrump foolishly backed out of the #IranDeal – a deal not based on trust, but on doubt and rigorous compliance inspections. Now, in the absence of U.S. leadership to continue the deal, Iran has announced it will stop complying with portions of it.”

Van Hollen (D-MD) 5/8: Tweet – “Iran’s announcement that it will no longer be bound by certain limits on its nuclear program is a direct result of Trump’s reckless decisions to rip up the Iran Deal with no endgame. Is the goal to put Iran back on the pathway to a bomb? What then, Mr. President? War?”

Murphy (D-CT) 5/8: Floor statement on Iraq (and Iran)

Castro (D-TX) 5/8: Castro Statement on Iran

Banks (R-IN) 5/8: Rep. Jim Banks Statement on the Anniversary of JCPOA Withdrawal

Price (D-NC) 5/8: Price Statement on the One-Year Anniversary of the Trump Administration’s Withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Jackson Lee (D-TX) 5/8: The Powers Of War Are Entrusted To The United State Congress

Romney (R-UT) 5/8: Tweet – “By imposing sanctions on Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, the Administration is correct to keep pressure on Iran. Given the regime’s egregious actions in recent past, we must continue implementing our maximum pressure campaign.

Rubio (R-FL) 5/8:  Rubio Comments on Iran’s Nuclear Misbehavior

Cotton (R-AR) 5/8: Cotton Statement on Iran’s Threat to Abandon JCPOA

Schatz (D-HI) 5/8: Tweet – “John Bolton seems to be mobilizing the case for another war in the Middle East whIch is alarming because those wars have been largely unsuccessful.”

Cruz (R-TX) 5/7: Sen. Cruz: The U.S. Should Be Prepared to Use All Relevant Measures to Protect the Integrity of Our Sanctions and the Maximum Pressure Campaign

Udall (D-NM) 5/6: Udall: Trump Administration’s Iran Saber Rattling Raises Specter of Unnecessary, Unconstitutional Conflict

Udall (D-NM) and Durbin (D-IL) 5/3: Op-ed in WaPo, “Trump is barreling toward war with Iran. Congress must act to stop him.”

Cruz (R-TX) 5/3: Sen. Cruz Applauds End of ‘Right to Enrich’ Waiver to Iran, Disappointed State Department Will Continue Implementing Other Parts of Obama Nuclear Deal


Zeldin (R-NY) 5/10: Rep. Zeldin Statement on Speaker Pelosi’s Invite for Omar Suleiman to Give Opening Prayer Yesterday on House Floor

Tlaib (D-MI) 5/9: Haaretz – “Rashida Tlaib Sets Dates for Congressional Visit to West Bank” (also here)

Portman (R-OH) 5/5: Seaking at an AJC event in Cleveland, conflating BDS with anti-Semitic violence: “Unfortunately, threats, violence, and anti-Semitic attacks are all too common. Whether it’s through anti-BDS legislation, ensuring our trade agreements reject BDS efforts, fighting for more resources to secure synagogues and Jewish Community Centers – including now for the first time being able to use federal resources to hire security personnel – I’m working hard to ensure that the federal government is an effective partner and a protector of the Jewish community. Throughout my career, I have worked to strengthen the bond between the U.S. and Israel, and I will continue in that effort.”

Romney (R-UT): Recap→ My Visit to the Middle East