FMEP Legislative Round-Up: May 3, 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

(TRYING – AGAIN – TO FORCE VOTE ON ANTI-FREE SPEECH BILL) H. Res. 348: Introduced 5/2 by Zeldin (R-NY) and Kustoff (R-TN), “Providing for the consideration of the bill (H.R. 336) to make improvements to certain defense and security assistance provisions and to authorize the appropriation of funds to Israel, to reauthorize the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015, and to halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, and for other purposes.”Referred to the House Committee on Rules. So what is this?

  • This resolution is another attempt by Zeldin and Kustoff to force House leaders to allow a vote on HR 336, which is the House version of S. 1 – the bill that caused much ado in the Senate back in January. Both bills are a grab-bag of Mideast-related measures, including the Combating BDS Act (CBA), a bill that seeks to offer political cover and encouragement for U.S. states to pass brazenly unconstitutional laws compelling people and businesses to affirmatively give up their right to political free speech with respect to criticizing Israel as a condition for doing business with the state.
  • For background on the controversy around S. 1 and the CBA, see here.
  • Zeldin and Kustoff tried the same tactic last month, with H. Res. 314 (introduced 4/10)
  • As explained that time around in a press release (and also here), the plan was as follows: “Today, Rep. Kustoff and Rep. Zeldin will introduce a rule providing for floor consideration of H.R. 336, the McCaul anti-BDS bill. In May, upon the rule ripening, Whip Scalise will file a discharge petition and corral signatures on the Kustoff/Zeldin rule. Upon receiving 218 signatures, the McCaul bill will receive floor consideration.”
  • As I noted in the 4/12/19 edition of the Round-Up, these resolutions are “the latest indication that the GOP has (correctly) identified BDS as the gift that keeps on giving. Why so? Because faced with pressure on Israel-Palestine from the GOP, rather than stand up and fiercely defend the legitimacy of the wider spectrum of views on Israel-Palestine, including support for boycotts as a tool of protest, Congressional Democrats and party leaders/spokespeople continue to be unable/unwilling to go beyond reciting the catechism of support for the two-state solution (a recitation of faith that, as a response to what is actually happening on the ground and in terms of both U.S. and Israeli policy at present, is meaningless), and at the very outside, to passively-aggressively defending free speech on Israel while at the same time punching left at those who support boycotts of Israel and/or settlements.”

(CONDEMNING ANTI-SEMITISM) S. Res. 189 (text is also here): Introduced 5/2 by Cruz (R-TX) and having 43 (38 GOP, 5 Democrats), “A resolution condemning all forms of antisemitism.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Cruz press release is here. On the good news side, the resolution doesn’t explicitly use synagogue attacks as an excuse to attack critics/criticism of Israeli policies; on the bad news side, the resolution (a) fails completely to call out the actual source of lethal anti-Semitism in the U.S. (no mention of America’s white supremacists/Nazi problem), and (b) implies that tactics used by the Nazis and others in the past to target Jews, as Jews — “attacks on the livelihood of Jews including prohibitions on land ownership, campaigns to boycott, confiscate or destroy Jewish businesses, and denial of the ability of Jews to practice certain professions” — are still in practice today (suggesting in effect that opposing Israeli settlements in the West Bank is anti-Semitic – based on the funhouse mirrors narrative that such opposition reflects an anti-Semitic denial of the right of Jews to own land anywhere; and that using boycotts as a form of political free speech to challenge Israeli policies is by definition anti-Semitic, etc…). In a 5/2 tweet promoting the resolution, Cruz makes it even worse by explicitly asserting an outrageous false equivalence intended to distract focus from the sources of lethal attacks against US Jews while demonizing the media and delegitimizing criticism of Israel (“Today was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. It is a stark reminder that ancient antisemitic hatreds going back centuries & aimed at the extermination of the Jewish people, extended and extend to our time. Antisemitism is on the rise around the world & here in America. In just the last few weeks, we have seen it manifested as hateful cartoons in major news publications, antisemitic smears in the halls of Congress, and murders at houses of worship.”)  Hooray for bipartisanship on Israel! [The ADL has already endorsed the resolution].

(SAFEGUARDING RIGHTS OF CHILDREN UNDER ISRAELI OCCUPATION) HR 2407: Introduced 4/30 by McCollum (D-MN), “To promote human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation and require that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.” This is the new version of a measure introduced in the last Congress, HR 4391. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. McCollum floor statement introducing the measure is here; press release is here; pdf of bill is here; resource page on the issues addressed by the bill is here.

(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION – THIS TIME: CYBERSECURITY!) HR 2488: Introduced 5/2 by Ciciline (D-RI) and 4 cosponsors (one GOP), “To require the Secretary of State to submit a report on potential benefits and impact to the United States of establishing a joint United States-Israel cybersecurity center of excellence.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(TARGETING THE MB) HR 2412: Introduced 4/30 by Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and 28 GOP colleagues, “To require the Secretary of State to submit to Congress a report on the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. NOTE: This bill was introduced in 2017 [HR 377, by Diaz-Balart (R-FL), attracting 77 all-GOP cosponsors; & S 68, by Cruz (R-TX), attracting 4 all-GOP cosponsors]; in 2015 [HR 3892, by Diaz-Balart (R-FL), attracting 69 GOP & 2 Democratic cosponsors) & S 2230 by Cruz (R-TX), attracting 7 all-GOP cosponsors]; and in 2014 [HR 5194, by Bachmann (R-MN), attracting 19 all-GOP cosponsors].

(NO F35s FOR TURKEY) HR 2512: Introduced 5/2 by Turner (R-OH), Cook (R-CA) and  Garamendi (D-CA), “To limit the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey.”  Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Financial Services; Oversight and Reform; Ways and Means; and the Judiciary.

(SMOOTH TRANSITION IN SUDAN, PLEASE) S. Res.188: Introduced 5/2 by Cruz (R-TX) and 19 bipartisan cosponsors, “A resolution encouraging a swift transfer of power by the military to a civilian-led political authority in the Republic of the Sudan, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(US NOT GETTING OUT OF YEMEN WAR ANYTIME SOON) S. J. Res. 7: Introduced 1/30 by Sanders (I-VT) and having 19 cosponsors, “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” Passed by the Senate 3/13, by vote of 54-46; passed by the House 4/4 by vote of 247-175 (with 1 voting “present”. Vetoed by the President 4/16. And on 5/2, a vote in the Senate to override that veto failed by a vote of 53-45. McConnell (R-KY) statement urging senators to vote “no” is here; floor debate on the vote is here (statement for the record from Peters, D-MI, is here).


(DON’T POLITICIZE ARMS CONTROL COMPLIANCE REPORTING) Merkley et al letter to Pompeo: On May 2, Senators Merkley (D-OR), Van Hollen (D-MD), Wyden (D-OR), Sanders (I-VT), Markey (D-MA), and Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo questioning whether the Trump Administration inappropriately politicized the State Department’s 2019 report on arms control and nuclear weapons compliance, including overlooking Russian behavior and presenting a politicized assessment of Iran’s compliance with its nuclear non-proliferation obligations. The letter also lays out a list of specific questions for Pompeo regarding the assessment, with answers requested by May 31, 2019. Press release is here.

(URGING ADMIN TO BACK AMERICANS SUING IRAN) Cotton et al letter:  On 4/24 (not previously reported), Senators Cotton (R-AR), Whitehouse (D-RI), Inhofe (R-OK), Rubio (R-FL), Isakson (R-GA), Hawley (R-MO), and Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and Solicitor General Noel Francisco urging them to support the victims of Iranian terror attacks in the case of Clearstream Banking S.A. v. Peterson and urging the Administration to oppose Iran’s request for certiorari before the Supreme Court. In their press release, they assert: “This case presents the administration with an opportunity to assist the Marine families who lost loved ones in the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983. These victims deserve restitution from a leading state sponsor of terror.”


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.

5/9: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism will hold a hearing entitled, “Chinese and Russian Influence in the Middle East.” Scheduled witnesses are: Jon Alterman, CSIS, Andrew Exum, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy; Christine Wormuth, RAND; and Anna Borshchevskaya, WINEP.

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

5/8: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Review of the FY 2020 USAID Budget Request.” The sole witness will be USAID Administrator Mark Green.

5/1: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Humanitarian Impact of Eight Years of War in Syria.” Witnesses were: UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ben Stiller [yes, that Ben Stiller] (statement); and David Miliband, International Rescue Committee (statement). Video is here. Note: In his opening statement, Chairman Risch emphasized the importance of passing pending legislation dealing with atrocities in Syria (the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. He noted that this was passed as part of S. 1 but that bill (which also includes the controversial Combating BDS Act) is now stuck in the House. He stated that the committee will thus be moving ahead, imminently, with the freestanding version of the bill (S. 52). Also see: Murphy (D-CT) press release, “Murphy condemns absence of diplomatic efforts in Syria & Yemen amid humanitarian disaster”

4/30: The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs held a hearing entitled, “Review of the FY2020 Budget Request for USAID.” The sole witness was USAID Administrator Mark Green (statement). Video is here.

4/30: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Global Terrorism Landscape.” Witnesses were: Ali Soufan, the Soufan Group (testimony); Vidhya Ramalingam, Moonshot CVE (testimony); and Bill Roggio, FDD (statement). Video is here.


3. On the Record

Romney (R-UT) 5/2: Tweet: “From the future of Iraq to a potential Middle East peace plan, here are some of the takeaways from my recent trip to Israel, Jordan, and Iraq→” [with video laying out his takeaways)

Gillibrand (D-NY) 5/2: Floor statement reiterating her opposition to BDS and conflating it with anti-Semitism (& announcing cosponsorship of S. Res 120), while also reiterating that she will not support legislation that weakens 1st admit rights.

Gohmert (R-TX) 5/2: Ranting nostalgically about how much he hates Iran, Obama and JCPOA

Scalise (R-LA) and Hoyer (D-MD) 5/2: Exchange on the House floor with Scalise grandstanding over GOP opposition to BDS and failure of Democrats to move on S. 1, and Hoyer agreeing that BDS is terrible and promising to move soon on bipartisan resolution bashing all those who dare to boycott Israel or settlements. Hooray for bipartisanship on Israel!

LaMalfa (R-CA) 5/2: Using “Holocaust Remembrance Week” as hook to (a) attack criticism of Israel and not even mention white supremacists who are actually KILLING JEWS IN SYNAGOGUES (“With the recent rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric amongst some, even in this House, it is important that we remember just how horrific and dangerous these ideas truly are”) (b) to affirm that Congress cares about Jews and Christians facing attacks, but nobody else (“No longer is that sort of hatred and bigotry to be accepted…for Jewish people as well as Christians being massacred around the world.”), and (c) to praise thank Trump “for once again reaffirming America’s commitment to supporting Israel and the Jewish people. This week, today, and always, we are with you.”

Risch (R-ID) 5/1: On the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran sanctions

Fortenberry (R-NE) 5/1: Op-ed in the Hill: “Egypt, Our Forgotten Friend

Schakowsky (D-IL) 4/30: House Democrats Issue Joint Statement on the Planned Demolition of West Bank Communities [Schakowsky + Price (D-NC), Yarmuth (D-KY), Welch (D-VT), Connolly (D-VA), Lee (D-CA), and Doggett (D-TX)]

Durbin (D-IL) 4/30: Tweet, “Welcomed national leaders from @jstreetdotorg to my office today to discuss U.S.-Israel relations & the importance of not giving up on a political solution that provides democratic and secure states for the Israelis and Palestinians.

Wilson (R-SC) 4/29: Lamenting the latest synagogue attack while acting as if it was committed by unknown parties with unknowable agendas – “Heartbroken by the tragic attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover. The congregants gathered that day were targeted because of one reason only: they were Jews. This evil act of anti-Semitism has no place in the United States of America. I stand with the Jewish community in the face of this unspeakable hatred.”

McConnell (R-KY) 4/29: Lamenting the latest synagogue attack while managing not only NOT to mention the source of the attack but quickly pivoting to shift focus to bashing progressives and to exploiting the attack to push anti-free speech legislation

Engel (D-NY) 4/29: Omitting any mention of who was responsible for the attack or the ideology behind it and pivoting to false equivalence: “From a horrific attack on peaceful worshipers at a synagogue to a hurtful cartoon in the New York Times, this weekend was a stunning demonstration of the rising tide of anti-Semitism we are seeing in this country and around the world.

Bass (D-CA), Hoyer (D-MD), McBath (D-GA), Yoho (R-FL), Neal (D-MA), Vargas (D-CA), Grassley (R-IA): Generic statements opposing anti-Semitism (omitting any mention of the ideology behind both synagogue attacks).

Schumer (D-NY) 4/29: Actually managing to call out the source of the attacks AND not cynically conflate it with criticism of Israel – score 1 for Chuck! “We have seen so many different houses of worship attacked in recent weeks. Just one week ago, on Easter Sunday, hundreds of Christian Sri Lankans were massacred in their churches. And what happened at the synagogue in California is rooted in the same white-supremacist hatred and bile that drove attacks against the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; mosques in New Zealand; and Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.”

Kelly (R-PA) 4/26: Kelly Applauds President’s Decision to Withdraw United States from the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty [“I have long-been concerned that this treaty does not expressly recognize the fundamental right of individuals to keep and bear arms, and that it hinders the U.S. from fulfilling its commitment to key allies such as Taiwan and the State of Israel…]

Duckworth (D-IL) 4/26: Returning to Iraq for First Time Since Being Shot Down, Duckworth Leads Bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Middle East