FMEP Legislative Round-Up: August 18, 2023 (recess edition)


1.Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. House Dems’ Most Excellent Recess Adventure Celebrating Israel & AIPAC – continued
3. Israel & AIPAC in the 2024 Election Cycle (things are heating up)
4. Media & Reports
5. Members on the Record

NOTE: The Congressional Research Service issues two Israel-related reports this month – Israel: Controversy over Judicial System Changes and Proposals (8/4/23) & Israel: Major Issues and U.S. Relations – Updated August 15, 2023

1. Bills, Resolutions & letters

(IRAQ POLICY) HR 5188: Introduced 8/11/23 by Crane (R-AZ) and no cosponsors, “To maintain in effect certain sanctions imposed with respect to Iraq in the event of a termination of the applicable declared national emergency, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committee on Rules.


(DEAL WITH IRAN THREATS & INTIMIDATION RE OIL TANKER IN TX) Ernst et al letter to Biden: On 8/16/23, Sen. Ernst (R-IA) led a bipartisan/bicameral letter, cosigned by 4 fellow senators  and 5 members of Congress, “to urgently request additional information regarding allegations of threats and intimidation by Iran against U.S. citizens and corporations that have prevented the transfer of oil from the  Suez Rajan, an oil tanker anchored outside of Galveston, Texas. The ability for a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) to prevent the transfer of seized assets within U.S. territorial waters is an unprecedented intimidation effort that threatens to undermine our Nation’s security.” Also see:

  • X-posts: Ernst (R-IA) 8/16/23: “The Biden admin’s failure to enforce sanctions on Iran has made the world a less safe place. I’m leading the charge to hold President Biden accountable for his lack of action that has emboldened our adversaries.“; Ernst (R-IA) 8/16/23: “Iran is threatening American companies in U.S. waters. This is unacceptable. I’m leading bipartisan oversight to hold @POTUS accountable for emboldening Iranian aggression“; Ernst (R-IA) 8/16/23: : I’m leading my colleagues in demanding President Biden end his strategy of appeasement and enforce existing sanctions against Iran. [linked to article”]; Miller (R-OH) 8/17/23: “We put sanctions in place to protect America’s interests & provide funding for US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism. @POTUS needs to enforce American sanctions on Iran. Proud to join @SenJoniErnst
    & others in both parties to address this.”; Stefanik (R-NY) 8/17/23: “I’m leading a bipartisan effort demanding answers from the Biden Administration about Iran’s increased aggression against Western ships. Iran’s ramped-up attacks are the direct result of the Biden Administration pandering to the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism, Iran.”
    Press releases: Cramer (R-ND), Stefanik (R-NY),
  • Media: Breitbart 8/16/23, Daily Caller 8/16/23, Jewish Insider 8/16/23, Reuters 8/16/23, New York Post 8/16/23, Daily Mail 8/16/23, Washington Examiner 8/16/23)

(KSA INVESTMENT GROUP HEAD MUST TESTIFY) Blumenthal letter to PIF head: On 8/16/23, Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to PIF governor Yasir al-Rumayyan, along with letters to 4 entities that have reportedly advised Saudi Arabia on PIF’s targeted investments in sports (McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Teneo, and M. Klein & Company). The letters are in response to al-Rumayyan asserting that his position in the Saudi government precludes him from testifying before Blumenthal’s subcommittee. Blumenthal notes that a US court has previously rejected this argument, and states: “PIF cannot have it both ways: if it wants to engage with the United States commercially, it must be subject to United States law and oversight. That oversight includes this Subcommittee’s inquiry.” Blumenthal goes on to: reiterate the subcommittee’s invitation to testify at a hearing on 9/13/23 or negotiate another date if that doesn’t work (adding “Your apparent reluctance to voluntarily appear raises questions about the veracity of your previously cited scheduling conflicts“); to repeat the demand for relevant PIF documents, again noting that a US court precedent makes clear that sovereign immunity does not apply; and to note finally, that “while the Subcommittee will not accept a briefing from a PIF representative in lieu of your testimony and documents from PIF, it will accept a briefing from an appropriate PIF representative to learn more about PIF’s intentions while awaiting your testimony and document production.

Also see:


2. House Dems’ Most Excellent Recess Adventure Celebrating Israel and AIPAC – continued

More hostage videos (sorry, I mean video testimonials from Democrats in Israel faithfully reciting AIPAC talking points into the camera (in some cases clearly reading from a script)

Delegation members posts

  • Rep. Menendez (D-NJ) 8/17/23: X-post – “@HouseDemocrats‘ AIEF trip, we had the opportunity to meet w/ leaders from across the political spectrum incl. @Isaac_Herzog,@IsraeliPM, @PalestinePMO, and @yairlapidDuring to better understand the opportunities and challenges facing the region. Look forward to the work ahead. [with pix]”
  • Nickel (D-NC) 8/16/23: X-post – “Last week, I met Israeli President @Isaac_Herzog in Jerusalem. Hearing from key leaders and officials deepened my appreciation for the special relationship between the United States and Israel.  I was especially glad to be joined by Leader @RepJeffries and my wife Caroline!”
  • Rep. Menendez (D-NJ) 8/16/23: X-post – “Grateful for an incredibly productive + insightful trip to Israel w/ the American Israel Education Foundation alongside so many @HouseDemocrats colleagues. It is in our strategic interest to strengthen this special relationship + I will continue do so in Congress. #AIEF2023” Also see AIPAC thank-you tweet


3. Israel & AIPAC  in the 2024 Election Cycle (things are heating up)

On X (general)

Torres (D-NY) 8/13/23: X-post – “I wrote an op-ed making the case for US Aid to Israel in response to calls for defunding from both the left and the right. US aid to Israel lies at the core of a mutually beneficial friendship that has led to life-saving innovations like Iron Dome (saving both Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs) and path-breaking peace agreements like the Abraham Accords (bringing together Jews, Christians, and Muslims to an extent never seen before). It is a success story of shared peace and prosperity that will endure for the next 75 years and beyond. Here is my op-ed responding to a right-wing case against US Aid to Israellink” Also see AIPAC X-post thanking Torres for his “leadership in support of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and vital security aid that helps keep our ally safe and advances America’s interests.

Vargas (D-CA) 8/11/23: X-post – “As a Progressive Democrat, I am deeply proud to support @AIPAC. AIPAC is an invaluable source of information and a strong ally of peace & stability in the Middle East.  Thank you AIPAC for your support of the ironclad relationship between America  and Israel .” Also see AIPAC X-post thanking/praising Vargas for this post

Vargas (D-CA) 8/11/23: X-post – “I stand with our Leader @repjeffries as he advocates for Israel , our strategic democratic ally in the Middle East, and her right to self-defense. Thank you Leader Jeffries for your commitment to the ironclad relationship between America and Israel.


(a) Targeting Rep. Omar (D-MN)

This week saw attacks on Rep. Omar for alleged hypocrisy for having traveled to Qatar for the World Cup on a trip funded by the Qatari government.  These attacks argue that Omar is guilty of “selective outrage” for accepting a trip from a government that is guilty of human rights violations (violations she has notably called out), given her  criticisms of Israel and of pro-Israel funding. However one feels about members of Congress accepting externally-funded travel, Omar’s critics’ line of argument suggests, inaccurately, that Omar’s moral outrage is reserved for Israel when, in fact, she is outspoken in opposing human rights abuses/violations pretty much everywhere).

And speaking of selective outrage: Reps. Swalwell (D-CA), Carson (D-IN),  Tenney (R-NY), LaHood (R-IL) and Steil (R-WI) were all part of the same trip to Qatar that Omar is being attacked for accepting, but outrage is reserved solely for Omar — notwithstanding the fact that some of these members are outspoken when it comes to human rights in other countries. This absence of criticism of the other delegation members is especially notable given that all of the articles attacking Omar include language suggesting that the outrage over her trip is in part linked to Qatar’s connection to Hamas – a US designated terrorist organization.

Finally, if critics of Omar really want to open the Pandora’s box of congressional travel, then it is important to remind people that AIPAC/AIEF is annually a top, if not far-and-away THE top spender in that category. As noted in last week’s Round-Up: “Learn more about AIEF finances and how much these trips cost — IRS form 990s; 2022 filings to the House Clerk laying out trip costs in detail; article from Legistorm 11/21/22, noting that (so far) in 2022 AIEF was the top spender with respect to sponsoring congressional travel, having spent $1.87 million (more than double the other top 2 members, combined).

(b) AIPAC Attacking Members of Congress & J Street

In recent weeks (maybe longer) AIPAC has been posting on X a regular stream of attacks on J Street and its endorsees in Congress (always ending with the taunting tag line, @jstreetdotorg is many things, but it’s not pro-Israel” – see latest example.

  • Summer Lee (D-PA): On 8/15/23, AIPAC posted on X: “Summer Lee boycotted Israel’s president, calls to condition lifesaving security aid, and aligns with Israel’s loudest critics. Now J Street is hosting fundraisers for her as “a champion of J Street’s core values.” @jstreetdotorg is many things, but it’s not pro-Israel.” On 8/16/12, Lee responsed, “This is a right-wing bully group that supports actual insurrection, white supremacists. But they spent 4 million calling me a Trump supporter bc they can only win w/lies They spend even more money insisting that anyone who doesnt agree w their extreme right-wing views is a bigot.” AIPAC responded, “Despite your transparent and baseless attempts to make it about race, gender, background or party, we oppose you only because of your anti-Israel votes and statements.  Your spins, lies and slander can’t distract from your anti-Israel record – which you notably don’t deny.
  • Nina Turner: Nina Turner, a progressive Democrat (and a Black woman) who AIPAC/UDP (and DMFI) spent big to defeat in her 2022 Democratic primary, responded to AIPAC’s attack on Lee with her own X-post – “This is a right-wing group that endorsed over 100 House Reps that voted to overturn the 2020 election, and funds the likes of Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz. It’s no wonder this PAC continues to target progressive Black women.” AIPAC responded by re-posting its X-post from 11/8/22: “Congratulations @RepShontelBrown! We were proud to support pro-Israel Rep. Shontel Brown and help her defeat an anti-Israel, Bernie Sanders-backed candidate in her primary race. Being pro-Israel is good policy and good politics.” AIPAC/UDP spent millions getting Brown, while notably leaving out of its campaign messaging anything related to Israel — suggesting that pro-Israel is not so much good policy in terms of rallying voters, as much as it is good policy in terms of getting pro-Israel funding. AIPAC’s re-post is clearly meant as a reminder that Brown is also a Black woman, but rather than a “progressive,” she is a Ritchie Torres-style “progressive-except-on-Palestine”.
  • Also see: fun X-thread from If Not Now 8/16/23 in response to AIPAC attack on Lee  (with GIF receipts for each point in the thread): “AIPAC is continuing their tried-and-true strategy of targeting progressive candidates of color because they’re willing to stand up for human rights. But let’s be clear about what AIPAC stands for: 1/ AIPAC is many things, but they’re not pro-choice. 2/ AIPAC is many things, but they’re not pro-democracy. 3/ AIPAC is many things but they’re not anti-racist. 4/ AIPAC is many things, but they’re not pro-LGBTQ+ rights. 5/ We can’t fight for a thriving future for all when AIPAC is still enmeshed in our communities and our politics...”
  • Attacking others this week: AIPAC X-post 8/15/23: “J Street is fundraising for: Bernie Sanders (condition aid) Summer Lee (boycotted Herzog) Pramila Jayapal (Israel “a racist state”) Jamaal Bowman (Israel’s founding “a catastrophe”) Andre Carson (opposed Iron Dome funds) @jstreetdotorg is many things, but it’s not pro-Israel.
  • Also see: ‘They’re Just an Extremely Wealthy White Org’: Squad Member Feuds With AIPAC Over ‘Bullying’ (Algemeiner 8/17/23) [“

(c) General


4. Media & Reports

New York Times 8/17/23: White House Targets Key Democrats on Potential Saudi-Israel Pact
Jewish News Syndicate 8/14/23: Not a coup; a democratic debate [“We all agree on the necessity of judicial review of the legislative and executive branches, but what creates a counterbalance to the court? An open letter to Congress.”]
Jewish News Syndicate 8/14/13: Will Congress save itself by stopping the Iran deal?
The Hill 8/13/23: House Intelligence chair says Congress should consider travel ban to IranWashington Examiner 8/13/23: Mike Turner expresses concern that Iran prison swap deal is part of an ‘informal deal’


5. Members on the Record

Lankford (R-OK) 8/17/23: X-post – “Countries like Iran and Russia shouldn’t be able to avoid international sanctions just by using spoofed location data. @SenatorHassan and my work to crack down on these bad actors is one step closer to becoming law.”

Scott (R-FL) 8/17/23: X-post – “.@JoeBiden is negotiating with terrorists who hate America and want to destroy Israel. We need to get these Americans home without bowing down to the murderous Iranian regime.” Linked to article, Biden administration plan to unfreeze Iran funds draws Republican fire (The Hill 8/17/23)

Ernst (R-IA) 8/17/23: X-post – “Now is not the time for weakness towards our adversaries.    Especially after President Biden’s $6 BILLION payout to Iran that will only encourage their terrorist activities and further endanger Americans.” Linked to article, The Disastrous Implications of the $6 Billion Iran Hostage Deal (The Dispatch 8/15/23)

Rosedale (R-MT) 8/16/23: X-post – “It was a pleasure meeting with Israel’s Consul General @MarcoCSermoneta at my office in Helena. Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, and I look forward to the continued partnership between our two countries.

Risch (R-ID) 8/16/23: X-post – “Today’s sanctions against Green Without Borders are a welcome step. This group, under the guise of environmental activism, has long served as a front for #Hezbollah’s terrorist activities in southern #Lebanon.”

McCaul (R-ID) 8/16/23: X-post – “CHM @RepMcCaul: ‘I am glad to hear that Hizballah’s cover operation, Green Without Borders, has finally been sanctioned for its terrorist activities. I am hoping that this long overdue step will enable more robust enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.‘”

Lankford (R-OK) 8/16/23: X-post – “We have several international agreements with Israel for cooperation in science, agriculture, and cybersecurity. We should build on our successful relationship and collaboration with Israel with the rest of the Abraham Accords countries.”

Bacon (R-NE) 8/16/23: X-post – “Rep. Hoyer is right! ‘This is a substantial amount of money for Iran, which has used money historically for damaging purposes…particularly [against] Israel for support for terrorism…It’s hard to think that it does not incentivize criminal activities.’”

Cruz (R-TX) 8/16/23: press release – Sen. Cruz Issues Statement On Reports Biden Admin Sought Terrorism Exemption for Palestinian Aid; also see Cruz X-post, The Biden administration has a pathological obsession with undermining the US-Israel relationship and Israeli security. A new report based on internal documents confirms they poured hundreds of millions into Palestinian-controlled areas even though they knew the money would benefit Palestinian terrorists with the blood of Americans and Israelis on their hands.” [all in reference to article in the Free Beacon, Biden Admin Raised Concerns Palestinian Aid Would Boost Hamas. It Went Ahead With Aid Anyway.

McClain (R-MI) 8/15/23: X-post – President Biden’s relentless pursuit of pleasing the tyrannical Iranian regime is an embarrassment to our country and will only make the Middle East, and the rest of the world, more dangerous.

Schakowsky (D-IL) 8/15/23: X-post – I’m proud to represent Mahvash Savet through the @TLHumanRights Defending Freedoms Project & am horrified by Iran’s continued persecution of the Baha’i community! The US & int’l community must condemn this awful decision & seek justice & accountability for Mahvash & all Baha’is!”

Letlow (R-LA) 8/15/23: X-post – “Iranian oil sales not only provide the country with more funds for their illegal nuclear programs, they also benefit hostile nations like China. This bipartisan legislation is a start to putting a stop to these actions.” [accompanied by GIF promoting HR 3774, the “Stop Harboring Iranian Petroleum Act”]

Tenney (R-NY) 8/15/23: X-post (arguing with Murphy, D-CT X-post from 8/10) – “The Biden Admin funneled Iranian mullahs $6 billion to fund terrorism and continued oppression of the Iranian people, not humanitarian efforts. Delusional comments like this only empower the nefarious regime.

Beyer (D-VA) 8/14/23: X-post – “Ten years ago, hundreds were murdered by the Egyptian regime in the Rabaa massacre. The victims, their families, and the Egyptian people deserve justice, and I urge to the U.S. government to seek accountability for the perpetrators.

Blackburn (R-AR) 8/14/23: X-post – “The Biden administration is prepared to give $6 billion to Iran in a hostage deal. This is a dangerous move that puts the U.S. in a weak position. We should not be negotiating with terrorists.”

Cotton (R-AR) 8/14/23: X-post – “I welcome the release of American hostages from Iran. But President Biden’s $6 billion ransom payment only encourages the ayatollahs to take more hostages and will finance terrorist attacks against Americans and our allies.

Murphy (D-CT) 8/12/23: X-thread responding to thread from FDD’s Mark Dubowitz– “Nearly every word of this thread is flat wrong. 1/ It’s useful to explain why, bc this critique hits all the highlights of the neocon, Iran hawk, anti-diplomacy argument (the policy that keeps failing) 2/ For the last time, it’s so hacky to say it’s a “ransom”. It’s not. The fact that Iran is our enemy doesn’t change the law. And the law says the $6B is Iran’s money that we were holding. And it can only be used to buy oil and food for people in need. 3/ Even worse, it’s just made up to suggest the $3B from Iraq is a “cash payment” for hostages. It’s a commercial debt Iraq owes for Iran for energy imports. Iraq has to pay it. Even Trump authorized these transactions bc he knew Iraq can’t exist without Iranian energy. 4/ Biden is not bypassing Congress. INARA requires Congress vote on a nuclear agreement with Iran. Just like Trump’s hostage deal with Iran (yup, he did one too!), Biden’s hostage arrangement doesn’t trigger congressional review. 5/ Mark is angry that Iran is enriching to 60%! Ok, so why did he oppose the JCPOA which was limiting enrichment to 3.6%?? Trump pulled out of the deal, and surprise – Iran boosted enrichment. How on earth is that Biden’s fault, and what does it have to do with hostages? 6/ Just not true they there has been “minimal to no response” to Iranian proxy attacks on US troops (btw these attacks weren’t happening during the JCPOA!). Biden has ordered multiple strikes, and since he did, proxy attacks have trailed off. 7/ And finally, the general idea that “Iran’s nuclear expansion” is Biden’s fault is laughable. Iran’s nuclear program was constrained by the JCPOA. It would still be today if Trump had listened to his nat sec advisors instead of deal critics like Mark, and stayed in the deal.

Murphy (D-CT) 8/11/23: X-post – “It’s a special breed of Iran hawk that says you should never ever ever ever ever trust anything Iran says, EXCEPT when the things Iran says align with the Iran hawks’ positions.

Lankford (R-OK) 8/11/23: X-post – “In another win for the Abraham Accords, Israel has now recognized Western Sahara as part of Morocco—This is great news for progress toward peace in the Middle East and North Africa.