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Legislative Roundup - July 29, 2005

I. New Bills and Resolutions II. House ForOps Disengagement Hearing

for the week ending July 29, 2005

I. New Bills and Resolutions
II. House ForOps Disengagement Hearing

Note: Congress is in recess for the month of August.


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I. NEW BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS ================================

(Egypt) S. Res. 210: Introduced July 25th by Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) and Minority Leader Reid (D-NV), "Expressing sympathy for the people of Egypt in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks on Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on July 23, 2005." Passed by unanimous consent July 25th.

(Egypt) H. Res. 384: Introduced July 26th by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and 27 cosponsors, "Condemning in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh, on July 23, 2005, and for other purposes." Considered by the full House July 27th under suspension of the rules and passed by a vote of 428-0.

(Egypt) H. Res. 413: On July 28th Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and 6 cosponsors - Berkley (D- NV), Feeney (R-FL), Pence (R-IN), Ros- Lehtinen (R-FL), Saxton (R-NJ), and Weiner (D-NY) - introduced H. Res. 413, "Expressing the concern of House of Representatives [sic] regarding the amount of United States foreign assistance provided to Egypt over the past 25 years without meaningful political reform by the Government of Egypt, and for other purposes." The resolution comes on the heels of last week's passage of HR 2601, which included language to effectively dismantle the aid element of the longstanding US-Egypt bilateral relationship, and which was opposed by President Bush (see last week's Round-Up for details). Referred to the House International Relations Committee.

The resolution catalogues a range of Egyptian offenses and demands that Egypt take action on all of them. It also calls on the U.S. to negotiate an agreement with Egypt "with a set of specific benchmarks for progress on political and human rights reforms." The resolutions goes on to state that "if the benchmarks are not met by the Government of Egypt, the United States should reconsider the dimensions and direction of economic assistance to Egypt." The Dear Colleague circulated with the resolution concludes with the exhortation "Let's not give Egypt billions of tax payer dollars while turning a blind eye to their poor human rights record. Please join us as we hold Egypt accountable to their promise of reforms."

A Dear Colleague letter circulated by Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Poe referred to the initiative as the "Egypt Accountability Resolution." It is worth noting that while the current form of this initiative is a resolution (and therefore, if passed, it would be non-binding), it follows the same format as other recent congressional efforts to impose sanctions and place mandatory conditions on the U.S. relationship with other countries or entities in the Middle East (e.g., the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act, the Syria Accountability Act, the Arafat Accountability Act, etc.).

Given this experience, and given the ongoing attacks on the US-Egypt aid program (for the second consecutive year), it seems likely that if other efforts to dismantle the U.S.- Egypt aid relationship via the Foreign Relations Authorization Act and the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill continue to fail, this resolution will eventually be redrafted as binding legislation.

(Israel) HR 3504: On July 28th, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and 12 cosponsors introduced HR 3504, "To prohibit discrimination in the provision of life insurance on the basis of a person's previous lawful travel experiences." The bill would make it illegal for life insurance companies to deny coverage based solely on a person's travel plans. According to a press release issued by Rep. Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), as well as press accounts, the genesis of the bill was a recent decision by a major life insurance company to deny coverage to Rep. Wasserman Schultz because she had indicated that she might travel to Israel in the future (the insurance company's refusal letter was circulated along with a press release about the bill). Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.


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II. Hearings
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On July 26th the House Appropriations Committee's Foreign Operations Subcommittee held a hearing on U.S. assistance to the Palestinians. Witnesses were James Wolfensohn, the Quartet's Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement; David Welch, Assistant Secretary Of State for Near Eastern Affairs and U.S. Envoy to the Quartet; Lieutenant General William Ward, U.S. Security Envoy to the Middle East; and James Bever, Director, USAID's West Bank/Gaza Mission.

- On July 27th the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing for Richard Jones, who was nominated as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel and for Francis Ricciardone, who was nominated as the next U.S. Ambassador to Egypt.

- On July 28th the House International Relations Committee held a hearing entitled "Lebanon Reborn? Defining National Priorities and Prospects for Democratic Renewal in the wake of March 14, 2005." Witnesses included David Welch, Assistant Secretary Of State for Near Eastern Affairs and James Kunder, USAID Assistant Administrator for Asia and the Near East.


For more information, contact APN Government Relations Director Lara Friedman at 202/728-1893, or at lfriedman@peacenow.org.