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APN Legislative Round-Up - May 22, 2009

1. Bills and Resolutions; 2. Update on FY09 Supplemental Appropriations Bill; 3. HCFA Marks Up FY10-FY11 Foreign Relations Authorization Act; 4. Pro-Peace Letters Circulating in the House; 5 Update on "Peace Principles" letters

...for the week ending May 22, 2009
 
1.  Bills and Resolutions
2.  Update on FY09 Supplemental Appropriations Bill
3.  HCFA Marks Up FY10-FY11 Foreign Relations Authorization Act
4.  Pro-Peace Letters Circulating in the House
5  Update on "Peace Principles" letters

 


1.  BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
 
( IRAN )  S. 1065: Introduced 5/18/09 by Sens. Brownback (R-KS) and Casey (D-PA), "to authorize State and local governments to direct divestiture from, and prevent investment in, companies with investments of $20,000,000 or more in Iran 's energy sector, and for other purposes."  Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

 


(
IRAN ) H. Res. 460:  Introduced 5/20/09 by Rep. Burton (R-IN), "Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 2194) to amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to enhance United States diplomatic efforts with respect to Iran by expanding economic sanctions against Iran."  Referred to the House Committee on Rules.

 


(
KUWAIT ) H. Res. 480: Introduced 5/21/09 by Rep. Johnson (D-TX), "Recognizing and honoring the historic election of women to the Kuwait parliament and its implications for gender equality in the region."  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(HAMAS/HEZBOLLAH) HR 1676:  Introduced
3/23/09 by Rep. Weiner, "To prevent tobacco smuggling, to ensure the collection of all tobacco taxes, and for other purposes." Brought to the floor under suspension of the rules and passed 5/21/09 by a vote of 397-11.  This bill includes a finding that "Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations have profited from trafficking in illegal cigarettes or counterfeit cigarette tax stamps."

 


(HAMAS/HEZBOLLAH)  S. 1147:  Introduced
5/21/09 by Sen. Kohl (D-WI) and one cosponsor, "to prevent tobacco smuggling, to ensure the collection of all tobacco taxes, and for other purposes."  Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.  The bill includes a finding that "Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations have profited from trafficking in illegal cigarettes or counterfeit cigarette tax stamps."

 


2.  Update on FY09 Supplemental Appropriations Bill

 


On 5/21/09 the Senate passed its version of HR 2346, the FY09 Supplemental Appropriations bill, by a vote of 86-3, and called for a House-Senate conference to iron out the differences in the two versions of the bill.   

 


As detailed in last week's Round-Up, on
5/14/09 the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its own version of the FY09 Supplemental Appropriations bill (S. 1054).  Unsurprisingly, the first thing the Senate did when it took up HR 2346 on 5/20/09 was adopt an amendment (S. Amdt. 1131) in the nature of a substitute, in effect replacing the entire House version of HR 2346 with the text of S. 1054. 

 


In addition, a number of Middle East-related amendments were introduced on the floor:

 


(
GAZA ) S. Amdt 1145: Introduced 5/20/09 by Sens. Kyl (R-AZ) to require a "report on damage to project and programs in Gaza caused by Hamas." The amendment was not considered.

 


(
IRAN ) S. Amdt. 1146: Introduced 5/20/09 by Sens. Kyl (R-AZ) to require a lengthy report by the Secretary of the Treasure to Congress on efforts to block loans to Iran by international financial institutions.  The amendment was not considered.

( IRAN )  S. Amdt. 1147:
Introduced 5/20/09 by Sens. Kyl (R-AZ) and Lieberman (I-CT), "To prohibit funds made available for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be made available to any person that has engaged in certain activities with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran."  The amendment was ruled non-germane by the chair on 5/21/09 .

3.  FY10-FY11 Department of State Authorization Bill

 


On 5/20/09 the House Committee on Foreign Affairs marked up HR 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of FY10 and FY11.  Details of the base text of the bill, as introduced by Chairman Berman (D-CA), are detailed in last week's edition of the round-up.

 


The mark-up included a fair amount of Middle East-related discussion, most notably from Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who proposed an amendment in the nature of a substitute that included strong anti-UNRWA language.  In addition, Rep. Burton (R-IN) spoke at length in defense of the U.S.-Israel relationship, implying that in his view the bill was not sufficiently supportive of the relationship. 

 


During the mark-up, the committee adopted, by voice vote, a Manager's amendment (a package of en bloc amendments) that included two Middle East-related elements:

 


- language requiring "An assessment of the policy prohibiting personnel of the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development from traveling to Gaza following the tragic roadside bombing in 2003.  Such assessment should consider and evaluate the prospects that such personnel might resume humanitarian assistance operations or commence monitoring functions relating to humanitarian aid distribution in Gaza in order to ascertain that United States foreign assistance is not misused in ways that benefit any organization designated as a foreign terrorist organization."

 


- a Sense of Congress that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit "who has been held captive continuously since his illegal abduction by Gazan kidnappers in 2006, should be safely released at the earliest possible time and that, pending his release, the International Committee of the Red Cross should be granted full access to him, in accordance with international law and civilized values."

 


In addition, the committee adopted, also by voice vote, an amendment offered by Rep. Burton (R-IN), amended by a secondary amendment offered by Chairman Berman, stating that:  "It is the sense of Congress that the United States should continue to support the 2007 United States-Israel Memorandum of Understanding, which increases United States military assistance to Israel by $6 million through incremental $150 million annual increases in Foreign Military Financing to Israel, starting at $2.55 billion in fiscal year 2009 and reaching $3.15 billion by 2012 through 2018."

 


4.  PRO-PEACE LETTERS CIRCULATING IN THE HOUSE

 


--- As noted in the 5/18/09 edition of the Round-Up, Reps. Cohen (D-TN), Boustany (R-LA), and Carnahan (D-MO) are circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Obama supporting his Middle East peace policy.  APN strongly supports this letter and is urging members to sign on.  The letter will reportedly remain open for signing until June 2.

 


--- On 5/20/09 Rep. Baldwin (D-WA) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to Secretary Clinton.  The letter expresses concerns about reports that U.S. economic relief assistance for the West Bank and Gaza is not reaching the Palestinian people.  The letter notes that "the restriction on transportation of all humanitarian aid, specifically construction materials, to Gaza has severe implications for the implementation of the humanitarian and reconstruction programs" and urges the Secretary to "work to ensure that aid in the form of construction materials and other basic goods in addition to food aid reaches the Palestinian people."  The letter reportedly closed at noon on 5/22/09.

 


5.  UPDATE ON "PEACE PRINCIPLES" LETTERS

As noted in previous editions of the Round-Up, letters to President Obama laying out "peace principles" have been circulating in both the House and Senate.  The House version was circulated by House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) and House Minority Whip Cantor (R-VA).  The Senate version was circulated by Senators Dodd (D-CT) and Isakson (R-GA).

 


The initial circulation of both letters coincided with the annual AIPAC Policy Conference held earlier this month, and according to literature distributed at the Conference and Hill sources the letters were top "asks" AIPAC members made during their meetings with members and staff in conjunction with the conference.  The text of both letters dovetails closely with a "peace principles" policy document posted on the AIPAC website, in a section entitled "Reaffirm Peace Principles"(and the text of both letters and the lists of signers are included in this same section).  It has also been widely reported that a Dear Colleague emailed out by Leader Hoyer's office on May 12, urging members to sign on to the House version of the letter, included the letter as an attached file entitled "AIPAC Letter Hoyer Cantor May 2009." According to one news outlet that contacted AIPAC for comment, "Josh Block, a spokesman for AIPAC, said he wasn't familiar with the particular letter but that he could 'only guess that whoever wrote the [letter] used it that title as shorthand, since it's well know that we support the Hoyer/Cantor letter it is attached to.'"  

 


According to AIPAC, the Dodd-Isakson letter was closed on 5/20, with 76 senators signing on. 

 


The deadline for signing the Hoyer-Cantor letter is close of business 5/22/09 .  According to AIPAC, as of 5/21/09 the letter had 288 signers.

 


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Past editions of the Round-Up are archived and available online at:
http://www.peacenow.org/roundup.asp

 


Americans for Peace Now promotes Israeli security through the peace process and supports the Israeli Peace Now movement.   For more information, visit the APN web site at www.peacenow.org or contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations, at 202/728-1893, or at lfriedman@peacenow.org.