To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

APN Legislative Round-Up - June 12, 2009

1. Update on Foreign Relations Authorization Act; 2. Excerpts from HR 2410 Floor Debate; 3. Update on the FY09 Supplemental

... for the week ending June 12, 2009
 
1.  Update on Foreign Relations Authorization Act
2. Excerpts from HR 2410 Floor Debate
3.  Update on the FY09 Supplemental

 


1. 
UPDATE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS AUTHORIZATION ACT

 


On
6/10/09 the House passed HR 2410, the FY10 and FY11 Foreign Relations Authorization Act by a mostly party-line vote of 235-187 (only 18 Democrats voted against, and only 7 Republicans voted in favor).  For details of the bill as passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, see the 5/22/09 and 5/15/09 editions of the Round-Up.

 


Committee Amendment

 


As discussed in the
5/22/09 edition of the Round-Up, on 5/20/09 , the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked-up and amended HR 2410 with a manager's amendment that included a number of Middle East-related provisions.  These are:

 


(ARROW MISSILE PROGRAM) Sec. 848: This is a new section entitled "Support to
Israel for Missile Defense."  The provision authorizes to be appropriated "such sums as may be necessary for co-development of joint ballistic missile, medium and short-range projectile defense projects with Israel, including -- (1) complete accelerated co-production of Arrow missiles; (2) system development of the Israel Missile Defense Organization program to develop a short-range ballistic missile defense capability, David's Sling weapon system, and integrate the weapon system with the ballistic missile defense system and force protection efforts of the United States; and (3) research, development, and test and evaluation of the Iron Dome short-range projectile defense system."  The provision also requires that "not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter in connection with the submission of congressional presentation materials for the foreign operations appropriations and defense appropriations budget request, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report regarding the activities" authorized under subsection (1), in an unclassified form but with a classified annex, if necessary.

 


(
GAZA AID PROGRAM) Sec. 1008: The amendment adds an additional requirement to the section entitled "Reports on Humanitarian Assistance in Gaza ," to require that the report include "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 an 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 under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189)."

 


(MINORITIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST) Sec. 1010: This new section, entitled "Report on Religious Minority Communities in the
Middle East " authorizes the Secretary of State to "undertake a focused initiative to monitor the status of and provide specific policy recommendations to protect vulnerable religious minorities throughout the Middle East region."  It also requires that "Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and one year thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the humanitarian conditions of religious minority communities in the Middle East and efficacy and obstacles to humanitarian assistance activities to help meet the basic needs of vulnerable persons affiliated with minority religions in the Middle East, and recommendations to mitigate adverse humanitarian circumstances facing such persons."

 


(
IRAN ) Sec. 1011:  This lengthy new section, entitled " Iran 's Influence in the Western Hemisphere " includes findings related to the Iran 's activities in the Western Hemisphere (especially Venezuela ), and requires the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress "that includes actions taken by the Government of Iran and Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere . A classified annex may be included, if necessary."

 


(GILAD SHALIT) Sec. 1126: This new section, entitled "Efforts to Secure the Freedom of Gilad Shalit" is a sense of Congress stating 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."

 


Floor Amendments

 


A large number of Middle East-related amendments were offered to HR 2410, although only a small number were actually considered and only one passed.  It is worth noting that nearly all of these amendments came from Republicans, who appeared to be trying to use the floor debate over HR 2410 to grandstand on Middle East issues, and in particular on Israel and Iran.  This grandstanding culminated in an unexpected (even shocking) last-second maneuver by Rep. Burton (R-IN), when, after all amendments had been considered and the bill was about to go to a final vote, Burton moved that the entire bill be deleted and replaced by a version of HR 2194, far-reaching Iran sanctions legislation that is strongly supported by AIPAC (for details, see the 5/1/09 edition of the Round-Up).  In fairness, Hill sources have suggested that AIPAC did not support this maneuver by
Burton ; indeed, from the perspective of supporters of the bill, forcing a vote on a scaled-back version of the bill in a manner that all but forced almost all Democrats to vote "no" was not by any measure ideal).    Given that this all took place only days before the Iranian elections, some observers have suggested that House Republicans were acting recklessly or even deliberately seeking to bolster the chances of President Ahmadinijad being re-elected.

 


For text of amendments, see: http://www.rules.house.gov/amendment_details.aspx?NewsID=4293)

 


a.  Introduced/Passed

 


In the context of floor consideration of HR 2410, only one significant Middle East-related amendment was passed: H. Amdt. 188, introduced by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX).  This amendment states that "It is the sense of Congress that
Israel has the inalienable right to defend itself in the face of an imminent nuclear or military threat from Iran , terrorist organizations, and the countries that harbor them."   This amendment, on which House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Berman (D-CA) was reportedly urging a "yes" vote from Democrats, passed by a voice vote.  For excerpts from the floor debate on H. Amdt. 188, see section IV, below.

 


b.  Introduced/Defeated

 


H. Amdt. 182: Introduced by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), "to require the Secretary of State to withhold from the
U.S. contribution to the International Atomic Energy Agency an amount equal to nuclear technical cooperation provided by the IAEA in 2007 to Iran , Syria , Sudan and Cuba ."  Rejected by a vote of 205-224.

 


c.  Proposed/Not considered

 


Bilirakis (R-FL):  #72: Would prohibit the Secretary of State from establishing a formal or informal
U.S. diplomatic or commercial presence in and with Iran , unless the President certifies that the Government of Iran is not engaged in certain activities detrimental to the national security of the United States .

 


Burton (R-IN):  #38:  Sense of Congress removing waiver authority in the Jerusalem Embassy Act, formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and would immediately relocate the United States embassy to Jerusalem.

 


Garrett (R-NJ)/Price (R-GA): #76:  Would direct the Secretary of State to ensure that any funds used by the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund outlined in the Presidential Determination 2009-15 of January 27, 2009, are not used to import, or give assistance to any Palestinian refugee or conflict victim from Gaza with ties to Hamas.

 


Gohmert (R-TX) #64: (Revised) Would cut
U.S. financial assistance to any country who has voted against the U.S. in the U.N. General Assembly more than 50% of the time in a year.

 


Matheson (D-UT) #4: (Withdrawn, Revised) Would provide that the Secretary of State shall appoint a coordinator to help implement the International Nuclear Fuel Bank not later than 120 days after enactment.

 


McCaul (R-TX) #13: Would prohibit the Secretary of State from issuing a visa to any person of a country designated as supporting acts of international terrorism and direct the Secretary of State to deny access to domestic or overseas United States Government facilities to any person, agent or instrumentality of a government of a country designated as supporting acts of international terrorism. This amendment allows for the Secretary of State to waive these restrictions on a case-by-case basis if the Secretary certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the issuance of a visa to the alien is vital to the national security interest of the
United States .

 


Pence (R-IN) #8: Sense of Congress that seeks to impose sanctions on: (1) Iranian banks engaged in proliferation activities or the support of terrorist groups; (2) international banks which conduct financial transactions with proscribed Iranian banks; (3) energy companies with large investments in the Iranian petroleum or natural gas sector; and (4) all companies which do business with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It further demands that the President initiate an effort to increase pressure on
Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities. Would urge the President to lead a regional effort to support governments in the region against Iran .

 


Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) #35: Would prevent funds authorized by this Act from being used for a contribution for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

 


Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) #36: Would require the Secretary of State to withhold from the U.S. contribution to the International Atomic Energy Agency an amount equal to nuclear technical cooperation provided by the IAEA in 2007 to Iran , Syria , Sudan and Cuba .

 


Weiner (D-NY) #82: Revised Would prohibit providing aid to Saudi Arabia, prohibit the sale of joint direct attack munitions (JDAM) weapon systems to Saudi Arabia, and require a report about Saudi Arabia covering human rights, hate speech in text books and state sponsored terrorism.

 


Wilson (R-SC) #23:  Expresses a statement of policy on the growing concern about the threat posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the hands of states that sponsor terrorism, such as Iran . Expresses support for the deployment of United States missile defense assets in Europe . Urges the President to expedite the deployment of such a missile defense system, and calls upon the President to report to Congress on an annual basis on the steps taken by the United States to move forward with the deployment.

 


Last-Minute Grandstanding on Iran
As noted above, in a surprise development, after all the amendments had been considered and HR 2410 was about to be voted on for final passage, Rep. Burton (R-IN) moved that the bill be re-considered with the entire text of the bill stricken and replaced by the text of HR 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act.  His motion was strongly opposed by Chairman Berman (who is the lead sponsor of the legislation).  The motion was defeated by a nearly party-line vote of 174-250, with only 5 Democrats voting in favor and 8 Republicans voting against.   For excerpts from the debate over this motion, see section II, below.

 


2.  EXCERPTS FROM HR 2410 FLOOR DEBATE

 


Excerpt from debate over Burton motion to replace Foreign Relations Authorization Act with Iran Sanctions bill:

 


Berman response to Burton effort to replace HR 2410 with Iran sanctions legislation:

 


"Mr. Speaker, what we see in the offering of this motion to recommit is a political party or the leadership of a political party that, number one, is not serious about pursuing an effective strategy to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability and, two, that is using the pretext of Iran to strike every single provision of the bill that we have presented and that has been debated on.

 


"The very first provision in this bill is to strike all that follows after the enacting clause. Then my friend from Indiana takes a bill that I am the sponsor of, along with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and a number of people on both sides--it now has something like 155 cosponsors-to focus on the issue of refined oil products going to Iran . He eviscerates that bill by taking out every single trade sanction and all of the financial institution sanctions, so it totally wipes out the State Department authorization bill. They know that we intend to pursue the policy of seeing if Iran diplomatically, in a short timeframe, can be dissuaded from the course they are now on. If they cannot be, at the same time, we are pursuing efforts to get key countries to come together at the Security Council with a level of, as the Secretary of State said, crippling sanctions on Iran to get that regime to change its behavior.

 


".Then we will pursue these international sanctions in working with the Russians, the Chinese, the Arab States, and with all of the countries that know that Iran with a nuclear weapons capability is an intolerable situation that cannot be tolerated.

 


"Instead, he jumps ahead to the third part of the strategy, a strategy on which we were going to have hearings in the month of July and see how both the multilateral sanctions and the engagement process--the diplomatic process--worked. Then, if we were not moving ahead, he would take a serious and tough bill that had import sanctions, which said that companies that provided refined oil products to Iran couldn't import, stripped from this bill; and that imposed even tougher financial sanctions that we now have stripped from this motion to recommit.

 


"Meanwhile, all of the things in the State Department authorization bill--all of the issues that my friends praised even in the course of the debate on this bill, which they don't like, every single provision--is stripped.

 


"This is not a serious effort. What really bothers me about this amendment is, with Iran , we should have a bipartisan approach. We tried a policy. I supported that policy of the previous administration: isolate and sanction unilaterally because we could never get effective multilateral sanctions. It didn't work. Iran kept enriching every day while we sat around, railing against them.

 


"We are trying something new because we want this policy to work. We want to stop Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability. I don't know if the diplomatic strategy will work. You guys don't know if it will work.

 


".I don't know if we can get the international community to do the kinds of things that can stop Iran and enforce the regime to change its behavior in this area or on the issue of terrorism or on all of the other issues that we have with Iran; but let's try a policy that's different than the one that has been a total failure for the past 5 years.

 


"We said we won't engage until they suspend. They kept enriching. We said we'll sanction all we can. We caused some annoyances. Most of those sanctions didn't work because no other country was serious about it. Now we're trying a different approach to get the world serious about it. Give it a few months to try and work.

 


"I urge that this eviscerated version of the bill that I am sponsoring in this motion to recommit be defeated and that you don't wipe out the whole State Department authorization bill and the committee's work."

 


3.  UPDATE ON FY09 SUPPLEMENTAL

 


On 6/11/09 the House Appropriations Committee published as summary of the conference version (i.e. the House-Senate compromise version) of HR 2346, the FY09 Supplemental Appropriations bill.  Text of the bill is reportedly under lock-and-key as of this writing.  We will bring you details as they become available.

 


==========================
Don't forget to check the APN blog for breaking news and analysis about issues related to Israel , the Middle East , and the Hill.
=========================
 

 


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