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Legislative Roundup - June 10, 2005

I. Foreign Relations Authorization Act (House version) II. Bills and Resolutions III. Wexler on Egypt

for the week ending June 10, 2005

I. Foreign Relations Authorization Act (House version)
II. Bills and Resolutions
III. Wexler on Egypt


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I. FOREIGN RELATIONS AUTHORIZATION (HOUSE VERSION) ================================

On June 7th and 8th the House International Relations Committee met to mark up HR 2601, "The Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007" (also widely referred to as the State Department Authorization bill).

Procedurally, the mark-up consisted of the committee first considering an amendment to effectively replace the entire text of the bill (approved on May 26th by the subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations) with alternative text proposed by that same subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) - text that included changes negotiated and agreed to by Chairman Hyde (R-IL) and ranking minority member Lantos (D-CA). Before voting on the Smith amendment, the Committee dealt with "secondary" amendments - amendments to the Smith language. These amendments fell into two categories. First, there was a list of 35 amendments that Chairman Hyde and Rep. Lantos had agreed to in advance and that were offered "en bloc" for a vote (approved by voice vote). Second, there were amendments dealt with individually. At the end of the mark-up the Smith amendment, as amended, was adopted by the Committee (by voice vote), the final bill was approved by a unanimous roll call vote, and the bill was referred to the full House for a vote. (It is worth recalling that this bill rarely actually gets passed into law.)

As in past years, this bill is a vehicle for numerous Middle East-related provisions. Some of the provisions were included in the base text (i.e., the original bill as it came out of subcommittee, or the original Smith amendment). Others were dealt with in secondary amendments. A summary of these provisions and the process by which they were adopted/rejected follows:


------------- PALESTINIANS -------------

A. RESTRICTION ON AID (en bloc amendment): Past appropriations bills have granted the President the authority to waive the restriction on direct aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if he certified that it was in the national security interests of the United States to do so. As was seen in the recent debate over the supplemental, there is a trend in Congress to try to remove or erode the President's ability to provide any direct assistance to the PA. In this bill, the trend was manifested in an amendment offered by Reps. Hyde (R-IL) and Lantos (D- CA), adopted as part of the giant "en bloc" amendment, entitled "limitation on assistance to the Palestinian Authority."

This provision - which was never discussed in the committee - permits the President to provide direct aid to the PA (under any provision of law) only if the President certifies that doing so is important to the national security interests of the United States AND also certifies that the Palestinian Authority has met a list of far- reaching requirements and reform agenda items dealing with security, fighting terror, ending incitement, reforming the PA, and increasing financial transparency.

The provision also requires the Comptroller General to submit a report to Congress that contains "a review of the extent to which United States assistance to the Palestinian Authority...is properly audited by the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and all relevant departments and agencies of the Government of the United States."

B. INCITEMENT/TEXTBOOKS (Smith amendment): During the May 26th markup Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) offered an amendment entitled "Palestinian textbooks." The provision included a Sense of Congress stating that "the Secretary of State should...express the unwillingness of the United States to continue to support the Palestinian Authority, whether directly or indirectly, should the Palestinian Authority continue to include material which does not foster tolerance and peace." A secondary amendment offered by Rep. Lee (D-CA) changed this language to "...continue to support the education programs of the Palestinian Authority, whether directly or indirectly..." This language was included in the Smith amendment approved by the full committee.

C. GAZA MURDERS (Smith amendment): The Smith language includes a section, reportedly inserted by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), dealing with the killing of 3 U.S. citizens in the Gaza Strip on October 15, 2003. The lengthy provision includes a Sense of Congress stating that "the continued inability or unwillingness of the Palestinian Authority to actively and aggressively pursue the murderers...and bring them to justice calls into question the Palestinian Authority's viability as a partner for the United States in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," and "future United States assistance to the Palestinian Authority may be affected, and the continued operation of the PLO Representative Office in Washington may be jeopardized if the Palestinian Authority does not fully and effectively cooperate in bringing to justice the murderers..."

The provision also requires the Secretary of State to submit a detailed report to Congress every 120 days on efforts to resolve this matter.


---------- JERUSALEM ----------

(Smith amendment) The Smith text includes the perennial provisions relating to U.S. policy and Jerusalem - requiring that the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem be placed under the authority of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv; requiring that, upon request, the place of birth on a passport or report of birth for Americans born in Jerusalem be recorded as "Jerusalem, Israel" rather than simply "Jerusalem," and requiring that U.S. government publications that include countries and capitals list Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (These provisions have already been passed into law; the President has effectively declared them unconstitutional and is not implementing them.)

This year, there is a new twist in the Jerusalem language, with a brand new provision that appears to be directly linked to an ongoing lawsuit regarding to requirement for listing Israel on passports and reports of birth. In an apparent attempt to weaken the Administration's argument that this is a sensitive foreign policy matter, rather than an administrative matter related solely to the issuance of documents, the new provision - entitled "Entries Within Passports" - would amend the 1926 law regulating the issuance of passports by inserting the following sentence: "for purposes of the issuance of a passport to a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen's legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel."


------ EGYPT ------

(Smith amendment) The Smith text included a provision entitled (misleadingly) "requirements relating to economic support fund assistance for Egypt." This provision, supported strongly by Rep. Tom Lantos (D- CA), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), seeks to fundamentally change and undermine (and possibly eliminate) the U.S. aid program to Egypt. It does this in four ways.

First, it would substantially cut military assistance and transform it into economic assistance (cutting military aid by $40 million a year, for three years).

Second, it would immediately halt the cash flow financing program, which effectively would halt any new purchases of military equipment by Egypt. While a substantial amount of military aid would be left even after the cuts noted above, the program that enables Egypt to use this aid for anything other than maintenance and training related to previous purchases would end.

Third, it would make receipt of any and all economic assistance - i.e., the existing bilateral economic aid program, and the additional $40 million per year, for three years, discussed above - contingent upon Egypt meeting a list of far-reaching requirements.

Fourth, in what represents perhaps the least important but most petty and insulting change to the program, the new language would take away from Egypt interest earned on the interest-bearing account and transfer it not to economic aid, but to the Middle East Partnership Initiative, to be allocated "for democracy and governance programs for Egypt, including direct support of nongovernmental organizations." It should be recalled that the interest bearing account - which enables Egypt to earn interest on a portion of its military aid - was created in acknowledgement of the link between the U.S. aid programs for Israel and Egypt, and in an effort to create a more equitable situation, since Israel gets all of its aid in a lump sum (cash) upon which it is able to earn substantial interest (which it keeps).

Part of this Egypt provision resemble language offered by Rep. Lantos last year as an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (his language was limited to shifting military aid to economic aid). That language was voted down. This year, by including the measure in the base bill text (text that few members had the opportunity to read thoroughly before the mark-up), rather than making it an amendment, Rep. Lantos put himself in a much stronger position, forcing Members who opposed the measure to seek to remove it by amendment.

Such an amendment was offered by Rep. Issa (R-CA), and strongly supported by Reps. Lee (D-CA) and Wexler (D-FL) (see section III for Wexler Dear Colleague). The Issa amendment to remove the language failed by a vote of 14-29. Members voting to remove the language were: Rohrabacher (R-CA), King (R- NY), Chabot (R-OH), Issa (R-CA), Davis (R- VA), McCotter (R-MI), Boozman (R-AR), Mack (R-FL), Poe (R-TX), Wexler (D-FL), Lee (D- CA), Watson (D-CA), and McCollum (D-MN).


------- LEBANON -------

Included in the en bloc amendments adopted by the committee was an amendment offered by Reps. Lantos (D-CA) and Hyde (R-IL) entitled "Report on the status of the sovereignty of Lebanon." The provision is comprised of a lengthy Sense of Congress that states, among other things, that "the United States and its allies should consider providing training and other assistance to the armed forces of Lebanon to enhance their ability to disarm Hizballah and other militias and stanch the flow of arms to Hizballah and other militias," and "United States assistance provided to Lebanon after the date of the enactment of this Act may be affected if Lebanon does not make every effort to disarm militias, including Hizballah, and to deny them re-armament." It also includes a new reporting requirement under which the Secretary of State would be required to report every 180 days on Lebanon's efforts and success in meeting a list of requirements related to disbanding and disarming Hizballah, securing its borders, and related matters.


------ OTHER ------

IRAN: The base text includes a section entitled "Statement of policy relating to democracy in Iran," which, among other things, states that "the United States supports transparent, full democracy in Iran."

ISRAEL: The base text includes authorization for perennial aid to Israel for refugee resettlement, in the amount of $40 million.

ISRAEL: The en bloc amendment included an amendment offered by Rep. Crowley (D-NY) requiring a report on U.S. efforts to press other countries to improve diplomatic relations with Israel.

MAGEN DAVID ADOM: The Smith text includes new language regarding the Magen David Adom Society. Previous bills have included a perennial Sense of Congress regarding the need to continue pressing for full membership for the Magen David Adom Society in the International Red Cross Movement. This year's bill included language offered previously as part of HR 4053 (108th Congress, introduced by Rep. Lantos, D-CA), requiring the Secretary of State to submit an annual report to Congress regarding not only U.S. efforts to press this matter, but also details about efforts of any "state, member, or official of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement to prevent, obstruct, or place conditions" on full normalization of the MDA's position.

SAUDI ARABIA: The en bloc amendments included an amendment offered by Rep. Berkley (D-NV) regarding the political disenfranchisement of women in Saudi Arabia.

HIZBALLAH: The en bloc amendment included an amendment offered by Rep. Wexler (D-FL) regarding the operations of the Hizballah satellite television station Al Manar.


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II. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(United Nations) H. Res. 282: Passed by the House on June 7th under suspension of the rules, by a vote of 409-2. The vote followed a lengthy series of floor statements denouncing anti-Semitism and anti-Israel actions by the United Nations.

(United Nations) H.R. 2745: Introduced on June 7th by Reps. Hyde (R-IL) and Pence (R- IN), and marked up and passed by the House International Relations Committee on the same day, "To reform the United Nations, and for other purposes." Section 107 of the bill, entitled "Equality at the United Nations," setting out extensive requirements dealing with U.S. efforts to help Israel at the United Nations.

(Saudi Arabia) S. 1171: Introduced June 6th by Sen. Specter (R-PA) and 6 cosponsors, "Saudi Arabia Accountability Act of 2005." The bill includes extensive findings about Saudi Arabia's misdeeds. It also includes a Sense of Congress that Saudi Arabia must "immediately and unconditionally" stop supporting terrorists and provide the U.S. all requested help in fighting terrorism. It also includes sanctions against Saudi Arabia, comprised of restrictions on exports to Saudi Arabia and on travel within the United States by Saudi diplomats (with a national security waiver for the President included as well). Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.


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III. WEXLER ON EGYPT
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On June 8th, in connection with the then- ongoing markup of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Rep. Wexler (D-FL) sent out a Dear Colleague concerning the Egypt- related provision in the bill text. He wrote:

"...At a time when Egypt is undergoing unprecedented political and economic change, I am concerned that the language proposed by Congressman Hyde and Ranking Member Lantos does not further the intended goal of promoting Egyptian reforms.

"I share Congressmen Hyde and Lantos' concern regarding the pace and direction of President Mubarak's recently proposed election reform. I was also deeply upset by recent reports of excessive use of force against protesters by the Egyptian military and police. While I was encouraged to learn of an Egyptian investigation into such events, I am hopeful that President Mubarak will ensure such incidents are not repeated in the future.

"At the same time, however, these recent developments do not minimize the ongoing and critical role that Egypt is playing in negotiating a Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire; deploying 750 soldiers on the border with Gaza; training Palestinian security officers to assist and enable Israel's disengagement from Gaza; offering humanitarian assistance and participating in peace-keeping operations in nations such as Sudan; and enabling the transfer of U.S. troops and equipment through the Suez Canal en route to Iraq.

"In the past year alone, the relationship between Egypt and Israel has grown stronger, as highlighted by the return of the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, the establishment of Qualified Industrial Zones and Egypt and the ongoing bilateral dialogue coordinating Israel's disengagement from Gaza. More recently, President Mubarak strongly advocated Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and assisted in urging Hamas to maintain its ceasefire with Israel regardless of the delay in Palestinian elections.

"Changing our aid to Egypt sends the wrong message to the Egyptian government and people at a time when they are in the process of implementing economic and political reforms. While U.S. promotion of enhanced reforms is critical, I strongly believe that the Hyde-Lantos provision may have the opposite effect."


For more information contact APN Government Relations Director Lara Friedman at 202/728-1893, or at LFapn@earthlink.net