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APN Legislative Round-up: November 12-30, 2011

1. Bills, Resolutions and Letters
2. Iran, Israel in FY12 Defense Authorization Bill (S. 1867)
3. Odds and Ends

Due to a combination of visitors, travel, and holidays, the Round-Up is once again off schedule (and will not be coming out this Friday). We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause.

1. Bills, Resolutions and Letters

(Defense Authorization Bill) S. 1867: Introduced 11/15/11 by Sen. Levin (D-MI), "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012." Considered in the Senate 11/17-18, 11/28-29 (action still pending). For details of Israel- and Iran-related amendments to the bill, see Section 2, below.

(IRAN CENTRAL BANK SANCTIONS) HR 3508: Introduced 11/22/11 by Flake (R-AZ) and McIntyre (R-NC), "To require the President to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct transactions with the Central Bank of Iran." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Financial Services. The bill is substantively identical to S. Amdt. 1084, offered by Sens. Kirk (R-IL) and McConnell (R-KY) to the Defense Authorization bill (see Section 2, below, for details).

(IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 1905 (and possibly HR 2105): House floor action on HR 1905, "the Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011" (and possibly HR 2105, "the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act of 2011) appears to be imminent. One sign of this: on 11/20/11 the Jewish Community Relations Council of the greater DC area sent out an action alert urging people to contact their members of Congress and urge them to vote for HR 1905 when it comes to the floor. For analysis on the contents of this bill, see the 11/4/11 edition of the Round-Up. For further reading, see this 11/15/11 op-ed in the Hill by Kate Gould of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, "Will Congress take Iran diplomacy off the table?" Further reading here.

(Palestinian Statehood) S.1860: Introduced 11/14/11 by Sen. Coats (R-IN) and having no cosponsors, "to clarify prohibitions for any United Nations entity that admits Palestine as a member state." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. The bill reiterates existing law and warns the President that he cannot circumvent that law.

(Palestinian Statehood) S. Amdt. 949 to HR 2354: Introduced 11/14/11 by Sen. Coats (R-IN), an amendment to HR 2354, the FY12 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The amendment seeks to insert into HR 2354 largely identical with S. 1860 (discussed above). Coats' floor statement introducing the amendment/bill can be read here.

(EGYPT) H. Res. 472 : Introduced 11/18/11 by Reps. Drier (R-CA) and Meeks (D-NY), "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should initiate negotiations to enter into a free trade agreement with Egypt. Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

(COAST GUARD AUTHORIZATION BILL - IRAN) H. Amdt. 856 to HR 2838: As noted in the 11/4/11 edition of the Round-Up, on 11/4/11 the House adopted an amendment to HR 2838 that included a McCaul (R-TX) amendment targeting Iran. On 11/15/11 the House passed HR 2838, as amended, by a voice vote. Reporting on the passage of the bill, AIPAC noted: "The House on Nov. 15 passed legislation targeting foreign organizations that provide shipping services to Iran. An amendment offered by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) as part of the U.S. Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011 forbids the U.S. government from contracting with marine classification societies, which perform legal inspections on merchant ships, if they also do business with state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran. 'An organization representing both the United States and Iran on matters of governmental oversight clearly runs contradictory to U.S. policy,' McCaul said. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) have introduced similar legislation in the Senate."


(Investigate Palestinian Authority) Deutch-Israel Letter: On 11/22/11 Reps. Deutch (D-FL) and Israel (D-NY) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking the GAO to Investigate the Palestinian Authority's Use of U.S. Funds. Specifically, the letter demands an investigation into whether US funding might be used to "build housing for Palestinian prisoners recently released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit" and "whether or not any U.S. ESF monies are being used to fund Mr. Abbas' extensive lobbying to achieve a Palestinian state by any means other than direct negotiations with Israel."

(Iran Central Bank Sanctions) House leadership letter: On 11/17/11 House leaders from both parties sent a letter to President Obama calling for the imposition of sanctions on Iran's central bank. The letter was signed by Boehner (R-OH), Pelosi (D-CA), Cantor (R-VA), Hoyer (D-MD), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Berman (D-CA). JTA reporting on this can be read here. AIPAC report on it here (the final letter was actively circulated on the Hill by AIPAC).

(Palestinian Terrorist List) House Democrat-led letter: On 10/28/11 (sorry, I missed it) 36 House members [almost all Democrats -- the letter was initiated by four Jewish Democrats - Israel (D-NY), Berman (D-CA), Ackerman (D-NY), and Waxman (D-CA)] sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton and FBI Director Mueller urging that all Palestinians released by Israel in exchange for Gilad Shalit be included inr relevant U.S. terrorist databases. NJDC press release here; AIPAC coverage here.

(Syria) Kirk-Casey-Coons Letter: On 11/10/11, Sens. Kirk (R-IL), Casey (D-PA), and Coons (D-DE) sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging the Administration to investigate US Companies allegedly aiding the Syrian regime.

2. Iran, Israel in FY12 Defense Authorization Bill (S. 1867)

On Nov. 17 and 18, and again on Nov. 28 and 29, there was action on the Senate floor on S. 1867, the FY12 Defense Authorization Act. Cloture was invoked on the bill on 11/30/11, meaning that debate will now be limited to completing consideration of pending, germane amendments.

The base bill includes extensive funding for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs, including around $106 million in funding requested by the president (page 121), plus an additional $50 million added by the Senate. This funding goes for development of the David's Sling short-range ballistic missile defense system ($41.1 requested by the president plus an additional $25 million added by the Senate), the Arrow System Improvement Program ($11.8 million requested by the president, plus $20 million added by the Senate), and the Arrow-3 upper-tier interceptor ($53.2 million requested by the President, plus $5 million added by the Senate).

In addition, the slew of amendments offered to the bill includes a number related to Israel and Iran, as follows:


S. Amdt. 1137: Offered 11/17/11 by Sen. Heller (R-NV) and two cosponsors, Kirk (R-IL) and Lieberman (R-, I mean I-CT), "To provide for the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the relocation to Jerusalem of the United States Embassy in Israel." The main impact of the amendment would be to revoke the president's authority to waive the requirement in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act (S. 1322 in the 104th Congress). With the waiver revoked, the President will be required to move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, even if he believes that doing so threatens U.S. national security interests. Failure to move the embassy would result in a punitive blocking of 50% of the State Department's funds for acquisitions and maintenance of buildings abroad.

The amendment was considered by the Senate 11/29/11 (raised but not actually discussed and left as "pending"). Following a cloture vote (a vote to end debate on S. 1867) that passed on 11/30/11 by a vote of 88-12, all outstanding non-germane amendments (amendments unrelated to the substance of the base bill) were dead. S. Amdt. 1137 was among those non-germane amendments, ending action on it, at least in the context of this bill.

This attempt to revoke the waiver by attaching an amendment to a piece of "must-pass" (and "can't veto") legislation represents the most serious attempt thus far by extremists in Congress to force this issue - in a manner that they never attempted under the Bush Administration (for discussion of previous attempts in recent years, see the 11/6/09 and 3/11/11 editions of the Round-Up). For analysis of Heller's motivations in taking on this issue, and some additional historical context, see this article in the JTA.

It is worth noting that in 1995 the national security waiver was included in the Jerusalem Embassy Act specifically to address the fact that the Act represents a clear intrusion on Executive's foreign policy prerogative (during the 10/24/95 Senate floor debate prior to passing the bill, Senator Feinstein specifically noted: "...The bill we will pass today, as modified by the leader and the Senator from Arizona, is a good bill, and I believe it is one the President can sign. We worked hard Friday and again yesterday to produce a compromise that protects the President's prerogatives to conduct foreign policy. This was a crucial point because without these protections there was a good chance that this bill would be vetoed..."

Central Bank of Iran Sanctions

Notwithstanding recent new sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration on Iran, the Senate seems determined to go ahead and pass mandatory far-reaching new sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran. This, despite concerns in the Administration and even from unexpected quarters (like WINEP) that such sanctions could prove very problematic for U.S. interests.

This effort in the Senate started with S. Amdt. 1084, offered 11/17/11 by Sen. Kirk (R-IL) and 12 cosponsors, "To require the President to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct transactions with the Central Bank of Iran." This amendment was proposed and then withdrawn. Kirk's 11/17/11 statement introducing the amendment can be read here; a statement of support from Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) can be read here. Subsequently, S. Amdt. 1292 was offered 11/18/11 by Menendez (D-NJ) and 8 cosponsors, "To require the President to impose sanctions with respect to the Central Bank of Iran if the President determines that the Central Bank of Iran has engaged in conduct that threatens the national security of the United States or allies of the United States." This amendment, too, was proposed and then withdrawn. Subsequently, S. Amdt. 1414 was offered 11/28/11 by Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) and Kirk (R-IL), "To require the imposition of sanctions with respect to the financial sector of Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran." This amendment represents a sort of "compromise" between Senate advocates of CBI sanctions. It is pending on the Senate floor. For more on this issue and how it is expected to unfold, read about it at the Cable here and here.

Other stuff
(MANPAD threat to the U.S. and Israel) S. Amdt. 1180: Offered 11/28/11 by Collins (R-ME) and two cosponsors, "Relating to man-portable air-defense systems originating from Libya." Adopted, with agreed-on changes, as part of managers' package on 11/30/11, just prior to the cloture vote. The amendment seeks to "reduce and mitigate, to the greatest extent feasible, the threat posed to United States citizens and citizens of allies of the United States, including Israel, traveling by aircraft by man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) that were in Libya as of March 19, 2011."

(Iran at International Organizations) S. Amdt. 1284: Offered 11/18/11 by Sen. Vitter (R-LA), to prohibit funding "to further the international diplomatic efforts of Iran to further its agenda within an international body, organization, agency, commission or in which Iran holds a position of leadership or veto power." The amendment includes a statement of policy that "It is the policy of the United States that no funds shall be made available to any international diplomatic organization or entity that appoints Iran to a leadership position." (This is in line with congressional support for cutting funds to any UN agency that admits the Palestinians as a full member - consistent with what appears to be a congressional belief that boycotting international organizations will compel them to comply with U.S. demands). Not considered, as of this writing. Not clear if it has been ruled germane (seems like it shouldn't be).

(CUBA and Iran) S. Amdt. 1388: Offered 11/28/11 by Sen. Rubio (R-FL), requiring, among other things, that "Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State, submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report setting forth" various things related to Cuba, including "A description of the cooperative agreements, relationships, or both between Cuba, on the one hand, and Iran, North Korea, and other states suspected of nuclear proliferation, on the other hand." Submitted but not considered.

(IRAN SANCTIONS) S. Amdt. 1413: Offered 11/28/11 by Lautenberg (D-NJ), imposing liability of parent companies for violations by foreign entities of sanctions relating to Iran. Submitted but not considered.

3. Odds and Ends

(Upcoming) 12/1/11 SFRC Hearing: U.S. Strategic Objectives Towards Iran

Witnesses: Wendy R. Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and David S. Cohen, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence

(Upcoming) 12/6/11 AEI Briefing: The Costs of Containing Iran: More Than the U.S. Is Bargaining For. With Sen. Kirk (R-IL) along with AEI's Tomas Donnelly, Danielle Pletka, and Masah Zarif.

(Past) 11/15/11 House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing: Progress of the Obama Administration's Policy Toward Iran. featuring Mark Dubowitz (FDD), Ken Pollack (Brookings), Suzanne Maloney (Brookings), Adam Szubin (Treasury), Henry Wooster (Department of State), and Colin Kahl (Department of Defense). Video of the hearing is available here. AIPAC report on the meeting here.

Members on the Record

Sen. Wyden (D- OR) and Rep. McGovern (D-MA) 11/23/11: Wyden, McGovern Statement on Release of Bahraini Human Rights Report
Lieberman (R-, I mean I-CT) 11/21/11: On sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran.
Price (D-NC) 11/18/11: Lauding the benefits of foreign aid, including to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt.
Maloney (D-NY), 11/16/11: statement introducing the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act, using Iran example as why this legislation should be passed.
Quigley (D-IL) 11/15/11: On Iran's pursuit of producing a nuclear weapon.
Wolf (R-VA), 11/14/11: entering into the record an article related to a Chinese firm's role in enabling Iran's state security network
Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) 11/14/11: statement after meeting with the mayor of Jerusalem (including reiterating support for "formal U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital"
Gohmert (R-TX) 11/14/11: Making a pitch for members to cosponsor his resolution, H. Res. 271, which calls for U.S. support for an Israeli military attack on Iran (says that Netanyahu was "appreciative" of the resolution.
Coats (R-IN) 11/15/11, statement on the Senate floor calling for dramatically tougher sanctions on Iran and for keeping military option very much on the table.

Other Hill-related News

The Hill, 11/23/11: House, Senate target Iran's central bank with new sanctions bill
Huffington Post 11/21/11: Five Members of US Congress Take Extreme Right-Wing Tour of West Bank Settlements (Forbes, R-VA; Gohmert, R-TX; Lamborn. R-CO; Fleming, R-LA; and Jordan, R-OH).
The Hill 11/18/11: Regarding Iran's nukes, senators keep military options on the table
AFP 11/17/11: Top US senator unveils Iran central bank sanctions
MediaMatters 11/16/11: Will Congress Vote To Crash Iran's Civil Aircraft? (MJ Rosenberg)
Haaretz 11/15/11: John McCain: U.S. withdrawal from Iraq a 'victory for Iran'
The Hill 11/15/11: Republicans Slam Obama on Iran
The Hill 11/14/11: Rubio defends foreign aid as essential to national security
The Cable 11/14/11: State still making the case for UNESCO funding
Savannah Morning News 11/14/11: Saxby Chambliss: Wouldn't be surprised if Israel tries to take out Iranian nukes
Arutz Sheva (Israeli settlers' media outlet) 11/13/11: In the face of genocidal Muslim fanaticism, leaders of the nations that have the Bible in common seek common political ground (visit to settlements by Forbes, R-VA; Gohmert, R-TX; Lamborn. R-CO; Fleming, R-LA; and Jordan, R-OH).

Check the APN blog for breaking news and analysis about issues related to Israel, the Middle East, and the Hill.
Past editions of the Round-Up are archived and available online.
For more information, contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations.