To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending October 16, 2009

1.  Bills and Resolutions
2.  House passes Iran Sanctions Enabling Act
3.  IPRSA Set to Move Forward (in committee and on the floor)
4.  APN on IRPSA Developments
5.  Partisan Point-Scoring over IRPSA Continues
6.  Ros-Lehtinen Attacks Administration Over Goldstone Report
7.  Four House Republicans Launch Anti-Muslim Witch-Hunt

(Jordan) H. Res. 833: Introduced 10/14/09 by Rep. Schiff (D-CA), "Honoring the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the 10th anniversary of the accession to the throne of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, and for other purposes."  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(IRAN) HR 3832:  Introduced 10/15/09 by Franks (R-AZ) and no cosponsors, "To enhance the effectiveness of United States diplomatic efforts with respect to Iran by expanding economic sanctions against Iran to include refined petroleum, require the Secretary of Defense to develop and maintain viable military options to prevent the successful development or deployment of a nuclear weapons capability by the Government of Iran, and for other purposes."  Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, Armed Services, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Government Reform.
(RELIGIOUS FREEDOM) H. Res. 840:  Introduced 10/15/09 by Rep. Burton (R-IN) and two cosponsors, "Condemning continuing violations of religious freedom in the Middle East, and for other purposes."  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

On 10/14/09 the House voted to suspend the rules and consider HR 1327, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act.  The bill, which authorizes 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" was introduced 3/5/09 by Rep, Frank (D-MA) and at the time it was brought to the floor it had 257 cosponsors.  HR passed by a vote of 414-6, with 12 members not voting.  The "no" votes were cast by Reps. Flake (R-AZ), Hinchey (D-NY, Jones (R-NC), McDermott (D-WA), and Paul (R-TX).  
In a related development, on 10/12/09 Senators Casey (D-PA) and Brownback (R-KS) published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer arguing the case for Iran divestment and pushing their own version of the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act (S. 1065).  
APN has not taken a position on Iran divestment-related sanctions efforts.  Such sanctions may be a generally legitimate, if in all likelihood ineffective, approach.  In this case efforts to move them now would also appear to be poorly-timed, conflicting with the Obama Administration's current engagement strategy, which for now puts the emphasis on diplomacy rather than additional sanctions.  For very cogent talking points from NIAC laying out concerns about divestment-focused sanctions against Iran, click here.

Republican pressure on Democrats to move the Iran Petroleum Sanctions Act (HR 2194) - despite the fact that the White House does not appear to want it moved at this time - appears to be paying off.  
Berman Commits to Committee Mark-Up
First, during a hearing on Afghanistan 10/15/09 (at around 02:13:00 into the proceedings), Rep. Burton (R-IN) raised IRPSA - in effect accusing Berman of lying about his plans to move the bill through the committee in previous months.  The following exchange then took place:
Berman: "You know what I said, I said October."
Burton:  "OK, what is today's date, Mr. Chairman?"  
Berman:  "It's two weeks before the date of the markup."
Burton:  "well thank you sir, I'm looking forward to that."
A few hours later, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) announced that the committee would mark-up the bill on 10/28/09.  Given the political equities at stake (and the fact that the majority of the HCFA's members have already co-sponsored the bill), quick passage of the bill out of the HCFA is a foregone conclusion.
However, in an unusual twist, in his statement announcing the mark-up, Chairman Berman - the original sponsor of the bill - made explicit his view that the bill should not be passed into law at present.   Indeed, Berman laid out clearly the reasons why he would not expect leadership - whose lap the bill will fall into once the measure is passed out of committee - should not take action on the bill.   He stated:

"I view this legislation as the fourth best option to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. My first preference is to resolve the nuclear issue through diplomatic means, and I strongly support the Obama Administration's efforts to engage Iran. The proposals put forward at the October 1 meeting with Iran in Geneva show some promise, but the clock is ticking, and the centrifuges are still spinning. Should engagement not yield the desired results within a very short time, then my second preference would be tough, hard-hitting multilateral sanctions endorsed by the U.N. Security Council that could persuade Tehran to change course. If those are not possible to obtain, then the third best option is to work with a group of like-minded nations to impose such sanctions. Only when we judge that these other options will not succeed in a timely manner should we turn to additional unilateral and extraterritorial sanctions such as those included in H.R. 2194."
Hoyer (D-MD) Commits to Bring the Bill Swiftly the floor for a vote
Later in the afternoon of 10/15/09, around 5pm, Chief Deputy Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) challenged Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) over his plans regarding IRPSA.   This is the third week in a row that Republican leadership has challenged Hoyer, in public on the House floor, to move the bill (McCarthy was apparently standing in this week for Rep. Cantor (R-VA), who took Hoyer on over this issue each of the past two weeks).  During the exchange that ensued, Hoyer committed to moving the bill quickly to a vote once it is passed out of committee.

McCARTHY:   ...This week the House overwhelmingly voted for the Barney Frank-authored Iran Sanctions Enabling Act. I know you put out a press release about the strong message to Tehran that unless it abides by its international norms, its economic isolation will continue. On the same day we passed the Frank bill, news reports from Moscow indicated that Russia has no stomach for further sanctions against Iran.  Given your praise for the Frank bill and the fact that Russia feels unwilling to go along with new sanctions, is it your intention not to consider Chairman Howard Berman's Iran sanctions bill this year?
HOYER: I expect to consider it. The chairman has announced that he expects to consider that, not next week but the week after. I have told the chairman, as I told Mr. Cantor last week, that I expect to bring it to the floor shortly after it's passed out of committee.
McCARTHY:  So should I assume by the end of October, or am I missing something?
HOYER:  He says not next week but the week after. And whenever he passes it, I will bring it out shortly thereafter. So it could either be the last of October or the very first few days of November. So in 2 or 3 weeks at the outside.
McCARTHY:  Let me make sure I hear you correctly. The committee says, the chairman, it will pass out within the next 2 weeks approximately. And your pledge to the committee chairman was to bring it to the floor directly afterwards within that week?  I yield.
HOYER: I don't know whether I made a pledge. I am very much for this. I am a cosponsor of that. I want to pass it as soon as possible.  It's been the chairman's judgment as to when to bring it up. He is going to bring it up, and I am going to bring it as soon thereafter as is practical, which I suspect to be a matter of days. But if he passes it on Thursday and if we are not scheduled to be here on a Friday, I don't know that I will schedule Friday; we may pass it Tuesday, but I expect to pass it very shortly after it passes out of committee.
McCARTHY:  I will make this pledge: I know you asked me for help. I will help you with this bill, too.
HOYER:  This bill, frankly, with all due respect, your help would be nice, but not needed. It's the other bill I need your help on.
McCARTHY:  Well, I thought that I would put that offer out there to you. When you bring it, I will be there to help you.
4.  APN on IRPSA Developments
APN opposes IRPSA, for reasons laid out in detail here.   We recognize the tremendous and well-orchestrated (mainly partisan) pressure that Chairman Berman and Leader Hoyer are under to move the bill - evidenced by the tag-team approach to get Democrats to commit - in a single day - to move the bill both through committee and to the floor.   We appreciate Chairman Berman's decision to make clear that by moving the bill through his committee, he is not signaling support for passage of the bill into law at this time.  We hope that House leadership will adopt a similar approach.
5.  Partisan Point-Scoring over IRPSA CONTINUES
As noted in the past two Bulletins, the Iran Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) has become the focus of partisan point-scoring in the House of Representatives.  As also noted in previous weeks, this is in clear contrast to the previous 8 years, when a great deal of Iran sanctions legislation was introduced but did not pass, primarily out of deference to the White House.  This time around, however, such deference is no longer the order of the day for some House Republicans - a change of course that is remarkable in particular given the fact that for the first time in more than the decade the White House is engaging intensively on the Iran issue (and given the fact that it appears clear, at least for now, that the White House does not want this legislation to move, as demonstrated by the Administration officials' statements included in last week's Round-Up).
Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), 10/14/09   
" of the big problems we face is we get 35 to 40 percent of our oil from the Middle East, and one of the big problems facing the United States and the world right now is Iran. Iran has been developing a nuclear program, a nuclear weapons program for some time, and our position in the United States now, under the new administration, is to try to work with them, to talk with them to stop them with their nuclear development program. And if they don't, we're going to try to get a sanctions bill passed.   Now, we have a bill sponsored by the chairman of the International Relations Committee, Mr. Berman, that has over 300 cosponsors--I happen to be one of them--and we believe we ought to bring that bill to the floor as quickly as possible to try to put pressure on Iran to stop the development of the nuclear weapons program.
"But the administration, I think, has suggested we should wait. They were trying to bring China and Russia on board, and China and Russia are not going to be on board. So we should do it by ourselves and we should do it expeditiously.  Let me tell you why I think it's so important. If Iran continues down this path, Israel--whom Iran has said they want to destroy--will have no choice but to defend itself. They cannot let Iran develop a nuclear bomb and a delivery system. If they do that, they will be able to destroy Israel and millions of Jews in Israel in a very short period of time. It will be another Holocaust.
"So what will happen? If they get too far down the path, if we don't put pressure on them to stop--and they don't stop--I believe Israel will have no choice but to attack Iran. And if they attack Iran, that could end up in being a major conflagration in the entire Persian Gulf area.  Now, why is that important to us? We get 35 to 40 percent of our energy from the Persian Gulf area. If that goes up in smoke, we will lose 35 to 40 percent of the energy that we have in this country because we're not energy independent.
"The lights that we have, the gasoline in our cars, the fuel we use to heat our houses, everything that needs energy will suffer, and we will have severe economic problems if this problem isn't dealt with before a tragedy occurs over there.  This really bothers me. We tried to work with North Korea some time ago during the Clinton administration. We even had an agreement with them that they would stop their nuclear development program if we gave them some things, and we did. And what did they do? They lied and they went ahead with their program, and they are a nuclear power. They're using missiles that would be intercontinental in scope, testing them over the sea of Japan right now. And they've done that a number of times.
"So we have to worry about them. We have to worry about North Korea and what they're going to do next. Can you imagine what it will be like once Iran develops a nuclear weapons program? They are committed to destroying Israel. They are committed to forcing their view of religion and religious beliefs on much of the rest of the world, and it could be a real problem for us. They don't like America very much either. And so we have a myriad of problems facing us if we don't get on with putting as much pressure as possible on Iran and doing it right now.
"As we speak, they're developing their nuclear weapons program. They said they're going to let U.N. nuclear experts come in and police the area and see what they're doing. I don't believe that. I believe they will let us see one or two spots, but they're going to go on with their nuclear development program. We must put pressure on them now. We must put pressure on them immediately, because if we don't, we're toying with a major problem, a major economic problem for America as well as a possible holocaust in that part of the world in the very near future."
Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) 10/13/09
"Mr. Speaker, as the lead Republican sponsor of H.R. 1327, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, I rise in strong support and urge my colleagues to pass this bill...With Iranian uranium enrichment accelerating--and the recent disclosure of a secret uranium enrichment site at Qom--the window for effective diplomacy is starting to close. To avoid conflict, we must pass effective sanctions and provide our diplomats with greater leverage. H.R. 1327 is a good first step--but it cannot be the last. I urge Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Berman to move H.R. 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, to the floor for immediate consideration. This legislation, modeled after my Iran Sanctions Enhancement Act of 2007 and Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act of 2009, would extend current sanctions to companies that supply gasoline to Iran . Iran's dependence on foreign gasoline remains its greatest weakness--and offers the greatest hope for diplomacy to succeed.  In addition, the President must take steps to fully implement current law. The Iran Sanctions Act was enacted in 1996 as an important measure to deny Iran the resources to further its nuclear program and to support terrorist organizations. According to the law, a firm that invests more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector is determined to be a violator, and is subject to a range of sanctions. The Congressional Research Service has identified more than 20 firms that likely violate the Iran Sanctions Act. Nevertheless, no Administration has ever enforced this law. I urge my colleagues to sign the Kirk-Klein letter to President Obama urging him to enforce the Iran Sanctions Act without delay."

Iran was not the only Middle East-related issue to be used as a partisan weapon this week on the Hill.  On 10/14/09 Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, took to the House floor to (again) denounce the UN Human Rights Council and the Goldstone Report, but this time she also denounced the Obama Administration's response to the report.
ROS-LEHTINEN:  "Mr. Speaker, this week at the United Nations another assault is being launched on the democratic Jewish State of Israel, an assault that the United States must unequivocally oppose and defeat.  Predictably, this assault has its roots in the U.N.'s so-called ``Human Rights Council,'' an institution that has been hijacked by dictatorships and gross human rights violators.
"This past winter, in Operation Cast Lead, Israel defended its citizens--and its existence--against the actions of Hamas and other violent extremist groups in Gaza. The Human Rights Council responded by passing a resolution authorizing a so-called ``fact finding mission'' to investigate Operation Cast Lead. This mission's mandate had nothing to do with fact finding and everything to do with persecuting Israel for defending herself.  The mandate prejudged Israel's guilt, authorizing the mission to investigate only assumed human rights violations by Israel. The mandate did not include or even mention the thousands of rocket attacks and mortar attacks spanning 8 years by Hamas and other violent extremist groups in Gaza against civilian targets in southern Israel.
"Then, last month this so-called `'fact finding mission'' released its report. It's a 575-page collection of distortions and double standards. The report made baseless accusations that Israel's military had deliberately attacked civilians. The report disregarded extensive evidence that violent extremist groups in Gaza used civilians as human shields, operating from schools, from mosques, from hospitals. It ignored the Israeli military's extraordinary efforts to target its operations in order to minimize civilian casualties. It gave a free pass to the Iranian and the Syrian regimes, which provide material and financial assistance to Hamas and other murderous groups in Gaza.
"Finally, this report recommended further persecution of Israel through follow-up action by the U.N. Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and the International Criminal Court, among others. In fact, today, the Security Council met at the request of the Libyan regime and considered this very biased report.   Later this week, with the blessing of the U.N. Secretary General, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold a special session on this report. What will they do? They will pass yet another resolution condemning Israel, and only Israel.
"And what has the U.S. done in response to this anti-freedom onslaught? While acknowledging that the report and its mandate were biased, administration officials still claim that the report raised serious issues and should be considered seriously by that rogues gallery known as the Human Rights Council. Is this how the United States supports Israel and counters the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias that is present every day at the U.N.?
"We must recognize what is at stake here. If the democratic political and military leaders of Israel can be hauled before an unaccountable court for defending their nation against violent extremists in Gaza, then how long before U.S. officials and those of other NATO countries will face the same for defending our Nation against al Qaeda and other such threats? Ultimately, this report is an effort by the enemies of freedom to deprive democracies of the right of self-defense, making it open season for global jihadists to come after Israel or the U.S. and other free nations.
"As the leadership of the Simon Wiesenthal Center stated in a recent letter to our ambassador, Susan Rice, consideration of this report is a prescription for disaster not only for Israel, but for the United States and every country that fights violent extremism.    
"Mr. Speaker, we must oppose any effort to grant consideration or legitimacy in any forum to this irredeemably biased U.N. report. We must support the right of Israel, the right of the U.S., the right of all democracies to defend ourselves and our citizens.   Once again, Mr. Speaker, it is time for the U.S. to lead..."

In an astonishing display of anti-Muslim hysteria and bigotry, on 10/14/09 four Republican members of Congress -- Reps. Sue Myrick (R-NC), John Shadegg (R-AZ), Paul Broun (R-GA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) - launched (with a press conference) a very public anti-Muslim Congressional witch-hunt.  They demanded that the House Sergeant at Arms to investigate whether the non-profit organization CAIR - the Center for American-Islamic Relations - has "infiltrated" Capitol Hill with spies, in the guise of interns and staffers.  The "smoking gun" behind their accusations is an internal CAIR public relations strategy memo obtained by the son of an anti-Muslim activist who apparently, um, infiltrated CAIR (by getting an internship using a false name and under wholly false pretenses) in order to spy on the organization.  The memo is included in a newly published anti-Muslim book by P. David Gaubatz and Paul Sperry (Rep. Myrick wrote the foreword), entitled "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamize America."
In describing the memo, Politico commented, "the document basically lays out a fairly straight forward public relations and lobbying strategy..."  
Responding to the attack, CAIR's spokesman told Politico: "We would love to help people find jobs on Capitol Hill...There's a Muslim Staffer Association. Should they be investigated?"
The issue was covered brilliantly and in detail 10/15/09 on the Rachel Maddow show.
A group of Muslim-American comedians have quickly responded to the witch hunt with a hilarious video.

Media Matters reports on the author and publisher behind the book, as well as the unsurprisingly breathless and uncritical way that Fox News has reported the story.
Opponents of CAIR are quick to argue that CAIR is clearly tied to Muslim evil-doers.  Their best evidence is the fact that CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism case.  CAIR has strongly challenged its status as a co-conspirator.

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