To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

Legislative Round-Up - April 28, 2006

I. Update on Palestinian Sanctions II. Supplemental Update III. New Bills and Resolutions IV. Dear Colleagues V. On the Record on HR 4681 (McCollum)

...for the week ending April 28, 2006

I. Update on Palestinian Sanctions
II. Supplemental Update
III. New Bills and Resolutions
IV. Dear Colleagues
V. On the Record on HR 4681 (McCollum)

=========================================
I. UPDATE ON PALESTINIAN SANCTIONS BILLS =========================================

-------
General
-------
During the recess the Bush Administration pre-empted Congress to some extent, announcing new parameters for U.S. assistance to the Palestinians that include the curtailing of many programs and strictly limiting U.S. contacts and activities in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, the recess saw U.S. government actions to block private sector relations with the PA and PA- affiliated businesses or individuals, as well as to curb international banking activities in the West Bank and Gaza. It remains to be seen if the Administration's actions will take some of the air out of the already slow-moving Palestinian sanctions legislation (HR 4681 and S. 2370).

In any case, these measures are already being overtaken by must-pass legislation that will also address the issues of U.S. aid to the Palestinians and, potentially, other facets of the U.S.-Palestinian relationship ("must-pass" legislation refers to bills which must be passed into law or the government will not be able to function - e.g., appropriations bills, which must pass in order for the funds that keep the government going to flow). These are the FY06 Supplemental Appropriations bill (discussed in detail in the April 7th issue of the Round-Up), and the soon-to-be- introduced FY07 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which will undoubtedly contain Palestinian-related provisions (and is reportedly expected to be marked up in the House Appropriations Committee Foreign Operations Subcommittee before the Memorial Day recess).

Given the substantial differences between HR 4681 and S. 2370 - which will make arriving at a mutually acceptable joint version of the bills difficult - and given the fact that these are not "must-pass" legislation, there is a growing sense in Congress that HR 4681 and S. 2370 are unlikely to move beyond their respective chambers. In such a case, it seems likely that some elements of the bills will find their way into the ForOps bill - particularly since one of the primary co-sponsors of S. 2370, Sen. McConnell (R- KY), is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Foreign Operations Subcommittee. This speculation is bolstered by Sen. McConnell's recent move to add text from S. 2370 to the Supplemental (discussed below).

-------
HR 4681
-------
Congress returned to Washington on April 24th. While the bill was ordered reported out of the House International Relations Committee on April 6th, the Committee report has not yet been issued. Until the report is filed no further action on the measure can take place - although once it is filed, it can be (and probably will be) brought to a vote on the House floor under suspension of the rules in very short order.

While it is hypothetically still possible for Members to add their names as cosponsors (they can do so up until the report is issued), no new cosponsors have been added since April 6, leaving the total still at 271 (plus the primary sponsor, Rep. Ros- Lehtinen). This represents well over half of the House, but still less than the 2/3 majority (290) required to suspend the rules and pass the measure.

In addition, as noted in the April 7th issue of the Round-Up, two additional committees have jurisdiction over the measure, which when it was introduced was referred not only to the HIRC, but also to the Judiciary Committee and the House Financial Services Committee (which on March 31st referred it to the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology). For the measure to be brought to the House floor at this point, both of those Committees would have to first agree to waive jurisdiction.

-------
S. 2370
-------
There was no action this week with respect to S. 2370, other than the addition of 7 new cosponsors, bringing the current total to 86 (out of 100 members of the Senate). There is increasing speculation that the measure will not be brought to a vote at all, since it would be unlikely to pass by unanimous consent (given serious concerns about the text among many Senators) and there is a strong possibility that an effort to "fast track" the measure might be met by an anonymous "hold" (something all Senators have the ability to do). Bringing the measure to the floor for a full debate and roll call vote is also unattractive to many members and leaders.

While S. 2370 could still move forward at anytime, conventional wisdom is increasingly of the view that the arena of action for this measure is shifting to appropriations legislation. One indication of this latter trend is the effort by Sen. McConnell (R- KY), a primary cosponsor of S. 2370 and Chairman of the Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee, to insert some language from S. 2370 into HR 4939 (something he could have done, but did not, when that bill was being considered in the Appropriations Committee earlier this month). For more details, see Section II, below.


=============================
II. FY06 SUPPLEMENTAL UPDATE
=============================

On April 25th the Senate began debating HR 4939, the FY06 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill (for details of Senate Appropriations Committee actions related to this bill, please see the April 7th edition of the Round-Up).

On April 26th Sen. McConnell (R-KY), one of the primary cosponsors of S. 2370 and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced an amendment to HR 4939. The amendment (SA 3612 to HR 4939) mirrors text included in S. 2370, providing a "waiver" (not actually a waiver, but rather a limited, highly conditioned exception) to the ban on aid to the PA. The amendment had not yet been voted on as of this writing.

Under this "waiver," the President would have the authority to provide aid solely "with respect to the administrative and personal security costs of the Office of the President of the Palestinian Authority and for activities of the President of the Palestinian Authority to promote democracy and the rule of law." He can do so, however, only if he certifies that provision of such aid is in the national security interests of the U.S. and that the President of the PA and his party are "not affiliated with Hamas or any other foreign terrorist organization." He must also consult with Congress in advance of providing any such aid and provide "a written policy justification" for his actions.

In addition, on April 26th Sen. Santorum (R- PA) introduced an amendment to HR 4939 (SA 3640), seeking to insert Section 3 from S. 333, the "Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2005" into the bill. This is part of S. 333 which would authorize the President, notwithstanding any other provision of law, "notwithstanding any other provision of law, to provide financial and political assistance (including the award of grants) to foreign and domestic individuals, organizations, and entities that support democracy and the promotion of democracy in Iran." This language closely parallels in format and substance the text of "the Iraq Liberation Act" (PL 105-338). For details, see the January 21, 2005 edition of the Round-Up.


==============================
III. NEW BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
==============================

(IRAN) H.R.282: Introduced January 16, 2005, by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (and amassing 360 co- sponsors as of April 26th), "To hold the current regime in Iran accountable for its threatening behavior and to support a transition to democracy in Iran." Passed by the House under suspension of the rules by a vote of 397-21. For details of this measure (which some observers are calling "the Iran Liberation Act" based on its similarities to an earlier piece of legislation, "the Iraq Liberation Act") see the Jan. 21, 2005 edition of the Round-Up, or for a summary that includes related measures in the Senate and in the 108th Congress, see the Dec. 29, 2005 edition of the Round-Up.

(IRAN) H. Con. Res. 391: Introduced April 26th by Rep. DeFazio (D-OR) and 27 cosponsors, "Expressing the sense of Congress that the President should not initiate military action against Iran with respect to its nuclear program without first obtaining authorization from Congress." Referred to the House Committee on International Relations.

(IRAN) H. Res. 786: April 27th by Rep. Ryun (R-KS) and 6 cosponsors, "Condemning the recent election of the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations to the position of Vice- chair of the United Nations Disarmament Commission." Referred to the House Committee on International Relations.

(ISRAEL) H. Con. Res. 392: Introduced April 26th by Rep. Wilson (R-SC) and 86 cosponsors, "Recognizing the 58th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel." Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on International Relations.

(IRAN) H. Res. 782: Introduced April 26th by Rep. Wamp (R-TN) and 29 cosponsors, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United Nations Security Council should sanction Iran for its noncompliance with the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty." Referred to the House Committee on International Relations.

(IRAN) S.2657: Introduced April 26th by Sen. Santorum (R-PA) and one cosponsor, "A bill to extend the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996." Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

(IRAN) S. Res. 442: Introduced April 25th by Sen. Coleman (R-MN), "A resolution expressing the deep disappointment of the Senate with respect to the election of Iran to a leadership position in the United Nations Disarmament Commission and requesting the President to withhold funding to the United Nations unless credible reforms are made." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.


====================
IV. DEAR COLLEAGUES
====================

On April 27th Sen. Sununu (R-NH) sent out a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to Appropriations Committee Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman McConnell (R-KY) and ranking minority member Leahy (D- VT). The letter urges them to support the inclusion of $10 million in the FY07 ForOps Approps bill for a new "Middle East People- to-People Coexistence Program." The letter was spearheaded by the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP - see www.allmep.org for more details of this group). The letter mirrors a similar ALLMEP-led letter that was circulated in the House in March 2006, where it attracted 35 signers.


======================================
V. ON THE RECORD ON HR 4681 (MCCOLLUM) ======================================

The following is a statement submitted for the record by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) on April 27th. Rep. McCollum was one of only two members of the House International Relations Committee who voted against HR 4681 when the HIRC considered that bill on April 6th.

"Mr. Speaker, I would like to enter into the record my views on a bill that was marked-up in the International Relations Committee on April 6, 2006, H.R. 4681, The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to Chairman Henry Hyde for his wisdom and determined effort to temper H.R. 4681 to reflect the shared commitment of members of the U.S. House to ensure Israel's security, combat terrorism and work towards a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian people. Despite Chairman Hyde's noblest efforts, I unfortunately believe the substance of the legislation as put before the committee will not help the U.S. advance our vital interests in the Middle East and therefore I cannot support the bill in its current form.

"Among our colleagues in the U.S. House, there is unanimous intolerance and condemnation for the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority. The refusal of the political leadership of Hamas to recognize the State of Israel, renounce violence and terrorism, and agree to previous agreements and obligations of the Palestinian Authority is unacceptable and therefore they must be isolated by the international community. Congress should be extending our support for the Bush administration's current position of leading the international community to keep firm pressure on Hamas until they agree to an internationally recognized civilized standard of conduct. At the same time, Congress must work with the administration and the international community to avoid a serious humanitarian crisis among the Palestinian people.

"Unfortunately, instead of advancing the U.S. interests, H.R. 4681 does not recognize the three criteria set forth by President Bush for engagement with the U.S. H.R. 4681 sets an elevated threshold which will make engagement nearly impossible even if Hamas does agree to recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and agree to abide by all previous agreements. The policy outcome of H.R. 4681 would not only isolate Palestinian leaders who have been committed to advancing the peace process, have denounced terrorism and are working with Israel for a permanent two- state solution, it will result in the isolation of the U.S. among members of the international community that are working for a peaceful and just solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

"This bill also places extreme constraints on the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people which has the potential for very negative human consequences. Palestinian families and children must not be targeted for deprivation of their basic human needs, but instead treated in a fashion that reflects our values and the belief that their lives are valued. Non-governmental organizations (representing many of our faith communities) with significant experience delivering humanitarian assistance have expressed serious concerns regarding the lack of flexibility in H.R. 4681. An April 6, 2006 letter from the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops to Chairman Hyde expressing concerns regarding the substitute amendment to H.R. 4681 states, 'the legislation should provide for the urgent needs of the Palestinian people. A further deterioration of the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinian people compromises human dignity and serves the long term interests neither of Palestinians nor of Israelis who long for a just peace.'

"...In it present form, this bill will not allow NGOs to properly carry out the very assistance determined to be necessary by the Secretary of State. It would be my hope that this is not an attempt to intentionally make it prohibitively difficult for NGOs to fulfill their contracts, thus ensuring suffering and misery among the Palestinian people, but rather a failure in drafting the bill that can be remedied as the legislative process proceeds.

"The inclusion of the section of the bill targeting the United Nations agencies and programs, section 4, is very disappointing and clearly not intended to advance the peace process or the well-being of Israelis or Palestinians. The United Nations, as a member of the Quartet, has a vital role to play in ensuring humanitarian needs are met. To target a member of the Quartet in such a fashion is a clear sign that this bill is intended to undermine the Bush administration's multilateral leadership. This section has no positive effect on the policy goal stated in section 2 of the bill and will likely isolate the U.S. in the future. This entire section of the bill must be removed.

"There are other aspects of this bill which I disagree with because I believe they harm U.S. interests. Fortunately, some of my remaining concerns regarding the bill are appropriately addressed in S. 2370, as introduced in the U.S. Senate, which I feel provides the President appropriate flexibility to positively advance U.S. interests with regard to the Palestinian Authority and the peace process.

"Finally, my opposition to H.R. 4681 is based on policy grounds that reflect my support for a Middle East peace process which will ultimately yield security and freedom from terrorism for the people of Israel and a democratic, secure and peaceful Palestinian state. H.R. 4681, in its current form, will result in no greater security or opportunities for peace than exist today with current law and the administration's present policy course, but may in fact have the result of destabilizing the current situation while fueling a humanitarian crisis. It would be my hope that this legislation will be amended and improved as the process moves forward. Advancing this bill in its current form undermines U.S. interests, exacerbates a potential humanitarian crisis and has potential long- term negative consequences for the Israeli people and the Palestinians. In its current form, I must oppose H.R. 4681."


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