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APN Legislative Round-Up - May 16, 2008

I. Bills and Resolutions; II. FY08 and FY09 Supplemental (HR 2642); III. 52 Members Sign Price-LaHood Letter; IV. Legislating Israel's "Qualitative Military Edge" (HR 5916); V. Dear Colleagues and Letters; VI. Israel at 60 Tributes Continue; VII. House Delegation Headed to Israel

...for the week ending May 16, 2008

I.   Bills and Resolutions
II.   FY08 and FY09 Supplemental (HR 2642)
III.  52 Members Sign Price-LaHood Letter
IV.  Legislating Israel's "Qualitative Military Edge" (HR 5916)
V.  Dear Colleagues and Letters
VI.  Israel at 60 Tributes Continue
VII. House Delegation Headed to Israel


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I. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(AID FOR WEST BANK AND JORDAN) HR 2642: Introduced 6/11/07 by Rep. Edwards (D-TX), "Making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes." (Note: Some provisions of HR 2642 were incorporated into HR 2764, the FY08 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed on 12/17/07 and later signed into law by the President. An analysis of all Middle East-related provisions in that bill was included in the 12/18/07 edition of the Round-Up.) On 5/15/08 HR 2642 was brought to the House floor for debate and subsequently voted on in three separate sections. Section Three included aid FY08 and FY09 aid to Jordan and the West Bank, and passed by a roll call vote of 256 - 166. For details, see section II, below.

(LEBANON) H. Res. 1201: Introduced 5/15/08 by Rep. Israel (D-NY) and 17 cosponsors, " Expressing the grave concern of the House of Representatives for Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran's continued actions to undermine the legitimate Lebanese Government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, and their systematic violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, 1701, and 1747." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(SAUDI ARABIA) S. J. Res. 32: Introduced 5/13/08 by Sen. Schumer (D-NY) and four cosponsors, "limiting the issuance of a letter of offer with respect to a certain proposed sale of defense articles and defense services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under Read the First Time.

(FOREIGN AID) HR 6026: Introduced 5/13/08 by Rep. Lewis (R-CA) and 28 cosponsors, "Making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes." Referred to the Appropriations Committee and the Budget Committee.

(ISRAEL MILITARY RELATIONSHIP) HR 5916: Introduced 4/29/08 by Rep. Berman (D-CA) and currently having four cosponsors, "The Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act of 2008." 5/15/2008 Passed/agreed to in House under suspension of the rules by a voice vote. See section III, below, for details of Israel-related provisions.

(LEBANON) H. Res. 1194: Introduced 5/14/08 by Rep. Berman (D-CA) and three cosponsors, "Reaffirming the support of the House of Representatives for the legitimate, democratically-elected Government of Lebanon under Prime Minister Fouad Siniora." The resolution condemns Hizballah, Syria, and Iran. Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(ANTI-SEMITISM) H. J. Res. 84: Introduced 5/14/08 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and three cosponsors, "Expressing the commitment of Congress to continue to make it a priority to fight anti-Semitism and to promote tolerance at home and abroad." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(IRAN-RUSSIA TIES) H. J. Res. 85: Introduced 5/14/08 by Rep. Markey (D-MA) and no cosponsors, "Expressing the disfavor of the Congress regarding the proposed agreement for cooperation." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The referenced agreement is the proposed Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation for Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (also known as a 123 Agreement, after the relevant section of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954), transmitted by the President to Congress on 5/13/08 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/05/20080513-1.html). For details of the Iran-related controversy over this agreement, see the 5/2/08 edition of the Round-Up, and see: http://irannuclearwatch.blogspot.com/2008/05/more-on-123-russian-nuclear-agreement.html

(IRAN) HR 5658: Introduced 3/31/08 by Reps. Skelton (D-MO) and Duncan (R-TN), "To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2009 for military activities of the Department of Defense, to prescribe military personnel strengths for fiscal year 2009, and for other purposes." On 5/14/08 the House Armed Services held a marathon mark-up of the bill (which lasted more than 17 hours, ending around 2am on 5/15/08). The mark-up included significant discussion or Iran policy, including debate over the Iranian nuclear threat to Europe and appropriate funding for European missile defense. Second, and much more controversial, was the discussion and debate surrounding an amendment offered by Rep. Franks (R-AZ) requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) to prepare and maintain plans for an Iran military option, and requiring extensive reporting to Congress on Iran's nuclear program. The Franks amendment was subsequently amended via a substitute amendment offered by Rep. Reyes (D-TX), and a perfecting amendment (to the Reyes amendment) offered by Rep. Hunter (R-CA).  All three amendments were adopted by voice vote. As of this writing, HR 5658 has not been reported out of Committee (i.e., the amended text is not yet available). For an extensive discussion of the mark-up and debate, see: http://irannuclearwatch.blogspot.com/2008/05/hasc-passes-iran-amendment-to-defense.html. For the Committee summary of the bill (as passed by the full Committee) see: http://armedservices.house.gov/pdfs/fy09ndaa/FINAL051508.pdf.  Debate over the Franks amendment and the subsequent perfecting amendments can be viewed online at http://www.house.gov/hasc/ (Part VII, 2:59:16-3:32:45).


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II.  FY08 AND FY09 SUPPLEMENTAL (HR 2642)
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As noted above, on 5/15/08 the House passed part Three of HR 2642, "Making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes." This section includes supplemental funding for FY08 and FY09 for the Middle East, as follows (along with language from the accompanying explanatory text):

Fiscal Year 2008 Supplemental Appropriations for the Middle East -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

West Bank:

>>>$100 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) Explanation: "The amended bill includes not more than $100,000,000 for economic assistance for the West Bank, which is $95,000,000 below the request. The Administration has an unobligated balance of $120,000,000 for economic assistance for the West Bank from funds appropriated in prior acts. The additional sums appropriated in this Act will provide sufficient resources to continue programs for an additional year at the current rate of expenditure. The Department of State is directed to provide a report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act on how United States economic assistance for the West Bank supports the larger Palestinian Reform and Development Plan as well as a description of other donor support of this plan. The report should describe how assistance from the United States and other donors will improve conditions in the West Bank, including through job creation and housing programs." >>>$25 million in funding for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) Explanation: "The amended bill includes $25,000,000 for ongoing training of vetted units of the Palestinian National Security Forces, which is the same as the request."

Jordan: >>>$150 million in ESF Explanation: "The amended bill includes $150,000,000 for economic assistance to Jordan, which is $150,000,000 above the request. The government of Jordan remains a key ally and has played a leading role in supporting peace initiatives in the Middle East. Programming of these resources should be done in consultation with the Government of Jordan and refugee relief organizations and should be used to meet the needs of Iraqi refugees."

Fiscal Year 2009 Supplemental Appropriations for the Middle East -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

West Bank:  >>>$150 million in ESF (no explanatory language included) >>>Unspecified amount of INCLE Explanation: "The amended bill includes $204,500,000 for International Narcotics Control andLaw Enforcement activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, the West Bank, Mexico, and Africa."

Jordan: >>>$100 million in ESF (no explanatory language included) >>>$100 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) (no explanatory language included)


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III. 52 MEMBERS SIGN PRICE-LAHOOD LETTER
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As reported in last week's Round-Up, on 5/7/08 Reps. Price (D-NC) and LaHood (R-IL) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosigners on a letter to President Bush regarding his efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace. The letter was strongly supported by Americans for Peace Now, as well as by other groups, including Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Churches for Middle East Peace, the Arab American Institute, and J Street.

The letter, which was sent to the President this week, attracted 52 signers, including both Democrats and Republicans. The full text of the letter was included in last week's Round-Up, or can be read at: http://www.peacenow.org/roundup.asp?rid=&cid=4893. The final list of signers is copied below.

On 5/14/08, APN issued a press release applauding Price and LaHood for their letter. The press release stated: "Praising Congressmen Price and LaHood for their initiative, APN President and CEO, Debra DeLee said: "We are pleased that House members are keeping their eyes on the ball. President Bush's trip to Israel to celebrate its 60th anniversary is commendable, but in order for it to be fruitful, the President should follow the letter's advice. We applaud Reps. Price and LaHood on their leadership and thank the many others who signed the letter."

1. Baird (D-WA) 2. Baldwin (D-WI) 3. Blumenauer (D-OR) 4. Boswell (D-IA) 5. Bordallo (D-Guam) 6. Boustany (R-LA) 7. Buyer (R-IN) 8. Capps (D-CA) 9. Capuano (D-MA) 10. Carney (D-PA) 11. Coble (R-NC) 12. Conyers (D-MI) 13. Davis, Susan (D-CA) 14. DeFazio (D-OR) 15. Doggett (D-TX) 16. Doyle (D-PA) 17. Ellison (D-MN) 18. Faleomavaega (D-AS) 19. Farr (D-CA) 20. Fattah (D-PA) 21. Gilchrest (R-MD) 22. Gonzales (D-TX) 23. Hinchey (D-NY) 24. Holt (D-NJ) 25. Issa (R-CA) 26. Jones (D-OH) 27. Kaptur (D-OH) 28. Kucinich (D-OH) 29. LaHood (R-IL) 30. Lee (D-CA) 31. Lynch (D-MA) 32. Markey (D-MA) 33. McCollum (D-MN) 34. McDermott (D-WA) 35. McGovern (D-MA) 36. Michaud (D-ME) 37. Miller, Brad (D-NC) 38. Moore, Gwen (D-WI) 39. Moran, Jim (D-VA) 40. Oberstar (D-MN) 41. Olver (D-MA) 42. Payne (D-NJ) 43. Price (D-NC) 44. Rahall (D-WV) 45. Rangel (D-NY) 46. Rodriguez (D-TX) 47. Smith (D-WA) 48. Stark (D-CA) 49. Tierney (D-MA) 50. Wamp (R-TN) 51. Watt (D-NC) 52. Welch (D-VT)


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IV. LEGISLATING ISRAEL'S "QUALITATIVE MILITARY EDGE" (HR 5916)
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On 4/29/08 House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Berman (D-CA) introduced HR 5916, "The Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act of 2008." The bill was considered on the House floor on 5/13/08, but due to the absence of a quorum it was not passed that day. It was considered again on 5/15/08, when it was passed under suspension of the rules by a voice vote. 

Notwithstanding the generic title, the bill focuses extensively on the U.S.-Israel relationship -- so much so that the Congressional Budget Office's summary of the bill, included in the bill's report, begins with the statement "H.R. 5916 would authorize security assistance for Israel and other countries." The measure was also strongly supported by AIPAC, which on 5/13/08 sent a letter to all House offices stating that "this important legislation will ensure Israel's ability to defend itself.reassertion of America's commitment to Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME) is vital. This legislation creates a process to ensure the unchallenged continuation of the QME.authorization for the coming year's security assistance to Israel and support for the new ten-year U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Memorandum of Understanding could not come at a more important time."

Key Israel-related provisions of the bill are contained in Title II of the bill, entitled "Security Assistance and Related Support for Israel," as follows:

Section 201, entitled "Assessment of Israel's qualitative military edge over military threats," would make it U.S. law that arms sales to other countries in the Middle East be conditioned on their not undermining Israel's QME. It requires the President to carry out an ongoing assessment of "the extent to which Israel possesses a qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel" and stipulates that this assessment "is used to inform the review by the United States of applications to sell defense articles and defense services.to countries in the Middle East." The section requires that "any certification relating to a proposed sale or export of defense articles or defense services under this section to any country in the Middle East other than Israel shall include a determination that the sale or export of the defense articles or defense services will not adversely affect Israel's qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel." The section also requires reporting to Congress of the initial assessment and then reporting every 4 years thereafter.

Sec. 202, entitled "Report on United States' commitments to the security of Israel," would require the President to share with Congress all information, classified and unclassified, relating to past and existing U.S. assurances to Israel regarding maintenance of Israel's QME, and a report assessing the extent to which and manner in which the U.S. has met and continues to fulfill these assurances. It would further require reporting to Congress within 15 days of any new assurances or revisions being conveyed, and subsequent reports every 5 years regarding all assurances and revisions.

Sec. 203, entitled "War Reserves Stockpile," would extends for an additional two years an existing provision of law (part of the 2005 Defense Appropriations bill), under which the President "may transfer to Israel, in exchange for concessions to be negotiated by the Secretary of Defense, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State" armor, artillery, automatic weapons ammunition, missiles, and other munitions that are deemed either, "obsolete or surplus items" or "are in the inventory of the Department of Defense" or "are intended for use as reserve stocks for Israel" or "are located in a stockpile in Israel." It would extend for an additional two years an existing provision of law (part of Foreign Assistance of 1961, as amended) stipulating the maximum value of war reserve stockpiles in foreign countries.

Sec. 204, entitled "Implementation of Memorandum of Understanding with Israel," authorizes military aid to Israel (FMF) on a grant basis for FY2009 in the same amount as specified for FY2008, plus $150 million (as agreed on in the new Israel-U.S. MOU). It also stipulates that of these funds, "not less than $670,650,000 shall be available for the procurement in Israel of defense articles and defense services, including research and development." It also stipulates that funds shall be disburse within 30 days of the enactment of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill or by 10/31/08, whichever comes later. [In effect, this section takes the place of the Israel-related provisions in the Foreign Operations Authorization bill.]

Sec. 205, entitled "Definitions," stipulates that "qualitative military edge" means "the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors."

On the House floor 5/13/08, Chairman Berman explained the importance of Congress legislating protection of Israel's QME, noting: ".in order to address recent major sales of defense articles and services to countries in the Middle East [probably a reference to planned weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries], the bill insures that Israel will maintain its qualitative military edge against whatever security threats it may face, codifying this important principle into law for the first time." Berman also noted that the bill "authorizes the security assistance to Israel, including implementing the recent U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Security Assistance. It's only fitting that as Israel commemorates the 60th anniversary of its founding, the United States renews and strengthens its relationship with our most important friend in the region. Israel is a democratic island of stability in a sea of chaos, chaos which we continue to see just this week this neighboring Lebanon. It deserves all the support we can muster."


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V. DEAR COLLEAGUES AND LETTERS
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Israel Missile Defense: On 5/5/08 Reps. Kirk (R-IL) and Harman (D-CA) sent a letter to President Bush urging him to "put the full weight of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system behind our democratic ally" Israel. The letter urged the President to "worth with the Government of Israel to install an upgraded U.S. BMD ground-based warning radar site in Israel that is fully integrated with the U.S. BMD architecture." The letter reportedly was signed by around 70 House members.

Russia-Iran: On 5/7/08 Reps. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Stupak (D-MI), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent a letter to President Bush expressing their concern about the upcoming Agreement for Cooperation Regarding the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy (the 123 Agreement) between Russia and the U.S. The letter raises concerns about Russia's relations with Iran and notes that last year the House passed HR 1400 (the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007), which specifically bars such cooperative agreements unless the President certifies that Iran has stopped trying to acquire nuclear weapons, or that the country in question has terminated assistance to that country.


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VI. TRIBUTES TO ISRAEL AT 60 CONTINUE
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House:

Bachmann (R-MN)5/14/08 Dent (R-PA) 5/14/08 Emanuel (D-IL) 5/14/08 Hare (D-IL) 5/14/08 Holt (D-NJ) 5/14/08 Jones (D-OH) 5/14/08 Lipinski (D-IL) 5/14/08 Perlmutter (D-CO) 5/15/08 Sali (R-ID) 5/14/08 Sarbanes (D-MD) 5/15/08 Sessions (R-TX) 5/13/08 Sestak (D-PA) 5/14/08 Sutton (D-OH) 5/14/08 Tiahrt (R-KA) 5/14/08 Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) 5/14/08

Senate:

Barrasso (R-WY) 5/14/08 Cornyn (R-TX) 5/14/08 Johnson (D-SD) 5/12/08 McConnell (R-KY) 5/14/08 Mikulski (D-MD) 5/13/08 Snowe (R-ME) 5/14/08 Specter (R-PA) 5/14/08 Vitter (R-LA) 5/14/08


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VII. HOUSE DELEGATION HEADED TO ISRAEL
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Press release issued 5/15/08 by the office of House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA):

Pelosi, Hoyer, Putnam Lead Bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Israel

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam are leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Israel to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding.

"The creation of Israel stands out as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century and as a beacon of hope to the world," Speaker Pelosi said. "We pay tribute to the many people, who with pioneering spirits, brave determination, and deep commitment, made the modern state of Israel a reality."

The 13-Member delegation leaves today and will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres, Speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The group's first stop will be at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

The congressional delegation includes Pelosi, Hoyer, Putnam, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, Democratic Caucus Vice Chair John Larson, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, Rules Committee Ranking Member David Dreier, Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Gary Ackerman, Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Nita Lowey, Chairman of Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe Alcee Hastings, Homeland Security Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee Chair Jane Harman and Foreign Affairs Committee member Ron Klein.


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