Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Last week, the Obama Administration dealt with possible U.S. legal ramifications connected to the Egyptian military’s intervention on July 3 that led to the removal of Mohamed Morsi as the President of Egypt, specifically whether the intervention should be classified as a coup d’état. President Obama encouraged all political, military, and religious leaders in Egypt to remain engaged in dialogue and to commit to participating in a political process to hasten a return to a democratically elected civilian government. The President also called regional allies last week, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and spoke of the situation in Egypt. Citing national security interest, last week the State Department said the administration will maintain Egypt’s annual foreign assistance of $1.3 billion. U.S. Defense Department officials also said the Administration will proceed with the planned delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. Meanwhile, interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour appointed an interim Prime Minister, Hazem Beblawi, and laid out a “road map” for amending the country’s constitution and electing a new Parliament and President. The elections are slated to be held in six months.
Last week, U.S. lawmakers on the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate Intelligence Committees blocked the administration’s mid-June authorization of military aid to the Syrian opposition, citing the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist groups, such as the al-Nusra Front. Fresh off of a visit to the Middle East, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) urged the Administration to target Syrian “airfields, airplanes and massed military.” The Chairman, however, acknowledged U.S. citizens remain “dubious” about any new U.S. military actions abroad. On Wednesday, July 11, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Rosemary DiCarlo said about Syria and Iran’s bid to join the U.N. Human Rights Council: “In our view, attempts by either country to join the Human Rights Council are highly inappropriate, given the Human Rights Council’s existing mandates to investigate human rights violations in these countries, their egregious records on human rights, and their ongoing cooperation to suppress democratic aspirations in Syria.”
This week, EU High Representative Lady Catherine Ashton will host the P5+1 group. This will be the first time the group has met since the election of President-elect Hassan Rohani. Last week, Iranian Majlis Vice Speaker Mohammad-Reza Bahonar said President-elect Rohani will be sworn-in on August 4.
During the week of July 8, EU and U.S. negotiators met for the first round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Negotiators indicated the week-long discussions largely focused on technical issues, such as how to structure the chapters of a potential deal. While substantive issues were not discussed, trade officials met most frequently on the issue of investments, followed by labor and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. On Wednesday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) hosted a series of stakeholder engagement events to hear multiple perspectives from various U.S. sectors to better inform U.S. negotiating positions for the TTIP talks. The second round of TTIP negotiations is tentatively scheduled for October in Brussels.
On Monday, USTR immediately shifts to the next round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Last week, U.S. and Vietnamese TPP negotiators met to work toward a resolution of a critical disagreement over textile and apparel rules of origin. Also last week, a bipartisan group of 167 Congressmen sent USTR Michael Froman a letter urging U.S. negotiators to support strong textile rules in the TPP discussions, specifically citing concerns about positions taken by the Vietnamese government on this particular topic. TPP negotiations will continue until July 25.
This Thursday, USTR Froman will testify in Washington before the House Ways and Means Committee on President Obama’s trade policy agenda. Topics of discussion are likely to include: TPP, TTIP, Trade Promotion Authority, the expiring Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and renewing the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Early last week the media reported President Obama is increasingly considering a “zero option” for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that the option has always been on the table. During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hearing last week, Senators sought clarity on the Administration’s long-term policy goals for Afghanistan. SFRC Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) said the Administration needs “to look beyond Karzai – he is going to be gone in April – to look at our national interest, to make some decision with clarity and show some world leadership.” While Committee Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said Afghan President Hamid Karzai needs to decide whether there will be a long-term bilateral partnership, he also said: “The United States needs to make clear once again that we are committed to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan.”
Guantánamo Detention Center “GITMO”
On July 10, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called on President Obama to direct the Pentagon to at least observe at GITMO the protections required at U.S. Bureau of Prisons facilities. The Senators noted the Bureau of Prisons has guidelines and safeguards for force-feedings. This comes on the heels of the July 8 decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that rejected a legal bid by a GITMO detainee seeking to block his force feeding at the Detention Center during the Ramadan holiday. The judge noted that while the Court lacks jurisdiction over claims relating to the treatment of detainees at GITMO, the President is not similarly constrained, citing his title of Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. As of July 8, the Pentagon deemed 106 of the 166 detainees at GITMO were on hunger strikes, with 45 of those being force-fed.
Last week, President Obama announced his intention to nominate the following individuals to be U.S. Ambassadors: John Hoover (Sierra Leone); Mark Childress (Tanzania); John Phillips (Italy and San Marino); Carlos Moreno (Belize); and Crystal Nix-Hines to be the U.S. Representative to UNESCO (Ambassadorial rank). The President also announced: Tom Malinowski to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Evan Ryan to be Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs; Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy (Retired), to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment; and Wanda Felton to be First Vice President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, July 16: The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a hearing on “S. 980, The Embassy Security and Personnel Protection Act of 2013.”
- Wednesday, July 17: The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a hearing on “The Nomination of Ms. Samantha Power to be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations.”
- Wednesday, July 17: The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs will hold an oversight hearing on “Why Should Americans Have to Comply with the Laws of Foreign Nations?”
- Wednesday, July 17: The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on “Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy,” with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, July 18: The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress,” with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, July 18: The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on “President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda,” with USTR Froman scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, July 18: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism will hold a hearing on “Al-Qaeda Future Challenges.”
- Thursday, July 18: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Benghazi: Progress on State Department Accountability?”
- Thursday, July 18: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa will hold a hearing on “Is There an African Resource Curse?”
- Thursday, July 18: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies will hold a hearing on “Oversight of Executive Order 13636 and Development of the Cybersecurity Framework.”