Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Update
Last week, Senate Appropriations Committee members added a provision in the Senate FY 2014 State-Foreign Operations spending bill that seeks to sanction any nation that grants asylum to Edward Snowden, a former U.S. contractor facing felony charges in the U.S. for having leaked U.S. surveillance secrets. Meanwhile, after a month of staying in the transit area of Moscow’s international airport, the Russian Ministry of Immigration issued Snowden a document last week that will enable him to leave Sheremetyevo Airport and temporarily stay in Russia.
By a vote of 23-7, the Committee advanced its $50.6 billion spending measure for the State Department, with $6.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The House appropriations bill is $10 billion less at $40.6 billion. Similar to the House, the Senate bill did not alter the existing language that blocks foreign aid to governments that have undergone a coup d’état. The Senate bill will, however, incrementally condition military aid to Egypt based on four good-governance requirements, which can be waived by the President. Additionally, in response to reports Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government is imposing taxes on the transport of U.S. property out of Afghanistan, the Senate bill includes a provision that will withhold $5 in foreign aid for every dollar in fines Afghanistan imposes. The Senate bill also includes State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chair Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) amendment to allow U.S. funding for the International Criminal Court to pursue Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army; Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir; and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week the death toll in Syria’s civil war has now exceeded 100,000, and called for urgent talks to end the 2.5-year civil war. While tension is increasing with the U.S. and Russia over Snowden, Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that he has spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and both countries remain committed to convening a peace conference in Geneva. Meanwhile, the Senate and House Intelligence Committees reversed course last week and declined to block the Obama Administration’s plan to arm rebels in Syria. While lawmakers are still expressing reservations, few details of their objections have publicly been aired because the Administration’s plan apparently involves covert arms shipments to the rebels. Last week a U.N. investigation team arrived in Damascus seeking full access to fully investigate the allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria. This Wednesday, July 31, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East will examine the nexus between Iran and Syria and implications for the region.
Last Thursday, July 25, the 18th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) concluded in Malaysia. Chief negotiators announced procedural steps for advancing the negotiations, including a “work program” to accelerate market access talks on agricultural, industrial, and textile and apparel goods. Some of the more difficult topics that remain to be advanced include chapters on rules of origin for apparel, intellectual property rights related to pharmaceuticals, and state-owned enterprises. Meanwhile, Japan formally entered the negotiations last Tuesday, July 23, and noted it may reopen chapters already closed. Sources have shared that the TPP negotiators have the goal of closing technical work in all chapters at the end of the next round in order to provide deliverables for leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in October. The 19th round of TPP negotiations is scheduled for August 22-30 in Brunei. This Thursday, August 1, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Trade will hold a hearing on TPP, its outlook and opportunities.
Last week, President Obama hosted Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and announced the formation of a U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership. The Partnership will provide a framework for broad discussion and cooperation on political, education, science and technology, security, environment and health, and trade matters – including TPP.
With respect to renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), House Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) signaled last week that the fast-track authority legislation is in the early stages of being drafted. The Ranking Member noted that the TPA bill will need to address two issues: (1) strengthen the role of Congress in developing trade deals in order to help build broader bipartisan support, and (2) provide for a broader legislative strategy that addresses the challenges of globalization and strengthens U.S. competitiveness. The Ranking Member also favors addressing currency manipulation by U.S. trading partners. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has already indicated that renewal of TPA should also include renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). This Wednesday, July 31, the Congressional deadline for renewing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program will pass.
During the August Congressional recess, the Ethiopian Government will host the 2013 AGOA Forum on August 12-13. The theme of this year’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum is “Sustainable Transformation through Trade and Technology.”
Spanish Rail Tragedy
Last Thursday, July 25, President Obama offered sympathy and condolences to the families of those 78 people, including one U.S. citizen, who lost their lives when a high-speed train derailed in Spain. The President also expressed thanks to the Government of Spain and rescue personnel for assisting the five injured U.S. citizens and offered to provide U.S. assistance.
White House Visit
This Thursday, August 1, President Obama will host Yemeni President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi at the White House. The White House shared that President Obama looks forward to discussing U.S. efforts to enhance democratic governance and support economic development in Yemen, strengthening the counter-terrorism partnership, and enabling the return of Yemeni detainees at the Guantánamo Detention Center who have been designated for transfer.
Middle East Peace Talks
While Secretary Kerry announced that Middle East Peace Talks will resume soon, the State Department has yet to confirm a date for when all the parties are expected to meet in Washington.
Last week, President Obama announced his intention to nominate the following individuals to be U.S. Ambassadors: Donald Lu (Albania); Robert Sherman (Portugal); and Caroline Kennedy (Japan). Others nominated included: Marcel Lettre to be Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Robert Simon to be the Associate Director for Energy and Environment at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the nomination of Samantha Power to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. This week, the Senate Committee will hold confirmation hearings for several nominees (See This Week’s Hearings below for more details).
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, July 30: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to consider the nomination of Joseph Yun to be the Ambassador to Malaysia.
- Tuesday, July 30: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Steve Linick to be Inspector General of the State Department and Daniel Sepulveda to be Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Communications and Information Policy. The hearing will include the following nominees to be U.S. Ambassadors: David Hale (Lebanon); Matthew Winthrop Barzun (United Kingdom); Liliana Ayalde (Brazil); and Kirk W.B. Wagar (Singapore).
- Wednesday, July 31: The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs will hold a hearing to examine “Where is Turkey Headed? Gezi Park, Taksim Square, and the Future of the Turkish Model.” The Administration is not scheduled to testify.
- Wednesday, July 31: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East will hold a hearing on “The Iran-Syria Nexus and its Implications for the Region.” The Administration is not scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, August 1: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Trade will hold a hearing on “The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Outlook and Opportunities.” The Administration is not scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, August 1: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on the Middle East and the Western Hemisphere will hold a joint hearing on “Examining the State Department’s Report on Iranian Presence in the Western Hemisphere 19 Years after the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Attack.” The Administration is not scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, August 1: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health will examine “The Impact of U.S. Water Programs on Global Health.” Testifying from the Administration is Global Water Coordinator Christian Holmes from USAID, and Special Coordinator for Water Resources Aaron Salzberg from the State Department.