Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Last Thursday, September 26, the five permanent members of the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council finalized a resolution that stipulates the Syrian government must abide by the terms or the Security Council will take measures under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. Such measures could include economic sanctions or military action. The 15-member Security Council approved the legally-binding resolution the next day.
The Washington Post reported last week that 11 of the largest armed Syrian rebel factions aligned with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra – a U.S.-designated terrorist organization – and formed a group dubbed the “Islamist Alliance.” Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the moderate Supreme Military Council, cut short a visit to Paris after the announcement of the alliance to try and persuade the factions to reconsider. The new alliance, if it holds, could jeopardize the delivery of U.S. weapons to rebel groups.
President Barack Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly on September 24 and said the United States and Iran could start down a “long road towards a different relationship — one based on mutual interest and respect.” Before the General Assembly session on nuclear disarmament last Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for the global eradication of nuclear arms, saying
“there are no right hands for these wrong weapons.”
That same day, Secretary of State John Kerry participated in the P5+1 Talks with Iran, welcoming the meeting as constructive but stating unanswered questions remain.
On Friday, September 27, President Obama spoke with President Rouhani, noting this is the first direct communication between a U.S. and Iranian President since 1979. He said “success is by no means guaranteed,” but expressed belief that a comprehensive solution can be reached on Iran’s nuclear program. President Obama acknowledged President Rouhani’s U.N. statements and highlighted Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.
U.N. General Assembly
In remarks before the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama spoke about the U.S. shift away from “perpetual war footing” and noted the international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan next year. He highlighted some global trends facing the international community – increased sectarian conflict and possible proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. President Obama outlined U.S. policy for the Middle East and North Africa, saying the United States will:
- “[C]onfront external aggression” against U.S. allies and partners;
- Ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world;
- Dismantle terrorist networks that threaten U.S. citizens; and
- Pursue a nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction agenda.
The President reaffirmed the U.S. security commitment to Israel as well as the U.S. position that “the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state.”
President Obama warned,
“the danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries or to take on every problem in the region as its own. The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war … may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.”
However, he stated,
“when America’s core interests are not directly threatened, we stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights. But we cannot and should not bear that burden alone.”
This Saturday, October 5 through Monday, October 7, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit will be held in Bali, Indonesia. The leaders and trade ministers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries are expected to meet and provide an update on the ongoing TPP negotiations. In advance of the APEC Summit, the chief TPP negotiators will meet in Bali.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiators are preparing for the second round of the TTIP discussions, to be held October 7-11 in Brussels, Belgium. The negotiators are still trying to find common ground on the regulatory cooperation agenda. A U.S. priority is to negotiate rules that would be horizontal – or apply across sectors – and to increase transparency of the European Union rulemaking process. The European Commission approach is mutual recognition on existing regulations affecting specific industry sectors (i.e., automobiles and chemicals), in addition to horizontal obligations for regulators to discuss future rules.
International Arms Trade Treaty
Last week, Secretary Kerry signed the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. The U.S. Senate has not ratified the treaty and it is not expected to do so. Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) warned in a letter to Secretary Kerry the treaty will be rejected.
Budget and the Debt Ceiling Debate
With a government shutdown imminent, the Senate passed its modified version of the continuing resolution (CR) on Friday, September 27. The Senate version changed the expiration date from December 15 to November 15 and removed the House Republican language that defunded the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill returned to the House over the weekend, where Republicans further amended the CR. The House changed the expiration date back to December 15 and added a provision to delay implementation of the ACA by a year, returning the bill to the Senate. President Barack Obama said he will veto the latest House CR. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the Senate will reject the bill when it convenes at 2:00 pm today. Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 expires at midnight.
Early Sunday morning, September 29, the House also approved H.R. 2848, the Department of State Operations and Embassy Security Authorization Act for FY 2014; and H.R. 3210, a bill to continue appropriations for military pay in the event of a government shutdown.
Congress will next have to address the debt ceiling. Last week, Secretary of the Treasury (Treasury) Jacob Lew informed Congress that measures to avoid breaching the debt ceiling will be exhausted by October 17. The Congressional Budget Office reported Treasury will likely use up its cash balance October 22-31.
Last week, President Obama announced his intention to nominate the following individuals: Catherine Ann Novelli to be Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment; Dana Hyde to be Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation; and Mark Lopes to be U.S. Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, October 1: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to review: (1) S. Res. 227 (Rescue of Danish Jews), (2) S. Res. 213 (Democracy in Venezuela), and (3) S. 1545 (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). The committee will also vote on Caroline Kennedy’s nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
- Tuesday, October 1: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Human Rights will hold a hearing on “Human Rights Abuses in Egypt.”
- Wednesday, October 2: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will mark-up H.R.___, Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013.
- Wednesday, October 2: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Al-Shababb: How Great a Threat?”
- Wednesday, October 2: The Senate Banking Subcommittee on Economic Policy will hold a hearing on “Rebuilding American Manufacturing.”
- Thursday, October 3: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold confirmation hearings for the following U.S. Ambassador-nominees: James Brewster (Dominican Republic); Brian Nichols (Peru); and Carlos Roberto Moreno (Belize)