Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Last week, the United Nations released its inspectors’ report on the August 21 attack in Syria. The report did not place responsibility on any one side but clearly determined chemical weapons had been used. Secretary of State John Kerry said it offered “crucial details” that make the case implicating al-Assad “only … more compelling.” Syria and Russia countered that the Syrian rebels were responsible.
Ahead of the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly meeting, Secretary Kerry advocated for international action in Syria, saying
“the U.N. Security Council must be prepared to act.”
The U.N. Security Council met on Thursday, September 19 to discuss a resolution on Syria. The United States, Britain and France are advocating for the inclusion of language that threatens military action to ensure the Assad regime relinquishes its chemical weapons stockpiles to international control. Russian officials remain opposed to any wording in a resolution that could trigger the use of force.
On Friday, September 20, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention – reported it had received an “initial declaration” from Syria outlining its chemical weapons program. The list is currently being reviewed by the organization’s verification division.
U.N. General Assembly
This Tuesday, President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will address the U.N. General Assembly. Last week, Iranian authorities released 11 of Iran’s most prominent political prisoners. Also in advance of his trip to New York City, President Rouhani published an op-ed in The Washington Post calling for “constructive engagement.” With speculation high, it remains unclear whether the two Presidents will meet on the margins of the General Assembly.
On Tuesday, September 17, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called off the October 23 State Visit to Washington, citing anger over revelations the U.S. National Security Agency had spied on her and other Brazilian officials. President Rousseff reportedly plans to address spying at the U.N. General Assembly this week.
President Obama told the President’s Export Council last week that he needs Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to facilitate Congressional passage of trade agreements. He did not link TPA with renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has previously linked TPA passage with TAA renewal.
This week, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiating groups on financial services and environment will meet in Washington, D.C. On September 23-27, the rules of origin TPP negotiating group will meet in Ottawa, Canada. The TPP group negotiating intellectual property rights will meet in Mexico on September 23 to October 2. These intersessionals are being held to further advance the TPP negotiations before the October 7-8, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Bali, Indonesia.
On Friday, September 20, the House voted 230-189 to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government until December 15. The House CR includes provisions to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senate is expected to spend the bulk of this week amending the House CR. The House recess planned for this week was cancelled in anticipation that the two chambers could need to conference over their respective versions of the CR. In a warning to House Republicans, President Obama said he will veto any CR that seeks to defund the ACA.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, September 24: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the following nominees to be U.S. Ambassadors: Eunice Reddick (Niger); John Hoover (Sierra Leone); Michael Hoza (Cameroon); Mark Bradley Childress (Tanzania); Thomas Daughton (Namibia); Matthew Harrington (Lesotho); and Dwight Bush, Sr. (Morocco).
- Wednesday, September 25: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the following nominees to be U.S. Ambassadors: Philip Goldberg (Philippines); Robert Blake, Jr. (Indonesia); Karen Clark Stanton (Timor-Leste); and Amy Jane Hyatt (Palau).
- Wednesday, September 25: The Senate Banking Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance will hold a hearing titled “Assessing the Investment Climate and Improving Market Access in Financial Services in India.”
- Thursday, September 26: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the following nominees: Rose Eilene Gottemoeller to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Frank Rose to be Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance; and Adam Scheinman to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation (Ambassadorial rank).
- Thursday, September 26: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the following nominees to be U.S. Ambassadors: Timothy Broas (Netherlands); Donald Lu (Albania); and Robert Sherman (Portugal).
- Thursday, September 26: The House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere will hold a hearing titled “A Closer Look at Cuba and its Recent History of Proliferation.”