Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
The Senate is in session this week, while the House is in recess. The Obama Administration continues to urge the Senate to delay acting on new sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. This week, the P5+1 Talks with Iran resume in Geneva, Switzerland (November 7-8).
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed last week the Syrian Government met a deadline in the chemical weapons elimination program by destroying all its declared chemical weapon production facilities. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s (SFRC) hearing on Syria last week challenged the Obama Administration’s Syria policy. SFRC Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said,
“I just don’t get a sense that we have a strategy.”
Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) added,
“I think our help to the [Syrian] opposition has been an embarrassment.”
Meanwhile, media reports reflect foreign fighters increasingly being involved in the Syrian civil war. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is reported to be consolidating control in northeastern Syria. An Administration official confirmed an Israeli airstrike in Syria last week that apparently targeted missiles that could have been transferred to Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist group.
The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed 10 cases of polio among children in Syria last week, the first outbreak of the disease in that country since 1999. A WHO vaccination campaign was immediately launched to immunize 1.6 million Syrian children against polio, measles, mumps and rubella. The campaign extends to neighboring countries and is expected to last at least six months.
Intelligence and Surveillance
The House Intelligence Committee is expected to mark-up its legislation to address recent media disclosures about the National Security Agency (NSA) when the House returns the week of November 11. The committee is also expected to schedule a markup date on the FY 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said last week she would initiate a review of all U.S. intelligence programs. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) suggested a select committee instead be established to review U.S. surveillance programs. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) generally welcomed the review but noted an imbalance exists between obligations of keeping U.S. citizens safe and obligations to allies.
Last week, a Brazil and Germany-led draft U.N. resolution was submitted to the U.N. human rights committee that “affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular the right to privacy” and calls on members to uphold those rights. The committee is expected to discuss the draft resolution this week and vote on it in late November. If approved by the committee, the nonbinding U.N. resolution is expected to be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly in December.
European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding said last week in Washington there are no plans to cancel “Safe Harbor” – a U.S.-European Union (EU) framework that allows commercial data transfers across the Atlantic. Vice President Reding said the EU is examining the scope of what is allowed under the framework and how to better protect EU citizens’ data, with the review set to conclude this year. She reiterated EU concerns over the reported surveillance activities of the NSA.
House Republicans announced the formation the Friends of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Caucus last week. Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA), Charles Boustany (R-LA), Ron Kind (D-WI) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) co-chair the bipartisan congressional caucus, which aims to build support for the TPP negotiations. Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) reaffirmed his goal to unveil a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill and have Congress pass it this year. Rep. Boustany supports congressional approval of TPA and the conclusion of the TPP, but he said both may not happen until next year. The window is narrowing for congressional action on TPA before the end of the year. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman affirmed the goal of TPP countries is to conclude a deal this year. TPP trade ministers will meet in Singapore after the December 3-6 World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Bali, Indonesia.
Washington hosted the first-ever SelectUSA Investment Summit last week. President Obama addressed the Summit and announced the creation of coordinated, global teams led by U.S. ambassadors to actively work to bring investment and jobs to the United States. On October 30, the Treasury Department issued its Semi-Annual Report to Congress on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies.
Secretary of State Travel
November 3-11, Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Warsaw, Poland; Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Israel; Amman, Jordan; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Algiers, Algeria; and Rabat, Morocco. For more details on Secretary Kerry’s travel, clickable here.
Last week, the Treasury Department released updated technical guidance on how the United States will determine its support for overseas coal projects funded by multilateral development banks. Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs Lael Brainard said: “By encouraging the use of clean energy in multilateral development bank projects, we are furthering U.S. efforts to address the urgent challenges of climate change.”
This Week’s Hearings:
- Monday, November 4: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a field hearing in Fullerton, California, titled “Regional Perspectives in the Global Fight Against Human Trafficking.” Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Ambassador Luis CdeBaca is scheduled to testify.
- Tuesday, November 5: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
- Wednesday, November 6: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Carolyn Hessler Radelet to be Director of the Peace Corps; and Michael Carroll to be Inspector General, United States Agency for International Development.
- Thursday, November 7: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Heather Higginbottom to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources; Sarah Sewall to be Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights; and Richard Stengel to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy.