Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Secretary of State John Kerry joined the P5+1 Talks last Friday in Geneva, Switzerland. The Talks failed to reach an agreement this past weekend and are expected to resume at a lower level on November 20. At the conclusion of the Talks, Secretary Kerry said:
“There’s no question in my mind that we are closer now, as we leave Geneva, than when we came. It takes time to build confidence between countries that have really been at odds with each other for a long time now.”
Reports emerged the United States offered some sanctions relief at the Talks. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) opposes such action and is advocating legislation that would bar the Obama Administration from offering sanctions relief to Iran. Sen. Corker indicated he may offer an amendment of this nature to the Fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
This week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing that examines the recent P5+1 Talks and sanctions against Iran. The Senate Banking Committee is expected to markup the Senate’s new comprehensive Iran sanctions bill shortly.
The Fiscal 2014 NDAA (S.1197) is expected to come to the floor on Wednesday, November 13. Amendments concerning Iran sanctions, National Security Agency surveillance activities, Guantánamo Detention Center detainee transfers as well as nondefense policy issues can be expected.
At a United Nations (U.N.) request last week, Denmark expressed willingness to facilitate the transport the chemical weapons out of Syria. The weapons are not expected to be destroyed in Denmark.
U.S., Russian and U.N. diplomats continue to press for a second international peace conference in Geneva. On the ground in Syria, the opposition continues to fragment; children in Syria are facing malnutrition and a polio outbreak that may spread across the region and possibly beyond; and an influx of foreign fighters are complicating the civil war.
The rescheduled second round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) starts in Brussels this week (November 11-15). Services, investment, energy and raw materials, and regulatory issues are expected to be topics of discussion at the negotiations. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) said TTIP must resolve the “unscientific and unjustified barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, including beef and poulty.” A bipartisan group of nine senators, of which seven are members of the Senate Finance Committee, from apple and pear-producing states urged U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to address “the existing market access issues” for U.S. agriculture in the TTIP negotiations.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus continues to advocate for advancing a bill by the end of the year that will renew Trade Promotion Authority and Trade Adjustment Assistance. House Ways and Means Committee member Mike Thompson (D-CA) is reportedly collecting support for a letter that seeks increased transparency in ongoing trade negotiations, specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
President Barack Obama announced his intention last week to nominate Stefan Selig to be Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.
Intelligence and Surveillance
Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Charles McCullough III, responded last week to a September letter sent from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and nine other lawmakers saying his office could not undertake a review of the National Security Agency’s data collection programs. He cited resource constraints. Chairman Leahy is expected to hold a full committee hearing on November 20 to examine the surveillance programs. This Wednesday, November 13, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law will hold a hearing on surveillance transparency.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Wednesday, November 13: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Examining Nuclear Negotiations: Iran after Rouhani’s First 100 Days.”
- Wednesday, November 13: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Africa and Terrorism will hold a joint hearing titled “The Continuing Threat of Boko Haram.”
- Wednesday, November 13: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing titled “U.S. Foreign Policy toward Iraq.”
- Wednesday, November 13: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to review S. 1271 – the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 – and the following nominations: Daniel Yohannes to be the U.S. Representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Anthony Gardner to be the U.S. Representative to the European Union; and Amy Jane Hyatt to be U.S. Ambassador to Palau.
- Wednesday, November 13: The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law will hold a hearing titled “The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.”
- Wednesday, November 13: The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing titled “What is Central about Central Banking? A Study of International Models.”
- Thursday, November 14: The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs will hold a hearing titled “A Pivotal Moment for the Eastern Partnership: Outlook for Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.”
- Thursday, November 14: The Senate Banking Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Janet Yellen to be Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.