Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Over the weekend, the White House welcomed the news that the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted a multilateral trade facilitation deal reached in Bali, Indonesia. The United States and India compromised on food subsidies, and a Latin American bloc led by Cuba dropped its opposition to an agreement. At a press conference, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke said:
“Our analysis of the trade facilitation agreement is it can be effectuated through administrative means and would not require [U.S. Congress] legislation to put it into force.”
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators also convened this past weekend to try and strike a basic agreement by the year’s end. The TPP negotiators are set to conclude their meeting in Singapore on Tuesday.
The Senate returns to Washington this afternoon and is scheduled to resume its floor debate on the Fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) ( S.1197). With the House scheduled to recess for the year on Friday, December 13, top Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have been working on a scaled-back NDAA bill to ensure its passage this month.
Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) may release a measure yet this year that would launch sanctions on Iran if it fails to abide by the terms of the interim six-month pause in its nuclear program that it agreed to in Geneva last month. The Senate measure is not expected to advance this year, given the House is scheduled to recess this Friday for the rest of the year. On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Iran nuclear deal.
In a letter last week to President Barack Obama, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) said:
“The United States would need to engage in prudent military planning for the possibility that the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement] is not signed until next April, or the possibility that the BSA is not signed at all, in which latter case all U.S. troops would have to be pulled out of Afghanistan.”
The Chairman favors working with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s successor on signing the BSA. The Afghan presidential election is scheduled for April 5, 2014. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine the transition in Afghanistan, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a similar hearing the next day.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will attend a Johannesburg memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela on Tuesday.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Monday, December 9: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere will hold a field hearing in Tucson, Arizona, titled, “Improving Security and Facilitating Commerce with Mexico at America’s Southern Border.”
- Tuesday, December 10: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, “The Transition in Afghanistan”
- Tuesday, December 10: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled, “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Does It Further U.S. National Security?” Secretary Kerry is scheduled to testify.
- Tuesday, December 10: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Africa and on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a joint subcommittee hearing titled, “Human Rights Abuses in Egypt.”
- Wednesday, December 11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the following individuals: (1) Catherine Ann Novelli to be Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy & Environment; (2) Charles Rivkin to be Assistant Secretary of State for Economic & Business Affairs; (3) Tina S. Kaidanow to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism; (4) Michael A. Hammer to be U.S. Ambassador to Chile; (5) Mr. Kevin Whitaker to be U.S. Ambassador to Colombia; and (6) Mr. Bruce Heyman to be U.S. Ambassador to Canada.
- Wednesday, December 11: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Afghanistan 2014: Year of Transition.”
- Wednesday, December 11: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a mark-up hearing on (1) H. Res. 418, a resolution focused on the persecution of the Rohingya people in Burma, and (2) H. Res. 281, a resolution focused on organ harvesting in China.
- Wednesday, December 11: The Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness will hold a hearing titled, “The Digital Trade Agenda.”
- Wednesday, December 11: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight will hold a hearing titled, “A More Efficient and Effective Government: Streamlining Overseas Trade and Development Agencies.”
- Thursday, December 12: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Africa and on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a joint subcommittee hearing titled, “Iran’s Persecution of American Pastor Abedini Worsens.”