NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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President Barack Obama signed a strong Iran sanctions bill into law on July 1. Leaders from both parties attended the signing ceremony in the White House.
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Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) helped ensure that Iran sanctions legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) worked together to pass a number of important pieces of legislation.

A Legislative Look Back at 2010

Through comprehensive Iran sanctions, key congressional resolutions and letters to the president, the House and Senate helped strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship in 2010. Here are a few of the many important legislative developments from the past year in Congress:

February 11: The Senate passed a resolution (S. Res. 415) by unanimous consent that calls for a renewed focus on Iran’s human rights violations and its oppression of its own people. The resolution was sponsored by Sens. Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and John McCain (R-AZ).

March-April: A bipartisan group of 76 senators and 334 members of the House signed letters to President Obama urging him to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship and calling for any differences to be resolved amicably as befits longstanding strategic allies. The House letter was spearheaded by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA). The Senate letter was spearheaded by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

April: An overwhelming 366 House members and 81 senators signed letters to President Obama urging him to impose crippling sanctions on Iran. The House letter was spearheaded by Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) and Mike Pence (R-IN). The Senate letter was led by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

May 20: By a 410-4 margin, the House passed the United States-Israel Rocket and Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act (H.R. 5327), which authorizes funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system. The system is designed to stop rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza and Lebanon. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA).

June: A resounding 338 House members and 87 senators signed bipartisan letters to President Obama that express support for Israel's right to self-defense in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident. The House letter was led by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gary Peters (D-MI). The Senate letter was spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

June 24: By a vote of 408-8-1 in the House and 99-0 in the Senate, Congress passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA) of 2010 (H.R. 2194). This act, which seeks to restrict Iran’s access to refined petroleum products, is the most comprehensive and toughest piece of Iran sanctions legislation ever adopted by Congress. President Obama signed the bill into law on July 1. The bill’s original sponsors were Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Read a bill summary here.

June 24: The House passed a resolution (H. Res. 1457) by voice vote that calls on Tehran to respect the Iranian people’s human rights and wishes for freedom and democracy. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX).

June-July: The Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs approved the fiscal year 2011 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which includes $3 billion in military assistance to Israel and $25 million for refugee resettlement.

September 27: A broad-based group of 87 senators signed a bipartisan letter to President Obama enumerating the key principles that can lead to successful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The letter emphasizes the importance of direct talks between the parties and the need for both sides to remain in the negotiations even in the face of difficulties. The letter was led by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC).

September 30: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) signed into law the Iran Contracting Act (Assembly Bill No. 1650), which prohibits contracts of $1 million or more between the State of California and companies with significant business in Iran’s energy sector. The bill had passed the California state legislature unanimously.

November: A coalition of 198 House members sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that raises a series of questions about the impact on U.S. national security interests and those of allies such as Israel of a $60 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The letter was spearheaded by Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

December 15: The House passed a resolution (H. Res. 1765) by voice vote that opposes any efforts by the Palestinian Authority to unilaterally declare statehood or seek recognition for a state outside of talks with Israel. The resolution was sponsored by Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Dan Burton (R-IN).

December 21: The 111th Congress ended by passing a short-term continuing resolution that maintains the fiscal year 2010 rate of $2.775 billion in U.S. security assistance to Israel until March 2011. The next Congress will need to decide how to handle fiscal year 2011 government funding, including aid to Israel, after it convenes in January.

Also in 2010: South Dakota, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts passed legislation divesting their state pensions of stocks in companies investing in Iran’s energy sector, bringing the total number of states plus the District of Columbia that have adopted divestment policies to 23.
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