(October 14, 2014 / JNS) When circulated in both houses of the U.S. Congress, letters articulating the pro-Israel narrative on issues such as the Iranian nuclear threat and Hamas terrorism garner broad bipartisan support. Yet that support isn’t unanimous. How are federal legislators from your state weighing in on foreign policy issues prioritized by the Jewish community? JNS.org provides a picture through an analysis of three recent legislative letters.
As nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers approach a Nov. 24 deadline for a final deal, more than 80 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives (354 of 435 members) signed an Oct. 1 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern over Iran’s “refusal to fully cooperate” with inquiries from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.-affiliated nuclear watchdog.
“We believe that Iran’s willingness to fully reveal all aspects of its nuclear program is a fundamental test of Iran’s intention to uphold a comprehensive agreement,” state the letter’s authors, House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). “As you (Kerry) wrote in the Washington Post earlier this summer, if Iran’s nuclear program is truly peaceful, ‘it’s not a hard proposition to prove.’ The only reasonable conclusion for its stonewalling of international investigators is that Tehran does indeed have much to hide.”
Following the summer war between Israel and Hamas, 88 of 100 members of the Senate signed a Sept. 23 letter calling for both the demilitarization of Gaza and the discouraging of unilateral Palestinian Authority (PA) actions at the Untied Nations. In June, the same number of senators signed a letter opposing the unity deal between Hamas and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. Seven senators didn’t sign both letters: Harry Reid (D-NV), Bob Corker (R-TN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
When contacted by JNS.org regarding the fact that they didn’t sign a letter, most legislators didn’t respond. Those who did respond cited administrative or timing-related issues as the cause of their non-participation.
The office of U.S. Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) cited “administrative oversight” as the reason Serrano didn’t sign the letter on Iran’s lack of nuclear transparency, while expressing support for the letter’s contents. “Like a majority of my colleagues in Congress, I am extremely concerned with Iran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) efforts to bring greater transparency to Iran’s nuclear program. Iran must fully cooperate with the IAEA on this issue while negotiations are underway, and the issue of transparency needs to be a central element of any final agreement. Failing to do so only raises questions as to what Iran’s intentions truly are,” Serrano said in a statement provided to JNS.org.
Douglas Rivlin, director of communications for U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), told JNS.org, “The staff occasionally misses opportunities for the Congressman to express an opinion he feels strongly about. The Congressman was unaware of the [Iran] letter and would certainly have signed on if he had known about it.”
The office of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said it didn’t believe it was contacted about the Iran letter, but noted that Shimkus is a co-sponsor of the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which reasserts the U.S. policy of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons through sanctions.
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-NY) office said it missed the deadline to add Rangel’s signature to the Iran letter.
“I join my colleagues in requesting Secretary Kerry to urge Tehran to fully disclose its nuclear activities as they pose a serious risk to the United States and our allies,” Rangel said in a statement provided to JNS.org. “As international threats continue, it is vital that we require Tehran’s compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran in order to show our commitment to securing peace and security.”
What actions did your state’s federal lawmakers take (or not take) regarding these three letters? A full list of the senators who signed the letter on Palestinian unity can be found here. A list of senators who signed the letter on Gaza demilitarization can be found here. A state-by-state list of members of the House who signed and didn’t sign the letter on Iranian nuclear transparency can be found here.
Listed below are the House and Senate members who didn’t sign each letter.
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Coburn (R-Ok), Bob Corker (R-TN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Harry Reid (D-NV), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Bob Corker (R-TN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Harry Reid (D-NV), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Eni Faleomavaega (D)
Raul Grijalva (D), Ed Pastor (D), Trent Franks (R)
Mike Thompson (D), George Miller (D), Nancy Pelosi (D), Barbara Lee (D), Jackie Speier (D), Anna Eshoo (D), Zoe Lofgren (D), Lois Capps (D), Gary Miller (R), Xavier Becerra (D), Gloria Negrete McLeod (D), Maxine Waters (D)
Diana DeGette (D)
District of Columbia
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D)
Hank Johnson Jr. (D), John Lewis (D)
Madeleine Bordallo (D)
Raul Labrador (R)
Bobby Rush (D), Luis Gutierrez (D), Danny Davis (D), John Shimkus (R)
Peter Visclosky (D), André Carson (D), Larry Bucshon (R)
David Loebsack (D)
Ed Whitfield (R), Brett Guthrie (R), John Yarmuth (D), Thomas Massie (R)
Chellie Pingree (D)
Donna Edwards (D)
James McGovern (D), Michael Capuano (D)
Justin Amash (R), Dave Camp (R), Daniel Kildee (D), Mike Rogers (R), John Dingell (D), John Conyers Jr. (D)
Timothy Walz (D), Betty McCollum (D), Keith Ellison (D), Michele Bachmann (R), Collin Peterson (D), Rick Nolan (D)
Bennie Thompson (D)
Carol Shea-Porter (D)
Robert Andrews (D – vacancy), Donald Payne Jr. (D), Rush Holt (D)
Hakeem Jeffries (D), Yvette Clarke (D), Michael Grimm (R), Charles Rangel (D), José Serrano (D)
Walter Jones (R), David Price (D), Mike McIntyre (D), Mel Watt (D – vacancy)
Northern Mariana Islands
Gregorio Sablan (D)
Earl Blumenauer (D)
Pedro Pierluisi (D)
James Clyburn (D), Tom Rice (R)
John Duncan Jr. (R), Jim Cooper (D), Steve Cohen (D)
Louie Gohmert (R), Sam Johnson (R), Ralph Hall (R), Joe Barton (R), Mac Thornberry (R), Beto O’Rourke (D), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D), Lloyd Doggett (D)
Peter Welch (D)
Donna Christensen (D)
Robert Wittman (R), Eric Cantor (R-vacancy), James Moran (D)
Doc Hastings (R), Jim McDermott (D)
Mark Pocan (D), Gwen Moore (D), Thomas Petri (R)