January 07, 2019

S. 1 – Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East

NOTEWORTHY

Background: In the 115th Congress, a number of bipartisan foreign policy measures were not enacted despite passing one or both Houses of Congress easily. Senators Rubio, Risch, McConnell, Gardner, and Blunt combined four of these bills into the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.

Floor Situation: The bill sponsors bypassed committee jurisdiction over this bill and moved it to the Senate floor under Rule 14. The Senate is scheduled to vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to S. 1 on January 8, 2019.

Executive Summary: The bill authorizes security assistance and increased cooperation with Israel, extends cooperation with Jordan, imposes new sanctions on entities doing business with the government of Syria, and protects state and local governments in opposing anti-Israel boycotts.

CONSIDERATIONS ON THE BILL

The bill is composed of four bills from the 115th Congress. 

1. United States-Israel Security Authorization Assistance Act of 2018 (S. 2497) 

Senate passed by voice vote on August 1, 2018. Passed House with amendment by voice vote on September 12, 2018.

2. United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act (H.R. 2646) 

House passed by voice vote on February 5, 2018. Reported favorably by the Foreign Relations Committee on November 29, 2018.

3. Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2018 (H.R. 1677) 

Passed by House in voice vote on May 17, 2017. Reported favorably by the Foreign Relations Committee on October 3, 2018. 

4. Combating BDS Act of 2018 (S. 170) 

Hotlined by the Banking Committee on November 28, 2018. So far, 26 states have adopted laws or executive orders on boycotts, divestment, or sanctions that would be protected under this bill.

NOTABLE BILL PROVISIONS

TITLE I — UNITED STATES-ISRAEL SECURITY ASSISTANCE AUTHORIZATION ACT

Section 113 – Assistance for Israel

Authorizes $3.3 billion per year for the next 10 years in U.S. security assistance in foreign military financing to Israel.

Section 131 – Ensuring Israel’s qualitative military edge

Continues the policy of the United States to ensure Israel can counter threats by having military weapons and equipment that are superior to those possessed by its enemies.

TITLE II — UNITED STATES-JORDAN DEFENSE COOPERATION EXTENSION

Section 204 – Reauthorization of United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act

Continues streamlined and accelerated defense sales to Jordan until December 31, 2022.

TITLE III — CAESAR SYRIA CIVILIAN PROTECTION ACT OF 2019

Section 311 – Measures with respect to Central Bank of Syria

Requires the Department of the Treasury to determine if the Central Bank of Syria is a financial institution of primary money laundering concern.

Section 312 – Sanctions on foreign persons that engage in certain transactions 

Sanctions anyone doing business or financing with the Government of Syria. Specifically prohibits anyone from providing aircraft or spare parts for aircraft that are used for military purposes in Syria on behalf of the Syrian government. The bill also sanctions anyone who provides services to Syria’s telecommunications or energy industries.

Section 331 – Suspensions of sanctions

Allows the president to stop sanctions on entities affected by this bill if the Syrian government:

  1. stops the violence against the Syrian people;

  2. allows international humanitarian access;

  3. releases political prisoners;

  4. complies with agreements on chemical weapons; and

  5. permits the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of displaced Syrians.              

TITLE IV — COMBATING BDS (BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, AND SANCTIONS) ACT

Section 402 – Non-preemption of measures by state and local government

Protects a state or local government that adopts or enforces a measure to divest its assets from, prohibit investment of its assets in, or restrict contracting with an entity that engages in boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity targeting Israel.

Clarifies that these measures adopted or enforced by a state or local government are not preempted “by any federal law” if they comply with the requirements in the legislation.    

ADMINISTRATION POSITION

The administration is not expected to oppose the bill.

The State Department previously issued descriptions and support for the Memorandum of Understanding for Israel and the Memorandum of Understanding for Jordan.

COST 

In the 115th Congress, CBO issued the following scores on previously filed bills.

United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act (S. 2497)

“CBO estimates that implementing S. 2497 would cost $16.5 billion over the 2019-2023 period, and $16.5 billion after 2023, assuming appropriation of the authorized amounts. Enacting the bill would affect direct spending, although the net effect over the 2019-2028 period would be negligible.”

United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act (H.R. 2646)

“Enacting H.R. 2646 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2646 would not increase net direct spending or on budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.”

Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2018 (H.R. 1677)

“CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1677 would cost $3 million over the 2019-2023 period, subject to the availability of appropriated funds.”

AMENDMENTS

No amendments have been filed at this time.