Bad News in Congress

Of course neither of my representatives from Idaho, the most conservative and red of all states in the U.S., is not represented in the list below of Congress members who voted against this draconian anti-Palestinian legislation. But there are many other brave congress men and women with integrity, like Barbara Lee, who voted against it. Please take some time to click on the links below and send them emails thanking them for taking this bold step.

Salam–

TAKE ACTION: Send a message of thanks to all 46 Representatives who voted nay or present by clicking here.

Although the bill passed, our tremendous grassroots opposition to it prevented the bill’s supporters from rushing it through for a quick vote with no debate. We succeeded in delaying the bill for months, helped to get it watered down at the committee level, and forced AIPAC to expend enormous amounts of political capital to pass it.

In fact, our opposition helped generate something last night on the floor of the House of Representatives that has not occurred in a long time: the House held an open and honest debate about US policy toward Israel/Palestine for nearly three hours. This afforded many Members of Congress an opportunity to speak out in forceful terms against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (Congressional Record, H2990-H3012). Extracts of the debate are included below.

Even though the House has passed the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, it is still a long way from becoming law. The Senate has yet to take up its less draconian version of the bill (S2370) and even if the Senate passes this bill, it will need to be reconciled by both houses in committee and signed by the President before becoming law. In other words, we still have many opportunities to continue to mobilize opposition to sanctioning the Palestinian people for exercising their right to vote.

The US Campaign urges its supporters to take one additional, extremely important action on HR4681. Please contact the Representatives who voted against or abstained on HR4681 and/or who spoke against the resolution last night. It is especially important if you and your organizations reside in the district of a Representative who took one or more of these steps against the resolution. It is critically important for Representatives to receive support when they act or vote courageously.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Representatives who voted against or abstained on HR4681 and/or who spoke against the resolution. To send a letter to them, click here. You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 1-888-355-3588 and ask to be transferred, or call them directly on the numbers below.

—- NAYS 37 —

Abercrombie 202-225-2726

Becerra 202-225-6235

Blumenauer 202-225-4811

Capps 202-225-3601

Capuano 202-225-5111

Conyers 202-225-5126

DeFazio 202-225-6416

Dingell 202-225-4071

Doggett 202-225-4865

Eshoo 202-225-8104

Farr 202-225-2861

Gilchrest 202-225-5311

Grijalva 202-225-2435

Hinchey 202-225-6335

Jones (NC) 202-225-3415

Kaptur 202-225-4146

Kilpatrick 202-225-2261

Kolbe 202-225-2542

Kucinich 202-225-5871

LaHood 202-225-6201

Lee 202-225-2661

Marshall 202-225-6531

McCollum 202-225-6631

McDermott 202-225-3106

McGovern 202-225-6101

McKinney 202-225-1605

Miller, George 202-225-2095

Moore (WI) 202-225-4572

Moran (VA) 202-225-4376

Obey 202-225-3365

Paul 202-225-2831

Price (NC) 202-225-1784

Rahall 202-225-3452

Stark 202-225-5065

Thornberry 202-225-3706

Velázquez 202-225-2361

Watt 202-225-1510

—- ANSWERED “PRESENT” 9 —

Carson 202-225-4011

Clay 202-225-2406

Davis (IL) 202-225-5006

Gutierrez 202-225-8203

Jackson (IL) 202-225-0773

Johnson, E. B. 202-225-8885

Payne 202-225-3436

Rush 202-225-4372

Watson 202-225-7084

Extracts from the Debate on HR4681, Congressional Record, May 22, 2006:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3)

Remember, this past winter, the House, in our wisdom, voted to demand that the Palestinians prevent Hamas from running in the legislative elections, telling the Palestinian people to reject them. I don’t think it was any accident that Hamas election banners had: “Israel and America say `no’ to Hamas. What do you say?”

I can’t help think that any objective appraisal would suggest that the United States Congress, telling them what they could do, may well have provided that extra boost for Hamas’ prospects at the election.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4)

[I]t is unfortunate that the bill tonight could not have been drafted to come to the floor that would be supported by the State Department. The State Department’s comment regarding H.R. 4681 is, “this bill is unnecessary.”

This bill places extreme constraints on the delivery of humanitarian assistance by non-governmental organizations to the Palestinian people. This bill’s unnecessary obstacles have the potential for very negative human consequences and would exacerbate a human crisis.

Palestinian families and children must not be targeted. They must not be deprived of their basic human needs by this Congress. Instead, this House should assure that Palestinian families and children will be treated in a fashion that reflects our values and the belief that their lives are valuable.

Rep. David Price (D-NC-4)

These types of [humanitarian] projects are critical to our interests, to Israel, and to the prospects for peace. They help prevent humanitarian crises and diminish popular discontent, and they also inculcate values like those taught at Hope Flowers.

They train peacemakers; they improve America’s standing in the Middle East. Why would we want to eliminate programs like these? Are they not needed now more than ever? And yet that is exactly what H.R. 4681 would do. It would cut off U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza

Mr. Speaker, some have suggested the bill contains sufficient exceptions to allow humanitarian assistance to pass through. Not so. The bill makes an exception for health-related humanitarian aid, such as food, water and medicine. But it makes no provision for other forms of humanitarian assistance, such as aid for the homeless or displaced families and orphans.

Mr. Speaker, some have pointed to Presidential waiver authority in the bill and suggested that it would allow critical assistance to reach Palestinians. Not so. Unfortunately, all aid beyond health-related humanitarian assistance would be prohibited unless the President, on a case-by-case basis, were to certify that assistance is required by U.S. national security.

But if we adopt legislation that punishes the Palestinian people, instead of isolating the terrorists, we lose the moral high ground. Let us reclaim the moral high ground, signal our resolute opposition to terrorism and also our support for those Palestinian individuals and groups who are working for a peaceful and democratic future.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15)

Mr. Speaker, this legislation should be considered under an open rule with lengthy debate and full opportunity to discuss it, not at 8 o’clock at night with the corporal’s guard here on the floor.

The Middle East’s problems and the problems of the Palestinians and the Israelis will not be resolved by starving the Palestinians or by creating additional hardship. They are desperate people, incarcerated in walls, afflicted with high unemployment, suffering from health and other problems. The non-governmental organizations point out that this will strip them in substantial part of contributing to this. It will in large part almost totally strip the United States from the ability to address the needs of the Palestinian people and to address the humanitarian concerns which we have about them.

Peace in the Middle East is not going to be achieved at gunpoint. It is going to be achieved by negotiations, by people working together; and that process may be ugly, dirty and slow, but it is the only process that will work. To create additional hardship and suffering for the Palestinians is simply going to guarantee more desperate, angry men who are fully determined that they will go forth to kill Israelis or Americans or anybody else. Our purpose here tonight should be to look to the well-being of the United States, craft a policy which is good for this country. And that policy can only be one which is good for Israel and for the Palestinian people, one which is fair to all, one which puts the United States as a friend and an honest broker of peace to both parties where we can be so accepted.

To take some other course is simply to assure continuing hardship and a continuing poisonous, hateful relationship amongst the parties in the area. When this Congress realizes that and when we, this Congress and the others here, will recognize that that is the way peace is achieved, then there will be a real prospect for peace. We can expect that the Palestinians will receive the justice that they seek. We can expect that the Israelis will achieve the security that they need and they want and they deserve and that we want them to have.

This legislation will do none of that. This legislation promises further angry men, more bitterness, more hate, more ill-will; and it assures that the thing which we must use to bring this miserable situation to an end, honest, honorable, face-to-face negotiation, will either not occur or will be moved many years into the future.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA-23)

Direct aid to the Hamas-controlled PA has been cut off. The basic goal of this bill has already been accomplished.

But H.R. 4681 goes well beyond this objective. It is a punitive measure aimed at punishing the Palestinian people.

[E]xcept for very limited circumstances, this bill will cut off humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people at the very moment when a horrendous humanitarian disaster is looming.

I simply cannot see how denying chemotherapy treatment for Palestinian children increases Israel’s security or advances U.S. national interests.

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL-18)

I think the approach that is offered in this bill is what I would characterize as a meat-axe approach.

This does not help common ordinary citizens. What it does is it hurts common ordinary citizens. There is no other way around it. You can protest as much as you want about Mrs. Capps and what she said, but she is right. Common ordinary citizens, common ordinary Palestinians are going to be hurt by this, because the funding is going to be cut off for educational services, for health services, for the services that these people need very badly.

Do you all know more than the Secretary of State? Do you know more than the President? Do you think your policy is better than the administration’s policy? Yes, you do. Well, I don’t happen to agree with that. I really don’t.

And I ask Members, I may be the only Republican to vote against this. I am obviously going to be the only Republican to speak against it, but I ask Members who representat large Arab populations in their districts to think about this. This hurts the Palestinian people. There is no other way to put it. And I do not know why you are doing this. In the name of protecting Israel? I just think this is a bad idea, and I don’t understand why it is being done.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10)

The Israelis are our brothers and sisters. The Palestinians are our brothers and sisters. When our brothers and sisters are in conflict, when violence engulfs them, it is our responsibility to help our brothers and sisters end the violence, reconcile and fulfill the biblical injunction to turn hate to love, to beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.

I think we can speed the cause of peace by calling upon Israel to accept the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and economical survival and humanitarian relief, for food, medical care, for jobs.

I ask, how can we arrive at a two-stage solution if we attempt to destroy one people’s government’s ability to provide?

I object in the strongest terms to any measure that will increase the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinian people.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22)

I believe it is important to maintain independent and principled positions on Middle East issues. I believe that that requires a “no” vote on resolution 4681.

H.R. 4681 subjugates U.S. national security interests to political grandstanding.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9)

I rise this evening because I have to say that this act, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, I fear will result not in less terrorism, but in more. I do not really believe it is in the interest of the United States, of Israel or the world to further radicalize elements in the Palestinian population, and I do believe this bill will do exactly that.

It is not in the interest of the government of the United States nor Israel nor the world to make it impossible for Palestinians to become more educated and to learn how to govern an emerging nation. Indeed, if our current policies as a world were so intelligent, they would not have yielded a Hamas to the point where it actually won an election and other elements of Palestinian society were so crippled and so inept and so disorganized that they were not able to govern in a way that an emerging nation state would.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV-3)

Today, our actions must be motivated only by our intense desire to achieve a just and lasting peace. The compassion and charity of the American people should be reflected in this legislation, though sadly, they are silenced.

Madam Speaker, make no mistake, a vote cast in favor of H.R. 4681 is not a vote for peace, it is not a vote for America and it is not a vote that I will cast.

I urge my colleagues to cast their votes against this unwise and unproductive resolution.

TAKE ACTION: Send a message to all 46 Representatives who voted nay or present on HR4681 by clicking here.

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5 thoughts on “Bad News in Congress

  1. I got the same e-mail. The debate may have been open but it wasn’t honest. When Lantos lied about Hamas it could have been for spin or senility, when the others lied I guess it was just spin.

    Do you think reason will prevail in the Senate or has AIPAC bought them as well?

  2. I have no idea if this will pass in the Senate, though the version in the Senate is different than this one. I have also read that the White House actually does not like this legislation so insha’allah maybe it wouldn’t be signed into law by Bush. Though this strikes me as odd given his anti-Palestinian and anti-Hamas rhetoric…

    Salam–

  3. APAIC will do all it can to have that bill passed. I don’t think it will but the lesser version (S2370) might. Either is bad in my opinion. I’m planning on calling all the Congressional Black Caucus members who voted “Yea” and ask; “Why?”

  4. Why? Maybe because the Israeli government recognizes the need for a Palestinian state & Hamas fail to recognize the existence of Israel?

  5. No, because Israel fails, as always, to agree to peace; they continue to be rejectionist. If you read or listen to what the leaders of Hamas say, repeatedly, you will see this. For instance, in Ha’aretz this week:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/718678.html

    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Haaretz Monday that the Hamas government is prepared to agree to an extended cease-fire if Israel withdraws to the 1967 lines.

    “If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, peace will prevail and we will implement a cease-fire [hudna] for many years,” Haniyeh said during an interview in his south Gaza office. “Our government is prepared to maintain a long-term cease-fire with Israel.”

    It is Israel NOT Palestine who refused to agree to a legitimate peace agreement.

    Salam–

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