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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2000, pages 21-22

Congress Watch

Congresswoman Pat Danner to Retire; Who Stands Where on Eight Pending Bills, Letters

By Shirl McArthur

One of the six Arab Americans in the House, Rep. Pat Danner (D-MO), announced on May 23 that she will not seek re-election this November. She has served in the House since January 1993 and is currently a member of the International Relations and Transportation Committees. Danner’s Arab-American heritage comes from her maternal grandparents. Her mother’s father immigrated from Lebanon in 1905. After he had found work and was settled, he sent for Danner’s grandmother, who came over in 1908.

Although Representative Danner’s experience will be missed, it is quite possible that Arab Americans will still be able to look to a Danner in the House. Danner’s eldest son, former Missouri State Senator Steve Danner, has announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for his mother’s seat. His nomination and election are not assured, however. At least two other Democrats have filed for the Aug. 8 primary, and the winner will face a battle in November against whichever of the four Republicans who have filed wins the Republican nomination.

Committee Holds Hearing on Secret Evidence Repeal Bill

Responding to continuing pressure to move the Secret Evidence Repeal bill (H.R. 2121), House Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) agreed to hold a hearing on the bill on May 23. The hearing was dominated by witnesses urging an end to the use of secret evidence in immigration hearings. The most moving witnesses were Hany Kiareldeen, who was jailed for 19 months on the basis of secret evidence, and Nahla Al-Arian, sister of Mazen Al-Najjar, who has been in detention for over three years. Perhaps the most effective witnesses, however, were the bill’s original co-sponsors, Reps. Tom Campbell (R-CA) and David Bonior (D-MI), who forcefully argued the unconstitutionality of the use of secret evidence. Bonior called the practice “a national embarrassment.”

The bill now has a total of 91 co-sponsors, including 14 members of the Judiciary Committee (but this is still less than half of the 37 members), and it is far from certain that Hyde will be prepared to report the bill out of the committee, and even less certain that the House leadership would be willing to bring it to a floor vote.

Bonior called the use of secret evidence “a national embarrassment.”

In this connection, Hyde’s opening statement is probably instructive. He gave a dispassionate, apparently objective description of the bill and the arguments for and against the use of secret evidence, without indicating where he stands. However, in his description of the arguments against the use of secret evidence, he did not mention its unconstitutionality and that it is contrary to the American sense of fairness, probably the two arguments most likely to influence most representatives. The new co-sponsors are Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Julia Carson (D-IN), Calvin Dooley (D-CA), John Doolittle (R-CA), and Dennis Moore (D-KS).

Meanwhile, there has been no action on the bills described in this column in the June issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,, S. 2393 and H.R. 4001, that would prevent U.S. Customs officers or other officials from subjecting travelers to detentions and searches based on “race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation.” However, each bill has picked up a few new co-sponsors.

The Senate bill, S. 2393, now has a total of six co-sponsors: original co-sponsors Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), plus Sens. Max Cleland (D-GA), John Kerry (D-MA), and George Voinovich (R-OH). H.R. 4001 now has seven co-sponsors: original co-sponsors Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Amo Houghton (R-NY), plus Reps. Julia Carson (D-IN), Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), Patsy Mink (D-HI), and Nick Rahall (D-WV).

Thirty House Members Urge Syrian Participation in “Seeds of Peace”

Representative Rahall initiated a letter, eventually signed by 29 other representatives and sent on June 7, to Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Charaa urging that he meet with the founders of “Seeds of Peace” during their visit to Damascus in mid-June. Seeds of Peace is an eight-year-old program bringing together teenagers from the Middle East, Cyprus, and the Balkans to a summer camp in Maine. The letter pointed out that, while there have been youth delegations from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, Qatar, Yemen, Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus, there has never been a delegation from Syria. The letter also said that the program enjoys broad, bipartisan congressional support, and also that the participation of Syria “would be well received by the Members of the U.S. Congress” and “would be an important step in improving U.S.-Syrian relations.” [In the Senate, Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) has asked Appropriations foreign aid subcommittee chairman Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to increase the amount appropriated for Seeds of Peace from $860,000 to $1 million.]

Those signing the letter to the Syrian foreign minister, in addition to Rahall, were Reps. Tom Allen (D-ME), John Baldacci (D-ME), Howard Berman (D-CA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Peter Deutsch (D-FL), John Dingell (D-MI), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Michael Doyle (D-PA), Lane Evans (D-IL), Sam Farr (D-CA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Sam Gejdenson (D-CT), Paul Gillmore (R-OH), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), William Jefferson (D-LA), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Tom Lantos (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Connie Morella (R-MD), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), John Porter (R-IL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

Kuwait Refugees Relief Bill Passes House

The Rahall bill(H.R. 3646), described in the May issue of the Washington Report, that would grant immigration waivers to 150 named refugees from the Gulf war, was passed without objection by the full House on May 16. It now awaits action by the Senate, where Senator Abraham is chairman of the immigration subcommittee, to which it will be referred.

Congress Praises Israel for Withdrawal From Lebanon; Brownback, DeLay Burnish Their Pro-Israel Credentials

Just before the Memorial Day recess, both houses of Congress passed one-sided, non-binding resolutions praising Israel for its withdrawal from southern Lebanon. In an election year this is neither surprising nor particularly newsworthy. However, two notable items were the “no” vote by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and the obsequious speech on the Senate floor by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS).

DeLay’s vote was one of only three “no”s in the entire House (the Senate resolution passed unanimously), with the other two being Reps. William Goodling (R-PA) and Ron Paul (R-TX), neither of whom has a reputation for bowing to Israel. But DeLay’s vote was from the opposite direction. He sought to plant himself firmly in the Likudnik camp by saying that the decision to withdraw was a “strategic mistake” for Israel, echoing the sentiments of the Israeli colonists and other Jewish nationalist extremists.

Brownback’s speech was almost obscene in its pandering to the Israeli lobby. He described how the poor Israelis were “forced” to occupy southern Lebanon, described current Lebanon as being “overrun with terrorists,” and decried the fate of Christians and Muslims in southern Lebanon, who “have been under the protection of Israel for more than two decades.” He ended by saying that it is the “solemn obligation” of the Israelis to “hunt down” and “eliminate” anyone who violates Israel’s borders, and he promised to do all he could to ensure that Israel has “the means and the political, diplomatic, and material support” to do so.

Letter Supporting Iraq Sanctions Gets 133 Signatures

The letter to President William Clinton, described in previous issues of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,, that urges Clinton to “stand firm in continuing to support the U.N. sanctions regime until Iraq abides by all relevant Security Council resolutions” was finally sent on May 5. The letter, originated by Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Tom Lantos (D-CA), and John Sweeney (R-NY), ultimately was signed by 133 representatives. (See box below for the list of those signing the letter.)

Anti-Egypt Bill Gains Co-Sponsors

H.R. 4233, introduced by Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) and described in the June issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,, seeks to recoup part of the estimated $18.5 million cost of the investigation of the EgyptAir Flight 990 crash by deducting half of the final cost from the military aid appropriation for Egypt. It has made no progress, but it has gained six co-sponsors. They are Reps. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), William Lipinski (D-IL), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Gary Miller (R-CA), Harold Rogers (R-KY), and James Traficant (D-OH).

Shirl McArthur, a retired foreign service officer, is a consultant in the Washington, DC area.

SIDEBAR

Signers of Letter Urging Iraq Sanctions be Retained

Those signing the letter to President Clinton urging that he retain the sanctions on Iraq were:

Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Richard Armey (R-TX), Joe Baca (D-CA), Richard Baker (R-LA), John Baldacci (D-ME), Herbert Bateman (R-VA), Doug Bereuter (R-NE), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), Henry Bonilla (R-TX), Mary Bono (R-CA), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Ed Bryant (R-TN), Dan Burton (R-IN), Steve Buyer (R-IN), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Howard Coble (R-NC), John Cooksey (R-LA), Jerry Costello (R-LA), Bud Cramer (D-AL), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Peter Deutsch (D-FL), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL);

Chet Edwards (D-TX), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Phil English (R-PA), Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Lane Evans (D-IL), Ernie Fletcher (R-KY), Mark Foley (R-FL), Mike Forbes (R-NY), Harold Ford (D-TN), Tillie Fowler (R-FL), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Martin Frost (D-TX), Jim Gibbons (R-NV), Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Bill Goodling (R-PA), Bart Gordon (D-TN), Porter Goss (R-FL), Gene Green (D-TX), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Robin Hayes (R-NC), Rick Hill (R-MT), Earl Hilliard (D-AL), Steve Horn (R-CA), Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Sue Kelly (R-NY), Peter King (R-NY), Ron Klink (D-PA), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Steve Largent (R-OK), John Larson (D-CT), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Rick Lazio (R-NY), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), John Linder (R-GA);

William Lipinski (D-IL), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James Maloney (D-CT), Donald Manzullo (R-IL), Robert Matsui (D-CA), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Bill McCollum (R-FL), Jim McCrery (R-LA), John McHugh (R-NY), David McIntosh (R-IN), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Howard McKeon (R-CA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Dan Miller (R-FL), Gary Miller (R-CA), Sue Myrick (R-NC), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Anne Northrup (R-KY), Jim Nussle (R-IA), Doug Ose (R-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), David Phelps (D-IL), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), John Porter (R-IL), Tom Reynolds (R-NY), James Rogan (R-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Jim Ryun (R-KS), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Jim Saxton (R-NJ);

Joe Scarborough (R-FL), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Pete Sessions (R-TX), E. Clay Shaw (R-FL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Michael Simpson (R-ID), Norm Sisisky (D-VA), Ike Skelton (D-MO), Adam Smith (D-WA), John Spratt (D-SC), Cliff Stearns (R-FL), John Sweeney (R-NY), John Tanner (D-TN), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Lee Terry (R-NE), Karen Thurman (D-FL), Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), Jim Turner (D-TX), David Vitter (R-LA), Zack Wamp (R-TN), Wes Watkins (R-OK), J.C. Watts (R-OK), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Curt Weldon (R-PA), Jerry Weller (R-IL), Robert Weygand (D-RI), Bob Wexler (D-FL), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Roger Wicker (R-MS), David Wu (D-OR), and Don Young (R-AK).