Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
On February 6, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control introduced the Foreign Sanctions Evaders List (FSE List) to identify foreign persons sanctioned under Executive Order 13608 – Prohibiting Certain Transactions with and Suspending Entry into the United States of Foreign Sanctions Evaders with Respect to Iran and Syria. Eighteen businesses and 14 individuals were identified as violators in the Treasury announcement, in a list of countries that included Turkey, Spain, Germany, Georgia, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein and Iran. Some were accused of helping Iran circumvent American sanctions on financial transactions and oil sales, while others were accused of involvement in what the United States regards as Iran’s illicit activities in Afghanistan and Syria.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) has publicly said he will not hold any hearings on new Iran sanctions during the six-month P5+1 interim deal with Iran. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) – the sponsor of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act – moved forward last week and convened a hearing on the interim deal with Iran. The P5+1 Talks with Iran are expected to resume this month.
Ukraine & Russia
Vice President Joe Biden continues to speak by phone with Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, emphasizing “that the only viable path to peace and stability in Ukraine is through continued dialogue and genuine compromise to form a new government that can earn the confidence of the Ukrainian people.”
In a private conversation that was reportedly bugged and posted on the Internet, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt complained in frank language about the European Union’s stance on Ukraine. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Moscow’s role in publicizing the video was “a new low in Russian tradecraft.”
Last Tuesday, February 4, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul announced his resignation. President Obama has yet to announce his replacement.
On Thursday, February 6, the U.N. announced a three-day ceasefire agreement was reached to allow women, children, men older than 55, and the wounded to depart the besieged city of Homs. The next day, the Syrian regime affirmed it would attend the peace talks this week in Geneva, Switzerland.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) publicly acknowledged on separate occasions last week that the pending Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill faces strong opposition among House Democrats. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), the new Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over trade has said that he wants to hear other Senators’ positions on trade before moving forward with renewing TPA.
Likely in response to criticism surrounding the secretive nature of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will convene a meeting this week of all existing advisory committees. The European Union and the United States are expected to exchange their initial market access offers for goods under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) this week.
After more than two decades in the House of Representatives, Congressman Robert Andrews (D-New Jersey) announced on Tuesday that he will resign at the end of his term this year. On Thursday, 6 February, the Senate confirmed (96-0) Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China. The next day, Montana Governor Steve Bullock appointed Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Walsh to fill the remainder of Ambassador Baucus’ term. Walsh will be sworn-in next Tuesday (11 February) in Washington.
This week, French President François Hollande will be received by President Obama at the White House for an official State Visit. President Obama and President Hollande will also tour Monticello, former President Thomas Jefferson’s home, as part of the State Visit.
This Week’s Hearings:
Tuesday, February 11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Prospects for Democratic Reconciliation and Workers’ Rights in Bangladesh.”
Tuesday, February 11: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Current and Future Worldwide Threats.” A portion of the hearing may be closed to the public.
Tuesday, February 11: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights will hold a hearing titled, “The Persecution of Christians as a Worldwide Phenomenon.”
Tuesday, February 11: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing titled, “United States Security Policy and Defense Posture in the Middle East.”
Tuesday, February 11: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Asylum Fraud: Abusing America’s Compassion?”
Wednesday, February 12: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Fisheries Treaties and Port State Measures Agreements.”
Thursday, February 13: The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing titled, “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress.” Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is expected to testify.
Thursday, February 13: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the following individuals to be U.S. Ambassadors: Joseph Westphal (Saudi Arabia); Douglas Alan Silliman (Kuwait); and Mark Gilbert (New Zealand and Samoa).