CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS SUBCOMMITTEE ON MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
Serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has become a leader in crafting U.S. foreign policy. Prior to becoming the Committee’s Chairman, she served as Chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade, the Subcommittee on Africa, and as Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Having reached her term limit as Committee Chairman, she has resumed her position as Subcommittee Chairman on the Middle East and Central Asia.
As the Chair of the Africa Subcommittee from 1995 to 1996, a time when the spread of Islamist extremism and the issue of emerging sanctuaries were not frequently discussed, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen held hearings and briefings to address the rise of militant Islam throughout the continent, and she used her leadership role to draw attention to the deplorable situation in Sudan, and the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi.
In her capacity as Chair of the International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee, she held post-9/11 hearings and briefings on radiological weapons and “dirty bombs,” and cast new light onto the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in securing nuclear materials to prevent extremists from obtaining deadly unconventional weapons. She led Congressional efforts to uncover domestic and international connections to the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which helped link Iran and Hezbollah to the deadly attacks; convened meetings with representatives from foreign governments, the Department of State, the White House, and non-governmental organizations to secure support for efforts to shed light on the gross human rights violations in Belarus, Cuba, China, Iran, Sudan, among others, and to generate votes to block anti-Israel resolutions to be offered at the former UN Commission on Human Rights. She held oversight hearings on sex abuse by UN contractors and peacekeepers, and worked tirelessly to ensure Israel’s membership in the Western European and Others Groups (WEOG) so that Israel could be afforded all the rights of full membership status in the UN system. Her efforts on behalf of the oppressed continue to this day in her capacity as Ranking Member, having traveled to the camps in Darfur and engaged personally in legislative efforts to bring an end to the genocide there. She has offered amendments to funding bills to use the Congressional “power of the purse” to address ongoing abuse of children by UN peacekeepers.
As Chair of the International Economic Policy and Trade Subcommittee from 1997 to 2000, she authored the Export Administration Act of 1997, and held hearings to address the competing interest of U.S. business sectors impacted by control on dual use items, while focusing on critical national security interests and strengthening mechanisms to ensure that U.S. exports do not find their way to dangerous entities and countries.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has been a tireless advocate for human rights across the globe, challenging tyranny and championing the rights of the oppressed. In April 2007, the House passed H. Res.125, a bill she authored that condemned the use of human shields, a violation of human rights that is often practiced by violent Islamist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. She also authored the North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5834), aimed at redoubling the United States’ efforts toward bringing lasting change to the DPRK. The House has approved legislation that she coauthored to bolster America’s commitment to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, an initiative that has treated more than 1.4 million people worldwide infected with HIV and is poised to meet the goal of preventing the infection of seven million people.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has been a leading voice on the need for UN reform, and in July 2007 introduced HR 2712, the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act. The bill seeks to encourage more responsibility at the UN, an organization that has been dogged by rampant moral and fiscal corruption. She has been an outspoken critic of the UN Human Rights Council, a body whose members include human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia, and has authored legislative initiatives to prevent U.S. funds from being used to support a Council that would rather denounce Israel, a democracy, than defend human rights.
Fervent in her belief that the world should never forget the atrocities against the Jewish people during the Holocaust, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has introduced numerous bills condemning global anti-Semitism, including HJ Res 84, which calls on the United States to consider government-fomented or -tolerated anti-Semitism when determining foreign assistance. In March 2007, she introduced The Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act, legislation requiring insurance companies doing business in the United States to publicly disclose all Holocaust-era insurance policies and allowing Holocaust victims and their descendents to bring action in U.S. courts to settle claims. The legislation opens the door to the payment of billions of dollars in claims on policies held by victims and relatives of those murdered in the Holocaust.
Understanding the sophisticated challenges that the United States faces today, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has been unbending in her support for the war on extremism. She has initiated legislative efforts to address violent Islamism, including briefings on the use of the internet by global jihadist networks and the spread of Islamist extremists in the Western Hemisphere. A staunch supporter of Israel, she exercised oversight over U.S. assistance to the Palestinians as Chair of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, and authored and secured the adoption of resolutions regarding Israel’s membership on UN committees, anti-Semitism at the UN, as well as the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
When reports surfaced that UN Relief and Works Agency was employing terrorists, she fought to have the agency defunded. Moreover, she authored the Palestinian anti-Terrorism Act, which denies a Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority critical political legitimacy and economic sources, while preventing the diversion and manipulation of U.S. assistance, a bill that passed May 23, 2006, with the final text negotiated with the Senate enacted into law in December 2006. In addition, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen felt compelled to address the plight of the numerous American citizens that have been murdered or maimed by Islamist militants in attacks occurring in Israel, territories administered by Israel, or territories administered by the Palestinian Authority. She has raised this issue on numerous occasions with the Department of State, most recently in correspondence with Secretary Condoleezza Rice earlier this year urging her to ensure that the State Department takes no action that would adversely affect the legal rights of American victims of Palestinian attacks. The U.S. government did not take any such actions as a result.
Fighting to stop rogue regimes from obtaining nuclear weapons, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Iran Freedom Support Act on January 6, 2005, which strengthened sanctions and expanded punitive measures against the Iranian regime and its enablers until the Iranian regime has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction programs. It also authorized programs to support human rights dissidents and pro-democracy forces in Iran. This Ros-Lehtinen legislation enjoyed the support of 360 House Members, with the final text signed into law on September 30, 2006. Growing concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and state-sponsorship of global jihadist activities led Rep. Ros-Lehtinen to introduce two new Iran-related bills in 2007. H.R. 957, the Iran Sanctions Amendments Act, seeks to close existing loopholes in current law by holding export credit agencies, insurers, and other financial institutions accountable for their facilitation of investments in Iran’s energy sector and sanction them. In addition, it seeks to expand the activities covered under the law to include petrochemicals and liquefied natural gas, as well as impose liability on parent companies for violations of sanctions by their foreign entities. This important legislation was overwhelmingly adopted by the House of Representatives on July 31, 2007. H.R 1357 requires U.S. government pension funds to divest from companies that do business with Iran’s energy sector. This bill also urges private funds to divest from companies that do business with Iran’s energy sector and it prohibits future investment of private and U.S. government funds in this sector. Similar legislation, which she co-sponsored, passed in the House in July 2007. She was proud to be the leading Republican sponsor of H.R. 1400, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, authored by the Committee’s late Chairman, Tom Lantos. This bill applies and enhances a wide range of sanctions against the radical Islamist regime in the hopes of depriving it of the foreign investment in its energy sector that finances its unconventional weapons programs and state sponsorship of Islamist extremism. In addition, last year, she introduced H.R. 394, which supports American victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks and actions by enabling victims to prosecute their claims in U.S. courts. She was able to secure language in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 that would ensure that these American victims would have their day in court.
Highlighting that the Syrian regime’s activities and approach to missile development and unconventional weapons parallel Iran’s and underscoring the need to prevent an escalation of the Syrian threat before it is too late to contain, on March 8, 2005, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen introduced H.R. 1141, the Lebanon and Syria Liberation Act, a bill that states that U.S. sanctions and regulation relating to Syria would remain until the Syrian regime had stopped supporting violent extremism, dismantled its weapons programs, and withdrawn from Lebanon. The act also imposed further sanctions on persons or countries that transfer goods to Syria that could be of use in Syria’s illicit weapons program. As Ranking Member, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen introduced an enhanced version of H.R. 1141. The new bill, H.R. 2332, the Syria Accountability and Liberation Act, seeks to strengthen sanctions against the Syrian regime, enhance multilateral commitments to address Syria's threatening policies, and establish a program to support a transition to a democratically elected government in Syria. This bill, among other provisions: targets Syria’s ability to finance its weapons programs by imposing new sanctions against those who invest $5 million or more in the Syrian energy sector; codifies existing U.S. sanctions and implements regulations against Syria; and targets Syria’s weapons programs by imposing new sanctions against those who aid Syria’s efforts to obtain WMDs and the means to deliver them.
In June 2008, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Security through Termination of Proliferation Act of 2008, or the STOP Act. This legislation aims to extend current U.S. law to sanction those individuals, entities, and governments that willingly provide equipment, materials, or other assistance to Iran, Syria or North Korea’s nuclear, biological, chemical, or missile programs by transferring or transshipping sensitive U.S. technologies. She authored a letter signed by many Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee Ranking Members, and other Members of Congress to the President asking the Administration to withdraw the U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement in light of Russian assistance to Iran’s WMD program and to Iran and Syria’s missile program.