Posted on January 04, 2013 in Arab American Institute

Analysis of Select New Leadership of the 113th Congress

AAI has compiled a snapshot of some of the key leadership for the incoming 113th Congress. We hope this will serve as a helpful guide to some of the most important figures in the House and Senate for the coming two years.

The document includes senior party leadership in both houses, as well as information on incoming committee chairs and ranking members for key Congressional committees including House Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Homeland Security, Appropriations, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Little public attention is paid to committee assignments, but committee leadership can have a significant impact on the congressional agenda of any given term. Committees serve as the first stage of the legislative process, and often the drafting and forwarding of any particular bill is heavily influenced by the ideology and motives of the ranking members of the bill’s relevant committee. The voting records and public statements of these officials, included in this document, may be useful in determining their priorities for the coming years.

Though not comprehensive, and though no member of Congress can be judged fairly by any single statement, this guide provides a general profile of Congressional behavior that we hope will help Arab Americans better understand the actions taken by their representatives on issues of concern to the community. We hope this information proves helpful as you engage policymakers on key foreign and domestic concerns during the 113th Congress.

House Party Leadership

Speaker of the House

John Boehner (R-OH)

Speaker John Boehner

Congressman Boehner was first elected to Congress in 1990. He quickly became a standout as one of the “Gang of Seven,” a group of freshmen Republicans who relentlessly pursued the ethical abuses then plaguing the House of Representatives, including the House banking and post office scandals. One of the authors of the Contract with America, Boehner’s rise in prominence continued when he was elected Conference Chair after the Republican House upset of 1994. He served in that role until a caucus shakeup in 1998, returning to the leadership in 2006 when he was elected Minority Leader.

During the 111th Congress, Boehner co-sponsored legislation that supported Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza as a legitimate use of self-defense, praised a House resolution which described the Goldstone report (documenting the atrocities committed during the operation) as biased, and called for its dismissal. Additionally, he voted to support Israel’s attack on the humanitarian flotilla en route to Gaza as a legitimate act of self-defense.[1] He also voted to extend the USA PATRIOT Act without additional provisions that were needed to safeguard our civil rights and liberties.

In Their Own Words

On the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

Boehner has described the Arab world as a “sea of oppression and hate” in which Israel is “an island of freedom.” He criticized President Obama for seemingly placing “equal blame on the

Israelis and the Palestinians,” saying Israel has a right to defend itself and should not be placed “into the same playpen with terrorists.”[2]

House Majority Leader

Eric Cantor (R-VA)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

Eric Cantor joined the House of Representatives in 2001. He was in office only two years when he was appointed Chief Deputy Republican Whip, and was elected Republican

Minority Whip in 2008. As Majority Leader in the 112th Congress, Cantor became the second highest-ranking Republican.

In May 2008, Cantor said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a “constant sore” but rather “a constant reminder of the greatness of America.”[3] In 2010, Cantor proposed a separate account for foreign aid to Israel instead of having Israel’s allocation as part of the annual

foreign aid bill. Critics denounced Cantor’s proposal as a political avenue for Republicans to dispute the foreign aid budget without impacting aid to Israel.[4]

Additionally, Cantor co-sponsored legislation to cut off all US taxpayer aid to the Palestinian Authority and co-sponsored another bill calling for an end to taxpayer aid to the Palestinians unless they refrain from the “unauthorized excavations on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”[5] Cantor has also introduced legislation to end aid to Palestinians all together.[6]

Domestically, Cantor strongly opposed the construction of the Park 51 Islamic Center in New York, describing it as “the ultimate insensitivity.”[7] He has voted several times to re-authorize the Patriot Act and the warrantless surveillance provisions of FISA, and was part of a failed GOP effort to make the Patriot Act permanent.[8]

During the 112th Congress, Cantor played a key role in congressional efforts to oppose Palestine’s bid for statehood at the UN. Cantor introduced a bill expressing opposition to any “unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state,” and called on the Administration to prevent the

Palestinian Authority from obtaining recognition from any international body. The legislation also threatened the withdrawal of “U.S. assistance programs” as a result of a Palestinian statehood bid.[9]

In Their Own Words

On Park 51:

“I think that [Park 51] is the ultimate insensitivity. Anyone looking at that with any common sense would say, ‘what in the world would we be doing fostering some type of system that would let this happen.’ Everybody knows America’s built on the rights of free expression, the rights to practice your faith, but come on. The World Trade Centers were brought down by Islamic extremists, radicals who were bent on killing Americans and accomplished that in unimaginable ways. I think it is the height of insensitivity, and unreasonableness to allow for the construction of a mosque on the site of the World Trade Center bombings. I mean, come on.”[10]

On US-Israel Relations:

From official congressional office readout of a meeting in 2010 with Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington. He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.”[11]

House Minority Leader

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives and served as the 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011. She was the first woman to hold the office and to date is the highest-ranking female politician in American history.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Congressional Scorecard has given Pelosi a lifetime rating of 87% for her voting record on civil liberties. In 2001, she voted in favor of the USA Patriot Act but has consistently voted against its reauthorization.[12]

Pelosi is a strong anti-war voice in Congress, having voted against the initial authorization of the Iraq War and opposing the 2007 troop surge.[13] She was also critical of the Bush Administration’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding.[14]

Similar to the Republican House leadership, Pelosi is consistently pro-Israel with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the 111th Congress, Speaker Pelosi introduced a resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza and reaffirming the United States’ strong support for Israel.” The legislation included language supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but failed to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and instead placed the blame for hostilities and human suffering solely on the Palestinians.”[15] In the 112th Congress, Pelosi supported a bill threatening to cut aid to the Palestinians should they continue to pursue their bid for statehood at the UN.[16]

In Their Own Words

On the Patriot Act reauthorization:

“Today Congress failed to seize the opportunity to enact measures and improvements needed to preserve Americans’ privacy and to incorporate oversight and compliance with the law. In addition, Congress failed to consider meaningful reforms to National Security Letters to address documented abuses. Instead, we were left to vote only on a long extension of some of the most controversial and troubling aspects of the PATRIOT Act. Moving forward, we must ensure that we can protect the American people, and protect and defend the Constitution.”[17]

House Committee & Subcommittee Leadership

House Appropriations Committee:

Incoming Chairman: Harold Rogers (R-KY)

Incoming Ranking Member: Nita Lowey (D-NY)

Chairman Harold Rogers

Rep. Rogers has represented the 5th congressional district in Kentucky since 1981. He became Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in 2010. Previously, he served as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

Rogers has been criticized by both liberal and conservative pundits for his priorities when it comes to national security. The National Review referred to Rogers as “a national disgrace”[18] and Rolling Stone named him one of America’s “Ten Worst Congressmen’” due to the fact that Rogers steered federal homeland security money away from large cities to his home district, which critics claim is one of the least likely terrorist targets in America because of the lack of notable monuments or population centers. In 2007, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Congressman Rogers as one of the “Most Corrupt Members of Congress.”[19]

During the 112th Congress, Rogers voted for the National Defense Authorization Act that allowed for the indefinite detention of American citizens. He also played a part in efforts to block the Palestinians’ efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.[20]

In Their Own Words

“The Administration took the right and lawful step in stopping U.S. payments to UNESCO. The vote by UNESCO members to admit the Palestinian Authority is a disappointing setback for the peace process. A two-state solution where both sides can live in peace and security will only come through bilateral negotiations by the Israelis and Palestinians, not through unilateral declarations by the UN General Assembly, its affiliated agencies or others.”[21]

Ranking Member Nita Lowey

Ranking Member Nita Lowey serves as the representative for New York’s 18th congressional district, serving since 1993. During the 112th Congress, Lowey served as the Ranking Member for the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee and a senior member on the Homeland Security and Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittees.

Lowey has advocated dedicating more resources to the war in Afghanistan and opposed the Iraq troop increase in 2007, though she did vote for the original Iraq war resolution in 2002.

In recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a “nonmember observer state” at the United Nations, Rep. Lowey released a statement calling the UN’s decision a “mistake” and said that the decision of the Palestinians to seek statehood at the UN is “disturbing.”

In Their Own Words

On the Palestinian bid for statehood:

“Rather than engaging in these direct negotiations, it is disturbing that the Palestinians have chosen instead to undertake unilateral measures through international organizations.”[22]

“The Palestinian Authority receives more than $500 million in economic and security assistance from the United States each year because it is in our interest and that of Israel to support the ability of the PA to provide security and basic services. But that assistance is predicated on the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to negotiate directly with Israel toward its own state. President Abbas has been warned repeatedly, and I remain firm that this counter-productive action by the PA crosses a line and should lead to a re-evaluation of this assistance.[23]

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee

Chairman Kay Granger (R-TX)

Chairman Kay Granger

Rep. Granger represents the 12th congressional district in Texas and is the first Republican woman to represent Texas in the House. She is currently serving as the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations and also sits on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the Subcommittee of Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education.

During the 111th Congress, Granger co-sponsored H.Res. 1765, calling for a “negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and for other purposes.”[24]

During the 112th Congress, Granger voted for a bill opposing any “unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state,” and called on the Administration to prevent the Palestinian Authority from gaining recognition from any international bodies. She also voted for a renewal of the Patriot Act without reforms to protect civil liberties.[25]

During her time as the ranking member for this subcommittee in the 111th Congress, Congresswoman Granger voted to dismiss the Goldstone Report, and voted in defense of Israel’s raid on the humanitarian flotilla en route to Gaza. In a letter to her constituents, Granger expressed concern about illegal immigration from Arab countries. Her lack of support for international organizations garnered her an “F” rating from Citizens for Global Solutions.[26]

In Their Own Words

On 2012 Israel-Gaza conflict:

“Israel has both the responsibility and the duty to protect and defend its citizens from the violence coming from the Gaza Strip and the terrorist organization Hamas. The U.S. firmly stands with our friend and ally against terrorism, and I want to reiterate our unwavering support. I am proud to have supported the United States investment in Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. We made this investment because of the very violence we are witnessing today. This is a reminder that our investment in our allies saves lives and defends democracy. I pray for a peaceful, quick and permanent end to the violence.”[27]

On Arab immigrants:

“There are people crossing illegally from countries known to harbor terrorists such as Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.”[28]

House Foreign Affairs Committee:

Outgoing Chairman: Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

Incoming Chairman: Ed Royce (R-NJ)

Incoming Ranking Member: Eliot Engel (D-NY)

Chairman Ed Royce

Ed Royce is the U.S. Representative for California’s 40th congressional district, serving in Congress since 1993. Previously, Royce served as a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, serving as a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade in the 110th Congress. He also served as chairman of the International Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation. During his tenure as Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, Royce held hearings on Islamic terrorist threats and weapons of mass destruction. Royce led efforts in the House to either secure or destroy shoulder-fired missiles around the world that otherwise may be accessible by terrorists. In the summer of 2006, he held a number of controversial congressional hearings in San Diego, California and Laredo, Texas focusing on border vulnerabilities and international terrorism.[29]

In 2002, Royce voted in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq. From 2003-2006, he voted in favor of the annual supplemental spending bill to continue funding the Iraq war. In 2005, he voted against Amendment 214 to H.R. 1815, which called on President Bush to develop a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, voted in favor of Amendment 488 to H.R. 2601 to keep troops in Iraq, and voted in favor of H.R. 612 opposing a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. In 2006, he voted for H.R. 861, a resolution labeling the war in Iraq as part of a global war against terrorism. Royce had a mixed voting record on the 2011 U.S. involvement in Libya.[30]

On domestic issues, Royce voted for the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act which included provisions allowing for indefinite detention of American citizens and advocated for the permanency of the Patriot Act.[31] He has also advocated for a federal version of Arizona’s infamous “show me your papers” immigration law SB-1070.[32]

In 2010, Royce attended and gave a speech at an anti-Muslim rally in his home county, in which members of anti-Muslim groups supported by Royce chanted “go home” to American Muslim families attending a charity event. Facing criticism, Royce claimed that a splinter group was responsible for the anti-Muslim chants, and he disavowed the chants saying “those remarks and conduct were disrespectful and offensive.”[33] Royce also appears as a regular guest on the radio show of noted Islamophobe Frank Gaffney.[34]

In 2012, Rep. Royce introduced H.R. 5303, the Palestinian Peace Promotion and Anti-Incitement Act, which stipulates that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not lived up to its agreements with Israel and should do more to pressure the Palestinians to accept Israeli-dictated peace initiatives. The bill also amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to prohibit financial assistance to the PA.

In Their Own Words

Speaking at anti-Muslim rally in his district:

“A big part of the problem that we face today is that our children have been taught at schools that every idea is right, that no one should criticize others’ positions, no matter how odious. And what do we call that? They call it multiculturalism and it has paralyzed too many of our fellow citizens to make the critical judgments we need to make to prosper as a society.”[35]

Ranking Member Eliot Engel

Rep. Engel is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 16th congressional district, serving since 1989. In the 112th Congress, he served as the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee for the Western Hemisphere and also served on the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia.

Engel introduced a resolution shortly after entering Congress, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In 2002, he was one of 81 House Democrats that voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

During the 112th Congress, Engel co-sponsored legislation prohibiting foreign military financing assistance to countries that vote in the United Nations General Assembly in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state “in the absence of a negotiated border agreement between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”[36] Additionally, Rep. Engel co-sponsored a resolution in 2011, affirming the sense of the House of Representatives that a Palestinian

government including Hamas should be prohibited from receiving U.S. aid until the government “publicly commits to the Quartet principles.”[37]

Rep. Engel has received a 100% on the scorecard for the American Civil Liberties Union, with respect to his voting record on civil liberties issues.

In Their Own Words

“The United States knows no greater friend in the Middle East than Israel, and Israel has a right and a duty to defend her people against attacks by a terrorist group that has repeatedly targeted innocent civilians,” Engel said in June 2010, referring to an Israeli military operation against a flotilla bound for Gaza.

Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee

Incoming Chairman: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

Incoming Ranking Member: Ted Deutch (D-FL)

Chairman Ros-Lehtinen

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was elected to the House of Representatives in 1989. Before serving as Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, she served as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.[38]

As the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee during the 112th Congress, Ros-Lehtinen has been very outspoken about her pro-Israel views. In 2011, as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ros-Lehtinen sponsored legislation to direct the President to use U.S. influence in the UN to withhold up to 50 percent of U.S. contributions and to defund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.[39]

In December 2012, Representative Ros-Lehtinen and members of Congress sent letters to the seven governments that voted against the United Nations General Assembly resolution to upgrade the status of Palestine from the “Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine” to a “Non-Member Observer State”. In her letter, Ros-Lehtinen refers to the decision to recognize Palestine as “irresponsible” on the part of the General Assembly, that this “reckless” action by Palestine compromises stability and peace with Israel.[40] The resolution passed in the UN General Assembly with a vote of 138 to 9 and 41 abstentions. As a result, she called on the U.S. to cut $600 million in funding to the Palestinian Authority and the U.N. agencies that recognize it as a state.

In Their Own Words

On Palestinian Statehood:

“The U.S must stand with our ally Israel and offer no U.S. taxpayer dollars and no political support for the PLO. As other UN bodies will no doubt use General Assembly resolution as an

excuse to grant membership to a non-existent Palestinian state, U.S. law is clear: UN agencies that grant membership to a Palestinian state lose their U.S. funding.”[41]

Ranking Member Ted Deutch

Rep. Deutch represents the 21st congressional district in Florida and is currently serving as the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa. Prior to his election to the House of Representatives in 2010, Ted Deutch was a vocal and active member of the Florida Senate. As a freshman Senator in 2007, Deutch passed a divestment bill mandating that retirement funds could not be invested in enterprises supporting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or the “genocide” in Darfur, Sudan. The bill was the first in the country to present the issue of divestment from Iran. After replacing Robert Wexler in Florida’s 19th congressional district, he focused his efforts on retirement, intellectual property, and fiscal issues, but has also been a staunch defender of constitutional rights, and a critic of excessive corporate power.

House Committee on Homeland Security:

Outgoing Chairman: Peter King (R-NY)

Incoming Chairman: Mike McCaul (R-TX)

Incoming Ranking Member: Bennie Thompson (D-MS)

Chairman Mike McCaul

Mike McCaul is the Republican Representative for Texas’s 10th congressional district, serving since 2005. On the Committee on Homeland Security, he served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management and will replace Rep. Peter King (R-NY) as chairman of the committee in the 113th Congress.

McCaul is a strong supporter of warrantless surveillance under FISA and the Patriot Act, voting several times in both the 111th and 112th Congress to reauthorize these laws without civil liberties reforms.[42] McCaul was also an outspoken supporter of Rep. Peter King’s hearings on radicalization, which singled out American Muslims and centered on the flawed assumption that religious belief is a precursor to terrorism. He accused critics of the hearings of valuing “political correctness” over the safety of Americans.[43]

McCaul also serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. In the 112th Congress, he supported efforts to block Palestine’s bid for statehood at the UN. He co-sponsored the “United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act of 2011,” which directed the President to “use U.S. influence at the United Nations” to withhold up to 50% of contributions to UN and to completely defund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.[44] In the wake of the attacks on US diplomatic posts in Egypt and Libya, McCaul introduced a resolution calling on the president to suspend aid to those countries.[45]

In Their Own Words

In support of Peter King’s radicalization hearings:

“The Obama administration has favored political correctness over its highest responsibility to the American people. It has hesitated to call suspects ‘terrorists,’ has been slow to acknowledge radicalization and recruitment, and refused to accurately describe attacks as obvious acts of Jihad.”[46]

Ranking Member Bennie Thompson

Rep. Thompson is the U.S. Representative for Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district, serving since 1993. Thompson is a civil rights activist and the longest-serving African-American elected official in Mississippi. He became the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security in 2007 but lost the post in 2011 to Rep. Peter King when the Republicans retook majority in 2010.

In response to a series of hearings on U.S. Muslim radicalization called by Chairman King, Thompson expressed concern and opposition to the radicalization hearings as it singled out and served to demonize the American Muslim community.

In Their Own Words

On Peter King’s Radicalization hearings:

“While I share your concern about the threat posed to our nation from violence borne of ideologically driven extremism, I believe that this Committee’s exploration of the current and emerging threat environment should be a broad-based examination of domestic extremist groups, regardless of their respective ideological underpinnings.”[47]

Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence

Incoming Chairman: Peter King (R-NY)

Chairman Peter King

Peter King is serving his 11th term in the House. For the first ten terms, he represented New York’s third district, but due to redistricting he is now the representative of the second district. King was appointed as chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism in 2010. During his time in office, King has drawn considerable criticism for his Islamophobic actions, most notably the 2011 Congressional hearings on radical Islam.

During the 112th Congress, King held a series of hearings he claimed were meant to discuss and investigate the “radicalization” of American Muslims in mosques throughout the country. He insisted that American Muslims were not cooperating with the war on terror by failing to report radical activities in their mosques and communities. However, the hearings proved to be nothing more than a means to disseminate anti-Muslim rhetoric without any empirical evidence. In 2012, King resumed the Congressional hearings to determine whether or not the previous year’s hearings were justified.

In 2012, Representative King voted to extend the FISA Authorization Act of 2008 as well as voted against Rush Holt’s bill to prohibit the federal funding of law enforcement agencies that engage in ethnic or racial profiling.[48]

In Their Own Words

On the second round of radicalization hearings:

“When I began this series of investigative hearings in March of last year to examine radicalization within the Muslim-American community, I was vilified by the politically correct media, pandering politicians and radical groups such as CAIR – even though this issue was non-partisan and of serious concern to national security and counterterrorism officials in the Obama administration.”[49]

On NPYD racial profiling:

“First of all, there is no profiling. And that’s the absolute nonsense that people like you and others are propagating.”[50]

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:

Incoming Chairman: Mike Rogers (R-MI)

Incoming Ranking Member: Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)

Chairman Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers is a Republican from Michigan, serving in Congress since 2001. As Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he has resisted efforts to introduce civil liberties reforms to intelligence-gathering practices. During the 112th Congress, Rep. Rogers voted for an extension to the Patriot Act and voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, including its indefinite detention provisions. He also cosponsored the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011,” to eliminate birthright citizenship for children born in the US to non-US citizens. Rogers and other supporters of the bill began using the pejorative terms “anchor babies” and “terror babies” to advocate for this change to the 14th Amendment.

Moreover, Rogers did take an admirable stand against a member of his own committee in rebuking Michele Bachmann’s witch-hunt against American Muslim public servants.

In Their Own Words

On Michelle’s Bachmann’s witch-hunt:

In an interview with USA Today, Representative Rodgers withdrew his previous support for Michele Bachmann’s witch-hunt and distanced himself from her letters:

“That kind of assertion certainly doesn’t comport with the Intelligence Committee, and I can say that on the record. I have no information in my committee that would indicate that Huma

is anything other than an American patriot…This was not an activity that was sanctioned as any Intelligence Committee matter.”[51]

Ranking Member Ruppersberger

Dutch Ruppersberger was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003 and was the first Democratic freshman to be appointed to the House Select Committee on Intelligence. In 2011, he was selected as the Committee’s ranking member.[52]

During his time as a member of the Committee on Intelligence, Ruppersberger has voted to support the extension of electronic surveillance by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In 2011, he voted to pass H.R.5949, to extend the FISA Amendment Act of 2008 through 2017. FISA allows the federal law enforcement agencies to conduct electronic surveillance within the U.S. without warrants and very little about the program has been disclosed to the public.[53]

That same year, Representative Ruppersberger voted for a bill passed in the House that opposed a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood and threatened to withdraw U.S. assistance programs if it did so. The bill also calls on the U.S. government to prevent the Palestinian Authority from gaining recognition from international bodies. The bill also threatened to withdraw U.S. assistance programs if Palestine were to make a bid for statehood.[54]

In the fall of 2012, as the Israel-Gaza conflict escalated, Ruppersberger defended Israel’s retaliation on Hamas in Gaza as Israel asserting its right to defend itself.[55]

In Their Own Words

On the Arab Spring:

“I think as far as the Arab Spring, clearly the dynamic has changed. And I think that the United States now is looking to Morsi to use his influence with Hamas to get them to stop shooting the missiles. Hopefully you could take advantage of this negative situation and start talking about peace. History shows that is unlikely at this point.”[56]

On the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):

“It is the Intelligence Committee’s responsibility to give our intelligence professionals the resources, authorities and capabilities they need to keep our country safe while ensuring proper oversight of the Intelligence Community and protecting civil liberties. The FISA Amendments Act is due to expire at the end of the year. I believe that we must reauthorize this critical piece of legislation. It allows our intelligence professionals to gather critical

intelligence to disrupt terrorist plots, track developments in countries like Iran, Syria, Russia and China and protect our nation’s networks from cyber attacks.”[57]

House Judiciary Committee:

Outgoing Chairman: Lamar Smith (R-TX)

Incoming Chairman: Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

Incoming Ranking Member: John Conyers (D-MI)

Chairman Robert Goodlatte

Robert Goodlatte joined Congress in 1993 as the Republican Representative for Virginia’s 6th district. On the Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte serves as chair of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet. He famously drew the ire of internet freedom activists for his sponsorship of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

The ACLU gives Rep. Goodlatte a 7% rating, indicating a poor record on civil liberties issues.[58] His votes on civil liberties include supporting indefinite detention as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act, and voting several times to renew the Patriot Act and the warrantless wiretapping provisions of FISA.[59]

Goodlatte takes a hard line on issues related to immigration. He opposes efforts to create guest-worker programs or grant amnesty to illegal aliens. He spoke out against the DREAM Act when the House voted on the measure in December 2010, calling it “unfair” and “ripe for fraud.” Goodlatte signed onto a bill to end birthright citizenship for so-called “anchor babies” in 2009. He has long supported a resolution making English the official language of the United States and voted to build a fence along the Mexican border. He also supported a measure in 2004 that would require hospitals to report illegal immigrants seeking medical treatment.[60]

In Their Own Words

“The DREAM Act could mean mass amnesty for 2.1 million illegal immigrants...same thing occurred after the 1986 amnesty bill, the Immigration and Control Act, was enacted. Everyone said that was going to end illegal immigration. It opened the doors to more. This is going to do exactly the same thing.”[61]

Ranking Member John Conyers

Rep. Conyers (D-MI) is the U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 14th congressional district, serving since 1965. He is the second-longest serving member of the House, trailing only Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) in seniority. Conyers is one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 and recognized as the “dean” of the voting bloc. His issues of concern include the expansion of civil rights protections and greater access to health-care.

In the 112th Congress, Conyers sponsored H.Res. 283, which condemns “religious intolerance” and specifically emphasizes the need for the government to take steps to counter the growth in anti-Muslim sentiments, “targeted rhetorical attacks, and violence against the Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian American communities.”[62] He also co-sponsored H.Res. 728 recognizing the commencement of Ramadan and “commending Muslims in the United States and throughout the world for their faith.”[63]

Rep. Conyers is a proponent of a comprehensive immigration reform and served as a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act of 2011, which provides a path to citizenship for undocumented minors.[64] He scores 100% on the scorecard for the American Civil Liberties Union, with respect to his voting record on civil liberties issues.

In Their Own Words

On Islamic Center of America protest in Dearborn:

“Ultimately, the American Muslim community should be able to rely on the federal government to lead the effort in fostering an open climate of understanding and cooperation,” Conyers wrote in a letter to colleagues in the House. “Only through a balanced examination of the challenges facing the nation will we establish a strong policy framework for protecting security, while respecting the Constitution and the interests of affected communities.”

Senate Party Leadership

Majority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV)

Senator Harry Reid

Harry Reid is the senior United States Senator from Nevada, serving since 1987. A member of the Democratic Party, he has been the Senate Majority Leader since January 2007, having previously served as Minority Leader and Minority and Majority Whip. Previously, Reid was a member of the US House of Representatives, representing Nevada’s 1st congressional district, and served in local and state government as city attorney of Henderson, a state legislator, the 25th Lieutenant Governor, and chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

Throughout his Senate leadership tenure, Reid has been an ardent supporter of immigration reform and the DREAM Act. During the 111th Congress, he proposed the Real Enforcement with Practical Alternatives for Immigration Reform (REPAIR) framework for comprehensive immigration legislation. The REPAIR proposal included several positive elements, including a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, expanded immigration opportunities for highly-skilled workers and foreign students in science and technology fields, a commitment to clear the family immigration backlog, and changes to the current law to promote family unification.[65]

On civil liberties, Sen. Reid has been consistent in his opposition to the warrantless surveillance allowed by FISA and the Patriot Act. He also was among a group of senators who in the 111th Congress pushed against administration inaction in nominating members to the Privacy and Civil

Liberties Oversight Board. Reid opposed the construction of the Park 51 Islamic Center, the so called “Ground Zero Mosque,” and called for it to be built “someplace else.”[66]

In Their Own Words

“The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”[67]

“The only thing we need to get immigration reform done is a few Republican votes. It’s high on my list, and we’re going to have a few votes on it.”[68]

Minority Leader

Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senator Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell is the senior United States Senator from Kentucky. A member of the Republican Party, he has been the Minority Leader of the Senate since January 3, 2007. He is also the longest serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky history.

Early in his tenure as Minority Leader, Sen. McConnell helped codify into law the practice of warrantless wiretapping by introducing the Protect America Act in 2007. Since then, he has voted several times to reauthorize warrantless surveillance under FISA and the Patriot Act.[69] In April 2009, McConnell delivered a speech to the Senate criticizing President Barack Obama’s plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.[70]

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, McConnell is a stalwart in his support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” and his opposition to Palestinian statehood. During the 111th Congress, McConnell sent a letter to President Obama regarding the incident involving the Gaza humanitarian aid flotilla. The letter directed attention to questions about Turkey, the United Nations, and international humanitarian organizations, but made no reference to the American citizen killed during the violence, and failed to call for an impartial investigation into the incident.[71] During the 112th Congress, McConnell played a key role in Senate efforts to oppose Palestine’s bid for statehood at the UN, including co-sponsoring a resolution threatening to cut US aid if the Palestinians pursued statehood outside of direct negotiations.[72]

In Their Own Words

“I have no doubt the four-year Patriot Act extension that members of both parties agreed to will protect us from future attacks. Nothing in this extension has ever — ever — been found to be unconstitutional.”[73]

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations:

Outgoing Chairman: John Kerry (D-MA)

Incoming Chairman: John Kerry (D-MA) - Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will be the likely replacement after Sen. Kerry’s confirmation for Secretary of State

Incoming Ranking Member: Bob Corker (R-TN), confirmation pending

Chairman John Kerry

John Kerry was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984 after serving a two-year term as the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. In 2004 he ran as the Democratic nominee for President against incumbent George W. Bush.[74]

During the 112th Congress, Senator Kerry co-sponsored the DREAM Act of 2011. This piece of legislation sought to cancel the removal of undocumented minors who had lawfully been admitted for residence and opened a path to citizenship for minors who demonstrated “good moral character” and had a clean criminal record.[75]

In the same session, Senator Kerry demonstrated support for the Arab Spring when he introduced a bipartisan resolution that established Congressional support for a democratically elected government in Egypt. It called on President Hosni Mubarak to begin the peaceful transition to a representative government and assured support for a government with the goal of advancing universal human rights of Egyptians and furthering “national security interests of the United States in the region.”[76]

In Their Own Words

On the Arab Spring:

“Absent U.N./NATO resolve, the promise that the pro-democracy movement holds for transforming the Arab world could have been crushed…What is happening in the Middle East could be the most important geostrategic shift since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”[77]

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs:

Outgoing Chairman: Joe Lieberman (I-CT)

Incoming Chairman: Thomas Carper (D-DE)

Ranking Member: Tom Coburn (R-OK), confirmation pending

Chairman Thomas Carper

Thomas Carper was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000, following a brief tenure in the House of Representatives and two terms as Governor of Delaware. On the Senate Homeland Security Committee, he chairs the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security.

During the 112th Congress, Carper co-sponsored a resolution condemning Palestine’s bid for statehood at the UN and threatened to cut U.S. aid to both the Palestinian Authority and the UN.[78] During the 111th Congress, he took part in several Senate actions placing sole blame for the Gaza conflict on the Palestinians.[79]

Carper is an outspoken advocate for immigration reform. He was a key player in the 2006 Immigration Reform Act and has played a part in several subsequent efforts to get the DREAM Act

passed. On civil liberties, Carper has voted several times to reauthorize warrantless wiretapping through FISA and the Patriot Act.[80]

In Their Own Words

On the renewal of the Patriot Act:

“My expectation is that the Obama administration will continue to preserve civil liberties as much as possible and target only those suspected of wanting to harm Americans. Although this bill isn’t perfect, I am voting for it to make sure that the essential authorities contained in the PATRIOT Act do not expire and that federal officials have all the tools they need to track down and root out terrorists.”[81]

On the Dream Act:

“This common sense legislation will help thousands of immigrant students who meet rigorous requirements to earn a path to legal status by contributing to our country through military service or by getting a college education.”[82]

Senate Intelligence Committee

Outgoing Chairman: Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Incoming Chairman: Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Incoming Ranking Member: Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

Chairman Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 and was appointed to the Intelligence Committee in the 111th Congress, where she is the first female Senator to hold the position. Currently, she also serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations Committee.[83]

In December 2012, Senator Feinstein advocated and voted for an extension of H.R.5949, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. FISA permits federal law enforcement and intelligence officials gather information on non-citizens outside the U.S., provided they receive approval from a special court. She also voted against four proposed amendments designed to protect the civil liberties of U.S. citizens.[84]

In Their Own Words

On the extension of FISA:

“We are pleased the Senate passed the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 today. This necessary legislation will continue to keep America safe by enabling our intelligence community to identify and neutralize terror networks before they harm us either at home or abroad. In addition, this legislation includes strong privacy protections. The Senate Intelligence Committee will continue to conduct intensive oversight of this program in the 113th Congress.”[85]

“The authorities in FISA that expire at the end of the year have proven critical tools for collecting intelligence on terrorists, proliferators, cyber attackers, among others.”[86]

Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss

Saxby Chambliss was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2003 after serving in the House from 1995-2003. During his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, he served on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chaired the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security. In the 112th Congress (2011-2012), he also served as the ranking member on the Select Committee on Intelligence. In 2012, Saxby objected to any debate on FISA and advocated for passing the House FISA bill.[87]

In 2011, Chambliss voted yes on extending the Patriot Act’s roving wiretaps.[88] And in 2007, he voted yes on removing the need for a FISA warrant in order for the government to conduct wiretapping abroad Chambliss is rated 7% by the ACLU on civil rights issues.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Outgoing Chairman: Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Incoming Chairman: Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Incoming Ranking Member: Chuck Grassley, confirmation pending

Chairman Leahy

Patrick Leahy is the senior United States Senator from Vermont. He is the second-most-senior U.S. Senator, and second longest-serving Democrat, having served since 1975.

Leahy is vocal about his opposition to the Patriot Act and warrantless surveillance under FISA, but has at times voted to reauthorize several of their provisions. During the 112th Congress

Leahy introduced a bill that reauthorized provisions of FISA, but provides for greater judicial review and affords greater protections to individuals being monitored or gag-ordered by the FBI. It also mandates increased transparency and accountability for domestic surveillance operations. The ACLU characterized the legislation as a “step in the right direction,” but argued that it didn’t go far enough to address the civil liberties concerns about FISA and the Patriot Act.[89] Sen. Leahy has also consistently applied pressure to the administration to nominate individuals to the inactive Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.[90]

During the 111th Congress, Leahy introduced the Refugee Protection Act. The bill offered a set of practical solutions to improve the ability of the United States to provide protection to refugees and asylum seekers in a timely, effective, and humane manner. Leahy also circulated a letter supporting a comprehensive review of US policy on landmines and calling for the United States to join the International Mine Ban Treaty.[91]

In Their Own Words

On Park 51:

“It may be popular to jump on this, but it should never be popular to have our First Amendment freedom of religion apply to some religions and not others. That’s not the American way.”[92]

On the need for reform of the Patriot Act:

““The reforms adopted by this Attorney General could be undone by a future Attorney General with the stroke of a pen. We must ensure that the progress in accountability and transparency that we achieved last year is not lost simply because it was never written into the statute.”

[1] Congressional Scorecard – 111th Congress – The Arab American Institute

[2] (June 2009)

[3] (May 2008)

[4] (October 2010)

[5] (November 2002)

[6] (April 2002)



[9] Congressional Scorecard – 112th Congress – The Arab American Institute


[11] (November 2010)


[13] (October 2002)

[14] (December 2007)

[15] Congressional Scorecard – 111th Congress – The Arab American Institute

[16] Congressional Scorecard – 111th Congress – The Arab American Institute

[17] (May 2011)

[18] (May 2006)

[19] (September 2007)


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