WASHINGTON – As Congress prepares to return to its second session later this week, and with the midterm election in November on the horizon, Jewish organizations are working on their legislative agenda for 2022, deciding what they should promote and what they should oppose before the 117th Congress is dissolved.
The main priority for 2022, as several organizations noted, is securing $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system.
The funding has been blocked in the Senate for three months over the opposition of Senator Rand Paul. The Republican from Kentucky said last month that he would support the bill if it would be offset with spending cuts elsewhere.
Some organizations reiterated the need for a permanent envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. In July, US President Joe Biden announced he would appoint Deborah Lipstadt to the position, but she is still awaiting her confirmation vote in the Senate.
Another item that is receiving wide support is the Israel Relations Normalization Act.
Marshall Wittmann, spokesperson for AIPAC, said that the pro-Israel lobby’s immediate priorities in the new year are “working to gain final congressional approval of $1 billion to replenish the Iron Dome system and $3.8 billion dollars in security assistance funding for Israel
“We also will be urging quick final passage of the Israel Relations Normalization Act. We will continue to urge Congress and the administration to confront the Iranian push for a nuclear weapon and combine diplomacy with added economic pressure and the credible threat of military force. We will be developing additional legislative initiatives to enhance US-Israel bilateral cooperation, and to ensure that Israel has the necessary resources to defend itself against the threat of Iranian aggression.”
Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, said “High on our agenda for 2022 is the need to secure Iron Dome funding. It’s our top priority on Capitol Hill for the moment.”
He noted that Congress has passed legislation mandating the appointment at the State Department of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
“The administration has nominated Professor Deborah Lipstadt to fill the position,” Mariaschin said. “The Senate now needs to confirm her so that she can carry out the important work of this job in the fight against global antisemitism. We are also supporting bipartisan legislation in Congress that would impose sanctions on foreign individuals and agencies that support the terrorist activities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
Mariaschin noted that B’nai B’rith will also be advocating for adopting the Israel Relations Normalization Act, which mandates a government-wide strategy to expand and strengthen the Abraham Accords.
“On the domestic side, we are supporting the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act, because of funds appropriated for affordable housing for seniors,” he said. “Senior housing is a major project of B’nai B’rith. As the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income housing for seniors, we sponsor nearly 40 residential facilities with over 5,000 residents around the United States.”
Jason Isaacson, chief policy and political affairs officer at AJCommittee, said his organization is focused on advancing the various items from its legislative advocacy agenda, including funding for the replenishment of Iron Dome; Senate confirmation of key presidential nominees including Lipstadt and Ambassador Barbara Leaf as assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, Sarah Margon as assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Tamara Wittes as USAID assistant administrator for the Middle East.
Another item, he noted, is the passage of S.Res.377/H.Res.558, urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety.
“With our ongoing national focus on raising awareness and providing necessary tools for the fight against antisemitism, we’ll continue working across the country to ensure adequate hate crimes reporting, reaching out to and securing commitments from governors, mayors, and other officials, and we’ll continue to press for the adoption by state and local authorities of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism,” said Isaacson.
The Jewish Federation of North America has a busy schedule as well. Among the items on its agenda: securing $360 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; securing $10 million for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program; and advocating for investment in home-based health care for older adults and people with disabilities through the Better Care Better Jobs Act.
JFNA will also focus on Holocaust education and addressing online antisemitism, including fighting the delegitimization of Israel and supporting the implementation of No Hate Act.
“We have important legislative work to do this year in order to ensure that our community is safe, healthy, and inclusive, and that our society protects the most vulnerable,” said Jewish Federations SVP for Public Affairs, Elana Broitman. “The pandemic continues to show how important the national system of local nonprofit services is to supporting our communities, and the need for strong, bipartisan support behind our priorities to continue enabling these services.”
Sam Markstein, national political director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that “RJC’s focus this year will continue to be opposing the Biden administration’s wrong-headed efforts, most notably their plan to revive a dangerously flawed nuclear deal with Iran, their scheme to open a US consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, and their disastrous ‘Build Back Better’ bill.
“RJC will also be supporting measures to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome, broaden and strengthen the Abraham Accords, and compel the Palestinian Authority to end ‘pay for slay’ subsidies for terrorism.”
Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said that one of JDCA’s top legislative priorities for 2022 is passage of federal voting rights legislation “to defend our democracy and combat widespread Republican-led voter suppression. JDCA strongly supports the Freedom to Vote Act, which has the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate, as well as efforts to abolish or reform the Senate filibuster in order to ensure its passage.
“Jewish Dems will also continue to support Democratic efforts to protect and expand abortion access, working with coalitions to advocate for passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act in the Senate, and to pursue reproductive justice,” said Soifer. “JDCA will continue to advocate for the confirmation of key Biden administration nominees in 2022, including Sarah Margon as assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Dilawar Syed as deputy administrator for the Small Business Administration; and Deborah Lipstadt as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.”
Michael Koplow, policy director for the Israel Policy Forum, emphasized that while the organization is not a lobbying group and does not lobby Congress on legislation, it “absolutely has a policy agenda. There are a few policy items we hope that Congress takes up in the new year, including normalization between Israel and regional states that is furthered, and that is also leveraged to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian issues; continuing to robustly support Israeli security needs; Israel-Palestinian security coordination; and funding to the Palestinian Authority Security Forces that prevents terrorism and violence against Israelis.
Koplow said that the IPF also supports “people-to-people ties that further a viable peace process through continued support for Lowey funding, and continued support for UNRWA as the only entity currently able to provide critical humanitarian services in Gaza, predicated on its continued pledges to the US on transparency, accountability, and neutrality.”