President Barack Obama travelled to Warsaw, Poland, at the end of last week to attend the NATO Summit and meet with Polish government officials. In joint remarks to the press after a U.S.-EU meeting on Friday, President Obama emphasizing a close cooperation with the EU, including through the ongoing transatlantic free trade agreement negotiations, while also briefly addressing the United Kingdom’s vote to depart the EU. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker took a harder position on the UK’s referendum vote, while European Council President Donald Tusk remained more conciliatory. President Obama travelled next to Spain before returning early to the United States.
From Poland, President Obama addressed two separate shootings last week by police forces against black citizens that resulted in the deaths of the two. He further addressed tensions in the United States on Friday, after a late Thursday evening shooting incident in Dallas, Texas, that left five police officers dead and injured others, including two civilians. The shooter told police that he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers” in response to the recent, high-profile police-involved shootings.
Both chambers of Congress were in session after the Fourth of July holiday and will be in session this week. The House voted Friday afternoon on a motion to proceed to conference with the Senate on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; S. 2943). Meanwhile, the Senate failed to advance its FY 2017 defense spending measure on Thursday, setting the stage for an ever more likely Continuing Resolution to prevent a Government shutdown when FY 2016 concludes on 30 September. Congress will recess for seven weeks on 15 July, returning to Washington in early September before adjourning again at the end of the month until after the 8 November elections. Also last week, the United States added North Korea President Kim Jong Un and other North Korean officials to its list of Specially Designated Nationals.
NATO Summit – Obama’s Trip to Poland and Spain
President Obama participated in the NATO Summit last week, discussing NATO’s commitments to Eastern Europe, deterring Russian aggression, addressing the migrant crisis in Europe, and the Alliance’s commitments to Afghanistan. While in Brussels, President Obama said:
“The United States, NATO, and the European Union are central pillars of the global order. We complement each other, and together provide peace and stability in Europe, our neighborhood, and beyond. Our combined strengths remains formidable, but still, we can work more closely together, and that is why we are here today.”
The White House released multiple fact sheets related to the NATO Summit: (1) NATO Warsaw Summit; (2) U.S. Contributions to NATO Capabilities; (3) U.S. Assurance and Deterrence Efforts in Support of NATO Allies; (4) U.S. Contributions to Enhancing Allied Resilience; (5) U.S. and NATO Efforts in Support of NATO Partners, including Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova; and (6) NATO’s Enduring Commitment to Afghanistan.
President Obama also met with President Andrzej Duda, affirming the commitment of the United States to the security of Poland. The White House also released a fact sheet on the bilateral relationship. In Spain over the weekend, President Obama met with Spanish government officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (White House bilateral relationship fact sheet). He cut a portion of his trip to Spain short in order to return to the United States and participate in a memorial service in Dallas on Tuesday for the fallen police officers.
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Oversight of the European Reassurance Initiative.”
North Korea – New U.S. Sanctions Announced
Last Wednesday, the Obama Administration announced sanctions designations targeting senior North Korean officials, including Kim Jong Un. The U.S. Department of State issued a report identifying individuals and entities responsible or associated with serious human rights abuses or censorship in North Korea. In tandem, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that eleven individuals and five entities have been sanctioned under Executive Orders 13722 and 13687. Both agency actions were consistent with requirements set forth in the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 757), passed by Congress in February.
NDAA – House Moves to Conference
Prior to adjourning Friday afternoon, the House voted on a motion to go to conference with the Senate on the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; S.2943). House Members were also named to serve on the House-Senate conference committee.
Spending Measures Stall – CR Possible
Late last Thursday, Senate Democrats blocked a motion (50-44) to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed to the FY 2017 defense spending measure, falling short of the 60 votes required. A Continuing Resolution (CR) will likely be needed to keep funding for the Defense Department and other U.S. Government agencies at current levels before the current spending authority expires on 30 September. There is little time remaining on the congressional calendar, with lawmakers scheduled to leave on 15 July for a seven-week recess.
Members of the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans in the House, are actively discussing a potential vote on a six-month CR next week that would fund the Government through March 2017 and effectively suspend any further congressional action on FY 2017 appropriations measures this year. Such a move would essentially punt FY 2017 spending decisions to a new President and Congress.
Zika Funding – White House Urges Congress to Act
The White House called on Congress to authorize Zika funding ahead of their summer recess next week, citing possibly irreparable harm to pregnant women in the United States and their babies. Participating in a White House-led teleconference on Thursday, Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said that he has written to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), urging him to bring the bipartisan $1.1 billion bill that the Senate previously passed back to the floor for a vote as a standalone measure, without extraneous policy riders. Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio announced he will convene a Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere and Global Women’s Issues Subcommittee hearing this week to discuss the Zika virus.
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittees on Western Hemisphere and Global Women’s Issues is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Zika in the Western Hemisphere: Risks and Response.”
2016 TIP Report Released
On 30 June, the U.S. Department of State released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The Report sustained Malaysia’s designation as a Tier 2 Watch List country, for a second consecutive year, while also elevating Thailand from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List.
Congress passed a trade bill last year that contained a provision that would prevent Malaysia and other Tier 3-ranked countries from fast-tracked trade deals with the United States, including the TPP. Last year, the State Department upgraded Malaysia from Tier 3, along with Cuba, a move that many criticized as politicizing the TIP Report. Thailand, meanwhile, has expressed interest in possibly joining the TPP in the future.
- On Tuesday, 12 July, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Review of the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report.”
- On Tuesday, 12 July, the House Foreign Affairs Global Human Rights Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Accountability Over Politics: Scrutinizing the Trafficking in Persons Report.”
TTIP – Negotiators Meet This Week
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiators are expected to focus on regulatory cooperation during their next round of talks in Brussels this week. U.S. negotiators are unlikely to move on the EU’s demands for more concessions on government procurement and services. The EU is also expected to table proposals for eight out of nine sectors that both sides have decided are subjects for regulatory cooperation: (1) chemicals, (2) cosmetics, (3) engineering, (4) medical devices, (5) pesticides, (6) pharmaceuticals, (7) textiles, and (8) vehicles.
TPP – Democratic Platform May Include Language Opposing the Agreement
Some Democratic National Committee delegates have reportedly sent letters to Platform Committee co-chairs Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin calling for stronger language opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership to be included in the 2016 Democratic Party Platform. The move came ahead of Friday and Saturday’s Democratic National Committee’s platform meeting in Orlando, which concluded with a vote on the draft platform that will be sent to the party convention for final approval later in July.
Privacy Shield – Final Approval Expected This Week
A European Commission committee of national data experts adopted the EU-U.S. data transfer agreement known as “Privacy Shield” last week, paving the way for final approval by EU Commissioners today. Privacy Shield is intended to replace the nullified “Safe Harbor” agreement. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will be in Brussels on Tuesday, where she anticipates participating in the formal signing ceremony for the agreement.
Congressional Hearings This Week
- On Tuesday, 12 July, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Human Rights Under Siege Worldwide.”
- On Tuesday, 12 July, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Asia and the Pacific is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?”
- On Tuesday, 12 July, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Public-Private Partnerships in Foreign Aid: Leveraging U.S. Assistance for Greater Impact and Sustainability.”
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Air Dominance and the Critical Role of Fifth Generation Fighters.”
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Turkey’s Democratic Decline.”
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “U.S. Policy Options in the South China Sea.”
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the House Ways & Means Trade Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Hearing on Expanding U.S. Digital Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Digital Exports.”
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a two part hearing, with the first session open, and the second session closed to the public. The hearing is titled, “Counterintelligence and Insider Threats: How Prepared is the Department of Homeland Security?”
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Countering the Virtual Caliphate: The State Department’s Performance.”
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Digital Acts of War: Evolving the Cybersecurity Conversation.”
- On Wednesday, 13 July, the House Foreign Affairs Global Human Rights Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The Castro Regime’s Ongoing Violations of Civil and Political Rights.”
- On Thursday, 14 July, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The Iran Nuclear Agreement: One Year Later.”
- On Thursday, 14 July, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Syria: Minimizing Risks and Improving Oversight.”
- On Thursday, 14 July, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The Strategic Importance of Building a Stronger U.S.-Caribbean Partnership.”
- On Thursday, 14 July, the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Evaluating the Financial Risks of China.”
- On Thursday, 14 July, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice is scheduled to hold a hearing on S. 2040, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.
- On Thursday, 14 July, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “President Obama’s Nuclear Deterrent Modernization Plans and Budgets: The Military Requirements.”
- On Thursday, 14 July, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights, and International Organizations is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Hope Deferred: Securing Enforcement of the Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children.”
Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:
- 11-15 July: TTIP Negotiations in Brussels
- 18 July – 5 September: Congressional Summer Recess
- 18-21 July: Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio
- 25-28 July: Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- 4-5 September: G-20 Leaders’ Summit in Hangzhou, China
- 13 September: 71st Session of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) Begins
- 20 September: UNGA General Debate Commences
- By 15 October: ITC to publish a Federal Register notice related to MTB petitions
- 19-20 November: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Peru