The U.S. Congress will be in session again this week, primarily focusing on advancing a Continuing Resolution to fund the U.S. Government beyond 9 December.

Last week, the Senate passed the Iran Sanctions Extension Act (H.R. 6269) by a vote of 99-0 on 1 December, sending the measure to President Obama’s desk.

This week, the Senate is expected to act on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report, after the House passed it last week.

Iran – Sanctions Measure Advances

Members of Congress and Administration officials have said they did not believe the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) would violate terms of the international nuclear agreement with Iran that went into effect early this year. A senior Administration official said, “While we do not think that an extension of ISA is necessary, we do not believe that a clean extension would be a violation of the JCPOA [Iran deal].” While the White House had not pushed for an extension of ISA, it had not raised serious objections. Some congressional aides said they expected President Obama to sign the extension.

  • On Tuesday, 6 December, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Defeating the Iranian Threat Network: Options for Countering Iranian Proxies.”

Syria – U.S. Engagement with Partners

The Department of State reported on 1 December that the United States remains engaged with the Turks, the Russians, the Saudis, the Qataris, European allies, and the opposition in Syria. The Department Spokesperson also said that Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Rome on 2 December. The Secretary also reportedly met with Special Envoy de Mistura on Saturday in Rome and with other multilateral partners in Europe, continuing such meetings this week.

Israel – Kerry Warns Against Settlements

At the Saban Forum on 4 December, Secretary of State John Kerry said Israel is “heading to a place of danger” because expanded settlements in the West Bank are eroding chances for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. He noted, “If you have a whole bunch of people who are strategically locating outposts and settlements in an area so that there will not be a contiguous Palestinian state, they are doing it to be an obstacle to peace.”

Cybersecurity – New Report

On 2 December, the White House released a report on the growing digital economy that was drafted by a nonpartisan Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity tasked with assessing the current state of cybersecurity in the United States and recommending steps that the Government, private sector, and the nation can take to bolster cybersecurity.

Trump Transition News

Last week, President-Elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Wilbur Ross as the Secretary of Commerce and Steven Mnuchin as the next Secretary of the Treasury. The President-Elect is expected to announce Gen. James Mattis as his choice to serve as Secretary of Defense on Monday.

Taiwan – Trump’s Call

On Friday, President-Elect Trump spoke with the leader of Taiwan, a move viewed as a breach of the nearly 40 year-old “one-China” diplomatic protocol. Vice President-Elect Mike Pence said Sunday that the phone call was a “courtesy call” and should not necessarily be interpreted as a shift in U.S. policy.

Congressional Hearings This week

  • On Tuesday, 6 December, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Step or Stumble: The Obama Administration’s Pivot to Asia.”
  • On Tuesday, 6 December, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “American Compassion in India: Government Obstacles.”
  • On Tuesday, 6 December, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Emerging U.S. Defense Challenges and Worldwide Threats.”
  • On Wednesday, 7 December, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Corruption: A Danger to Democracy in Europe and Eurasia.”
  • On Wednesday, 7 December, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Unconventional Monetary Policy.”
  • On Thursday, 8 December, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “State Department and USAID Management Challenges and Opportunities for the Next Administration.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 9 December: U.S. Federal Government funding expires
  • 3 January: 115th Congress convenes
  • 20 January: Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States