December 16, 2019

Menendez Secures Major Foreign Policy Priorities in Congressional Deal to Keep Government Open

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement applauding Senate and House appropriators after they announced a bipartisan deal on federal government spending. Comprised of 12 separate appropriations bills, the legislation includes key priorities championed by Menendez: legislation to reshape U.S. strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean; the largest assistance package to date in response to the Venezuelan crisis; and a provision authorizing the State Department to provide additional medical attention and compensation to U.S diplomats affected by the attacks during their service in Cuba and China.

“The appropriations package announced tonight is a victory for U.S. national interests and our nation’s broader foreign policy agenda,” said Ranking Member Menendez. “With this deal, Congress is using our power of the purse to assert our leadership in addressing key national security priorities for the United States. I thank my colleagues across the aisle in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the Leadership of both Chambers, for working with me through these critical negotiations, and I look forward to enacting this funding package into law without further delay.”

 

The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019:

The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 deepens U.S. security and energy relationships in the Eastern Mediterranean region, especially with Israel, Cyprus and Greece.  The bill authorizes security assistance for Cyprus and Greece and would lift arms restrictions on Cyprus. It also authorizes the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate energy cooperation among the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.

“By including this legislation in the government funding package, the United States Congress is recognizing our significant national security interests in the Eastern Mediterranean,” said Menendez. “Bolstered by strong and expanding relationships with Greece, Israel, and Cyprus, this commonsense legislation will drastically strengthen our bonds of friendship through joint efforts to promote peace, prosperity, and security for our nations.” 

The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019:

  • Lift the prohibition on arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus;
  • Authorize the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate energy cooperation between the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Cyprus;
  • Authorize Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance for Greece;
  • Authorize International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance for Greece and Cyprus.
  • Require the Administration to submit to Congress a strategy on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as reports on malign activities by Russia and other countries in the region.

Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance and Development (VERDAD) Act:  

The VERDAD Act strengthens the U.S response to Venezuela’s growing humanitarian crisis. It also maintains strategic pressure on the Maduro regime and its foreign supporters, and advances efforts to address the vast amount of resources stolen from the Venezuelan people by regime officials.

“I am incredibly proud to announce that the agreed upon appropriations package will include the VERDAD Act, the single largest legislative package of U.S. support to of Venezuela,” said Menendez. “The VERDAD Act makes it clear that the U.S. remain steadfast in its support for the Venezuelan people and Interim President Juan Guaidó and will not waver in our efforts to hold the Maduro regime accountable for the actions of its criminal dictatorship.”

The VERDAD Act includes the following provisions:

  • Provides $400 million in humanitarian assistance for Venezuela and neighboring countries, and $17 million in support for democratic actors and civil society in Venezuela;
  • Strengthens U.S. support for Interim-President Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s democratically-elected National Assembly, and a negotiated solution to the Venezuelan crisis.
  • Prohibits visas for the families of sanctioned Maduro regime officials
  • Requires new efforts to freeze and recover assets stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro regime
  • Bills approved by the House of Representatives to address Russian involvement in Venezuela, prohibiting arms sales to the Maduro regime, and strengthening the delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance

 

Provision Ensuring Care and Compensation for U.S. Victims of Attacks in Cuba and China:

Negotiated by Ranking Member Menendez, this provision authorizes the State Department to provide additional medical attention and compensation to U.S personnel affected by the attacks during their service in Cuba and China. The provision also authorizes necessary medical attention for affected family members and dependents.

“With this provision, the U.S Congress reaffirms our support for U.S. diplomats and their families as they continue to represent our country on the front lines around the world,” added Menendez. “We will not forget the U.S. personnel who have been affected by the attacks in Cuba and China, and this provision ensures that they will have the medical care and compensation that they deserve.”

The provision includes:

  • Authorizes the State Department to provide U.S. personnel with brain injuries and cognitive issues stemming from the health incidents in Cuba and China with additional medical benefits and compensation
  • Authorizes additional medical attention to the affected dependents of U.S. personnel
  • Establishes a mechanism for the State Department to provide similar benefits to U.S. personnel and their dependents that are affected by any similar attacks in the future, following a determination by the Secretary of State

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