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Chairman Risch Highlights Foreign Relations Committee Accomplishments for 2019

BOISE, Idaho – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today highlighted significant accomplishments of the committee from his first year as chairman.

“I am proud that in my first year as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee we have been able to accomplish so much,” said Risch. “In addition to reporting out 67 nominees who were confirmed by the full Senate to positions at the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and other agencies, the committee has made notable and substantive efforts to improve the lives of people both at home and across the globe.

“Holding the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers accountable for their numerous human rights violations and other atrocities against the Syrian people has been an urgent matter for me for years. In January, I introduced the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, and on May 22 the committee approved the House companion of this bill. I worked hard for the inclusion of this vital legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA). Its passage is good news for the Syrian people, and it sends a loud message to those who seek to normalize or rehabilitate this criminal regime.

“The committee worked to combat the Chinese government’s human rights abuses by approving both the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. These bills make it abundantly clear to Hong Kongers, Uyghurs, and other Muslim minorities in China, and the international community that the United States will hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable. I look forward to working with the administration to implement the new Hong Kong law, and I hope the Senate and House can find an agreement on the Uyghur bill soon.

“This year I also worked to strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by leading a resolution recognizing its 70th anniversary and by supporting the ratification of North Macedonia’s accession to this important alliance. Our adversaries hate to see NATO grow and thrive, and adding a 30th member sends a strong message about the future and strength of the alliance. I look forward to the day when all NATO nations have completed the ratification process and we can welcome North Macedonia as a full-fledged member of the world’s greatest political-military alliance.

“Additionally, I have worked tirelessly to hold Turkey accountable for its various destabilizing actions, including its incursion into northeast Syria and its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system. I am committed to preventing the transfer of any F-35s and related equipment to Turkey while it possesses Russian S-400s, and I am glad this year’s NDAA included a provision blocking funds for this transfer. The committee also reported out bipartisan, comprehensive Turkey legislation that I introduced in conjunction with Ranking Member Menendez. We hope our bill will result in President Erdogan making the choice to walk away from the S-400s, curb future destabilizing actions against our friends and partners, the Syrian Kurds, and not jeopardize the U.S. strategy to defeat ISIS. I hope the full Senate will be able to vote on this critical legislation early in the new year.

“The committee also worked to counter Russia’s malign influence and protect the integrity of Europe’s energy sector. On July 31, the committee approved legislation to impose sanctions on companies laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if they do not cease their operations. Passage of this legislation has been a major priority of mine this year, and I was pleased to see its inclusion in this year’s NDAA. I hope all parties involved will realize that stopping this project is in the best interest of our friends and allies who wish to curb Putin’s efforts to make Europe reliant on Russian energy.

“Earlier this year, I also worked to ratify four tax treaties with other countries that have languished in the Senate for years. The treaties with Japan, Luxembourg, Spain, and Switzerland are of great importance both to a number of Americans with investments in these nations, and to these nations’ citizens who have substantial investments in the United States. By passing the treaties, the Senate has simplified tax rules and ensured that no one endures unfair double taxation. It was extremely gratifying to be able to usher these treaties through the full Senate after so many years of inaction.

“The committee reaffirmed and strengthened the United States’ important alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific throughout this year. I led Senate passage of a resolution reaffirming the importance of the General Security of Military Information Agreement between the Republic of Korea and Japan to U.S. and allied security interests ahead of the deadline for the Republic of Korea to withdraw, and we approved new military capabilities for Taiwan that will enable it to better deter Chinese aggression. These important allies should be assured that they can count on the United States as a partner and a friend.

“Throughout this year, the committee also worked to hold the government of Zimbabwe accountable for its human rights abuses, ensured that USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have the tools they need to combat Ebola, and supported democratic elections in nations undergoing leadership crises like Bolivia. I appreciate my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for working together to make this such a productive year. I look forward to continuing to work together to advance our committee priorities in the new year.”

SFRC accomplishments in 2019 included committee approval of:

  • 25 bills, six of which were passed by the full Senate.
    • Of these 25 bills, one was signed into law as standalone legislation and six others were incorporated into the NDAA or the omnibus appropriations bill that were signed into law in December.
  • 29 Senate resolutions, 16 of which were agreed to by the full Senate.
  • One joint resolution.
  • Two concurrent resolutions, one of which was passed by the full Senate.
  • Five treaties, all of which were approved by the full Senate.
  • 75 presidential nominees, 67 of which were confirmed by the full Senate.
  • More than 20 Foreign Service Officer promotion lists, all of which were confirmed by the full Senate.

For more information about SFRC’s activities in 2019, you can access the chairman’s press page here and the committee’s hearings page here.