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– As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks at a full Committee markup of nine measures, including his own resolution highlighting the importance of a U.S.-Mexico partnership based on mutual respect:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this markup.  We’re taking up a number of good measures and I’m glad to support them all.

“I’ll start with a resolution I authored with Mr. McCaul of Texas underscoring the importance of a U.S.-Mexico partnership based on mutual respect.

“We’ve seen many highs and lows in this bilateral relationship over the last century. In recent years, things have been headed in the right direction with closer ties on a range of issues from security to economic cooperation. But in my view, things have gotten off track.  I worry that we’re going to squander the good progress we’ve made unless we change course.

“Mexico is an important partner. It’s a partnership we want to see thrive. This measure puts us on record reiterating just how important this relationship is. I’m grateful to you Mr. Chairman for bringing it up today, and I ask all members to support it.

“And now I’ll turn to three measures dealing with Israel’s security.

“The first measure designed to push—the first is a measure designed to push the Palestinian Authority to stop the so called ‘martyr payments,’ which incentivize terrorist activity. 

“We’ve had a lot of debate in Congress about the right way to do that. I believe the approach we’re taking today strikes just the right balance. I was glad to work with Chairman Royce to ensure this legislation would not have unintended consequences such as targeting humanitarian and democracy assistance or security cooperation. And the Chairman and I worked very closely together to come out with a really good bill.

“And we have two measures aimed at curbing the violence of the terrorist group Hamas, which is a threat to Israel’s citizens and security across the region.

“I also want to thank Representatives Wilson and Moulton for their leadership in authorizing the Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act. The use of human shields is a disgusting and cowardly practice, and it will never lead to peace. This bill would use new sanctions to crack down on anyone supporting or taking part in this horrific practice.

“Moving on, I’m glad to support the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act from Representatives Mast and Gottheimer. This bill is intended to send a message to foreign governments that they should ought to stop funding Hamas.  Once they have stopped funding Hamas, we will maintain pressure to keep it that way. 

But this bill is not the United States taking sides in the Gulf conflict. My vote for this legislation today is not a vote of approval of any actions that pit one side against another. The breakdown in relationships in the Gulf has not been in our interest, and I would urge all parties to come together and resolve their differences. 

“Next, as the Rohingya crisis continues to rage, I want to thank the Chairman for his sustained focus on this tragedy.

“We continue to see reports of Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh and widespread hunger and malnutrition for those who are left behind. Both Chairman Royce and I believe that what is occurring in Burma’s Rakhine state is ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the military and a direct failure of the Burmese government to protect its people.

“This resolution calls for the re-imposition of targeted sanctions against those responsible for this violence. It’s what we should be doing, and along with the Chairman, I’ll continue to press this issue.

“I’m also glad to join the Chairman to cosponsor the Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2017. In recent years, malicious cyber activity has become a greater threat to the United States and our allies—most notably with Russia’s illegal interference in our election last year.

“We cannot allow foreign governments to meddle in democracy or conduct cyberattacks against us and our allies. This measure would help the United States shape international cyber norms, ramp up coordination with our allies to stiffen cyber defenses, and coordinate responses to future malicious activity.

“This bill also calls for maintaining the Office for Cyber Issues at the State Department. Now more than ever, we need a high-ranking cyber diplomacy to prioritize these efforts and ensure we keep the Internet open, reliable, unfettered and secure.

“The fact that the State Department has not yet filled so many important vacancies is a constant irritant to me.  And this is just another example of that, and I would urge the President and Secretary of State to fill these senior vacancies as soon as possible.

“I’d like to also thank Chairman Royce for working with me on his amendment to Mr. Grothman’s measure condemning the persecution of Christians around the world.

“Freedom of worship is a basic human right, yet we see religious minorities all over the world subjected to violence and persecution. It is unacceptable for anyone to suffer because of how—or even if—they choose to worship. We must speak out against such injustices or any other assaults on the universal freedom of press, rights to organize, or LGBT equality. This is a very important bill about the persecution of Christians around the world.

“I am also pleased to support Mr. Smith’s bill, the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act.

“So-called ‘neglected tropical diseases’ take a particularly high toll on poor populations in developing countries. Some of these diseases cause blindness, stunted growth, and cognitive disabilities, which can stifle progress and prosperity in affected countries.

“That’s why a decade ago, President Bush launched the Neglected Tropical Diseases Program at USAID and the Obama Administration carried this work forward. Mr. Smith’s bill would make sure our existing efforts are working as efficiently as possible.

“Unfortunately, the President has called for a 25 percent cut to this USAID program. I think that would be a colossal mistake. We cannot hope to defeat neglected tropical diseases, or advance our global health priorities, if we fail to keep investing in those areas and recognize the opportunities we have for collaboration across our programs.

“And lastly, I’m pleased to support Mr. Hasting’s resolution.  The measure condemns the cruel practices surrounding the dog and cat meat trade in many parts of Asia and calls for an end to such practices.

“Once again, I thank all our Members for their efforts on these pieces of legislation and to the Chairman for his leadership. And I yield back.”

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