WASHINGTON— Today, Representative Eliot L. Engel’s bill, the No Assistance for Assad Act, passed the House of Representatives. Representative Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of his bill:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the No Assistance for Assad Act, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“This act, HR 4681, was written by me. I am proud to be the lead sponsor in this bill and I am proud of the bipartisan support that we have gotten from Chairman Royce and others on both sides of the aisle.
“Mr. Speaker, every time we think that the crisis in Syria could not get any worse, the Assad regime manages to plunge the country into even deeper depths. Children living in besieged Madaya could not get food, so they resort to eating leaves. A seven-year-old and her mother tweeted goodbye messages from Aleppo under siege.
“What’s happened recently in eastern Ghouta is just unfathomable. The White Helmets—first responders—rushing to the scene of an aerial attack, have been targeted themselves once they arrived to render aid. And the regime has continued using chemical weapons, which the world swore we would never use again. But no matter how Assad’s victims have met their ends—from nerve gas or barrel bombs or at the hands of Assad’s Russian or Iranian patrons—the loss of innocent life is staggering.
“My heart really bleeds for the people of Syria. What they have had to endure should be endured by anyone. And the United States needs to be vocal and we need to take action. As we continue to find some way to end the bloodshed, we also need to start thinking about what will come down the road.
“This bill says that American assistance for reconstruction in Syria should be available in areas controlled by Assad only if the regime stops indiscriminate use of weapons, ends attacks on civilians and civilian facilities, releases political prisoners, allows human-rights organizations access to the prisons, and removes senior officials complicit in human-rights abuses.
“If Bashar al-Assad, the Butcher of Syria, wants to destroy his own country and then expects the United States to pick up the pieces, he is sorely mistaken. That simply won’t happen. He and Russia and Iran broke Syria, and now they have to buy it.
“We were careful in crafting this legislation to ensure that these limitations won’t affect locally administered projects. And the bill permits humanitarian assistance to all in need.
“Recovery in Syria will be a slow and painful process. But we cannot allow those responsible for hundreds of thousands of murders to control American dollars meant to help the country rebuild.
“Who in the Foreign Affairs Committee can look at those horrendous pictures taken of all these dead corpses lying one by one right next to each other? Who can forget those atrocities put up with by the people of Syria each and every day?
“I’m grateful for the bipartisan support this bill has already received, and I particularly want to thank Congressman Kinzinger, Congressman Boyle and Chairman Royce for their partnership in crafting this legislation.
“So this legislation sends a message—particularly after the Assad regime used chemical weapons—that we are closely watching the developments in Syria and that the United States will not assist those who are party to such heinous war crimes.
“I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.”
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