WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, today delivered the following opening remarks at a full committee markup of H.Res. 75, H.R. 739, H.Res. 156, H.R. 596, H.R. 295:
"We have five good measures before us today, and I’m pleased to support them all.
"The first measure I want to discuss is H.Res 156, a resolution I authored with Ranking Member McCaul, that calls for justice for the assassination of Boris Nemtsov.
"Nemtsov was a brave advocate for democracy and free elections in Russia. Sadly, that put him right in Vladimir Putin’s crosshairs. Now he joins a long list of brave journalists, human rights activists, and political opponents murdered by Putin’s henchmen in their quest to silence all criticism of the Kremlin and stamp out any perceived threat to Putin’s authoritarian regime.
"This resolution condemns the Kremlin’s systematic targeting of its political opponents and it calls on the Administration to implement Magnitsky Act sanctions on those responsible for Nemtsov’s murder and coverup.
"It also requires the Administration to deliver to Congress a thorough report on Nemtsov’s assassination. That’s a critical part of this legislation. Because sadly, the Administration hasn’t done nearly enough to give us much reason to stand up to Russia and call out Putin’s thuggery. So, it’s up to Congress to assert American leadership on this issue.
"And Putin’s strong-arm tactics extend beyond the authoritarian rule in his own country. We’ve seen this all too clearly in Russia’s malign actions with its neighbors. Which brings me to our next measure. Before I do that, I want to just personally tell you, I have on my desk in my office a picture of me, shaking hands with Boris Nemtsov...it is...shocking. When we moved offices, I saw that picture, I had forgotten about it. He came and visited me and told me he was the opponent of Putin, and that he was for free, independent elections, and for a free Russia. I was very, very impressed with him, and thought, “Wow, this man is really special.” Apparently, unfortunately, Putin thought so too, and had him killed right in Moscow. But…I remember him telling me about how he felt how important his work was, and I told him that I thought he was really working not for just the people in Russia, but for people all over the world. So I want to just mention that because Boris Nemtsov, it was quite an honor for me to meet him and of course, just a few months later he was murdered. So it’s just...startling. The Crimea Annexation Non-Recognition Act puts that conviction into law by stating that the United States will not recognize Russia’s claims of sovereignty in Ukraine. Putin’s disrespect for independent, sovereign democracies is something we in the United States know all too well.
"By advancing this legislation, we send a clear message to our Ukrainian partners and their neighbors—we stand with you. I support this bill and I urge my colleagues to do the same. And just as a side, I have been a strong supporter of Ukraine being admitted to NATO, and I think we should pursue that down the road.
"It’s critical that we support our partners and allies whenever they are under threat. And that brings me to our next measure, H.Res 75. I want to thank Mr. McCaul, Ms. Bass, and Mr. Smith for joining me in this resolution that strongly condemns the January 2019 attack by the terrorist group al-Shabab in Nairobi, Kenya. This horrific attack killed dozens of people, including American citizen Jason Spindler.
"Just last week, we saw another al-Shabab attack in Mogadishu, Somalia claim the lives of nearly 30 people. So, this resolution rightly reaffirms that the United States supports our regional partners in their ongoing efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism in the Horn of Africa. I hope all members will join me in supporting this measure.
"Next, I’d like to discuss the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act, introduced by Mr. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Keating. It’s horrible that in 2019, we still live in a world where human beings are held in slavery. It’s a moral outrage.
"So, we need to be consistently evaluating our government’s efforts on this issue and looking for areas where we can improve. This bill does just that, by having the financial industry play a bigger role in trafficking down…in tracking down human traffickers. By connecting the industry with experts on human trafficking, banks and other financial institutions will be better equipped to spot suspect financial transactions that may be related to this heinous criminal enterprise. This bill continues our fight against the scourge of human trafficking, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.
"And finally, we turn to Ranking Member McCaul’s bill, the Cyber Diplomacy Act. Last Congress, I worked with Chairman Royce on this bill, and we got it through this Committee, the House, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with broad bipartisan support. This Congress, Ranking Member McCaul has taken up that mantle, and I’m pleased to join him as we work to get this bill over the finish line, and on the President’s desk.
"Cyberspace is an increasingly critical part of foreign policy and we desperately need to update our government agencies to reflect that realty.
"America has significant interests in cybersecurity, the digital economy, issues of Internet freedom and we need to be engaging with the international community to articulate and protect those interests.
"If we don’t focus on all of these areas, we run the real risk of seeing authoritarian regimes—like Russia and China—play a bigger role in determining the way the international community handles these issues. So, this bill would create a high-level ambassador position at the State Department dedicated to this endeavor and require a comprehensive cyberspace strategy.
"I am frustrated by the lack of progress on this issue at the State Department, and I hope they will work with us to ensure that this bill becomes law. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this measure.
"Thank you to all of our members for your hard work on these good bills before us today. As I said before, I’m pleased to support them all."
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