WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a Committee markup of H.R. 4411, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act; H.R. 4640, the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act; H.Res. 435, which calls attention to the disappearance of Robert Levinson in Iran; H.R. 4653, which would reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; H.R. 2283, the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act; and H.Res. 562, reaffirming the importance of U.S.-Moldova ties:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this important markup and, once again, I’m grateful that we could work together in a bipartisan fashion on all of these measures.
“First of all, let me express my strong support for H.R. 4411, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act. Hezbollah has continued to terrorize the globe, reaching into Latin America, Europe, Asia and across the Middle East. How does—how does Hezbollah fund this violence and terrorism? Kidnappings and ransom, conflict diamonds, narcotrafficking, and other criminal enterprises. Claims that Hezbollah is simply just a political organization or a social services agency are simply naïve, and this bill exposes the group for what it is: a vicious terrorist organization with a global footprint.
“This legislation goes after financial institutions that knowingly support Hezbollah. It’s modeled after the Comprehensive Iranian Sanctions and Divestment Act of 2010. That measure worked. It’s one of the prime causes of the severe economic downturn that brought the Iranians to the negotiating table. H.R. 4411 also focuses on Hezbollah’s efforts to spread hateful propaganda through its media outlet, Al-Manar, which is in itself a Specially Designated Terrorist Group.
“Through sanctions, we hope to cut off Hezbollah’s lifeline and prevent future terrorist attacks.
“I want to thank Representative Meadows and Schneider for their thoughtful leadership on this issue and their bipartisan work. And, thank you, Mr. Chairman for moving this forward—especially at this critical time.
“Next, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for bringing up H.R. 4640, my Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission legislation. Let me also thank Congressman Salmon who is the lead Republican cosponsor of this legislation, a great partner of mine, and strongly committed to a strong U.S.-Latin American partnership.
“Despite at least $15.7 billion spent on counternarcotics programs in Latin America and the Caribbean through 1980—between 1980 and 2012, illicit drug use in our country remains high. In 2012, there were around 24 million illicit drug users in the United States. And while cocaine use at home is declining, heroin use is on the rise. In fact, heroin overdose deaths in the United States increased by an alarming 45 percent between 2006 and 2010.
“This bill would create an independent commission to take stock of what’s working, what isn’t, and help guide the future of U.S. drug policy through recommendations submitted to Congress, the Secretary of State, and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“This Commission will save our government money in the long run. Its recommendations will help ensure that we’re getting the biggest bang for our buck as we tackle this problem in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“A similar bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously in 2009 but stalled in the Senate. This year, I and Mr. Salmon are determined to get this legislation onto the President’s desk.
“I would also like to express my support for H. Res. 435, which calls attention to the disappearance of Robert Levinson in Iran more than seven years ago. The United States has repeatedly raised Mr. Levinson’s case with the Iranian government. Now is the time for Iran to make a good-faith effort to bring Robert Levinson home. Thanks to the leadership and tireless work by Representative Deutch, Mr. Levinson’s Congressman, this resolution will lend a new sense of urgency to this effort.
“Mr. Chairman, I would like to commend our Committee colleague, Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, as well as Representative Wolf for their leadership on international religious freedom issues and for their work on H.R. 4653, which reauthorizes the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to … manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Nevertheless, every day religious communities around the world are subject to escalating violence, persecution, and discrimination. USCIRF is pushing back against violations and helping to uphold our most cherished values.
“I would like to again thank Mr. Smith for introducing H.R. 2283, legislation that would elevate the [Office] to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to the status of a Bureau within the State Department.
“Human trafficking, as Mr. Chris Smith has always pointed out, is modern-day slavery, and one of the most offensive violations of a person’s freedom and dignity. Around the world, as many as 27 million people are victims of this heinous crime. Elevating this trafficking office to a bureau will send a message that combating modern-day slavery is a priority for the United States. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.
“Mr. Chairman, let me also express my strong support for H. Res. 562, a resolution introduced by Representative Pitts. This measure reaffirms our support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Moldova; expresses strong support for strengthened U.S.-Moldova relations; and affirms that Moldova has a sovereign right to determine its own partnerships free of external coercion and pressure. I’m delighted that tomorrow Moldova will sign an Association Agreement with the EU. The resolution also calls on Russia to remove its forces from the Transnistria region of Moldova, and urges all parties to work for a peaceful resolution to the Transnistria issue. I’ve met with Moldovan officials. They want to look westward rather than eastward. They are frightened to death about Russia’s aggression and it’s very important that the United States stand by them. This resolution does that and I’m very proud of it.
“And finally, Mr. Chairman, we are taking up H. Res. 588, a resolution introduced by Representative Peterson on adoptions from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We’ve seen all these brave parents stand up before. The government of the DRC has stopped issuing exit permits for adopted children, affecting hundreds of children who were set to be taking in—taken in by loving families. This is a terribly painful situation that we need to help resolve. This resolution recognizes the importance of ethical and transparent adoptions, and it seeks to raise awareness about the plight of the families currently stuck in limbo over these suspended permits. It encourages dialogue between the governments of the U.S. and DRC to find a path forward on this issue, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
“So in closing Mr. Chairman, I’d like to once again thank you for holding this markup and for working with our side of the aisle in a bipartisan manner.”
H.R. 4411, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act
H.R. 4640, the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act
H.Res. 435, which calls attention to the disappearance of Robert Levinson in Iran
H.R. 4653, which would reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
H.R. 2283, the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act
H.Res. 562, reaffirming the importance of U.S.-Moldova ties
Watch Mr. Engel's R