May 16, 2019 - Issue: Vol. 165, No. 82 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 1st Session
NOMINATION HOLD; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 82
(Senate - May 16, 2019)
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[Page S2917] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] NOMINATION HOLD Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am placing a hold on the nomination of David M. Satterfield, who has been nominated to serve as Ambassador to Turkey. My objection comes down to one increasingly irrefutable point: the State Department's, through Ambassador Satterfield, consistent efforts to protect the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization from liability and thereby undermine the rights of American victims of Palestinian terrorism. This stands in sharp contrast to the intent of Congress. Last year, I introduced the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, ATCA, in response to recent court decisions that gutted the jurisdictional reach of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1992, which I also authored. These decisions made it substantially more difficult for American victims to hold sponsors of international terrorism accountable in our nation's courts. The ATCA expressed a clear principle: If you accept taxpayer-backed assistance or maintain a presence in the United States, then you should be answerable in our courts if you are alleged to have supported terrorism that harmed or killed Americans. The bipartisan bill was considered through regular order, with markups in both Chambers, as a standalone bill, passed Congress without objection, and was signed into law by President Trump in October. Never once did the State Department or the administration raise a single concern. Yet, 2 months later, at the end of the 115th Congress, the State Department began directly lobbying Congress for a ``fix'' to the ATCA to remove certain forms of assistance from the statute, thereby allowing defendants like the Palestinian Authority to enjoy such benefits without risk of liability. Ambassador Satterfield led the State Department team, with whom my staff attempted to negotiate in good faith over several weeks at the end of 2018 and early this year. I offered numerous compromise proposals to the State Department, including delays of the foreign assistance provisions, a rule of construction to aid victims, and even a complete strike from the ATCA of the assistance that State Department deems so valuable. Never once, however, did State or Ambassador Satterfield demonstrate interest in supporting language that would tangibly benefit victims. Rather, my bill seemed an annoyance to State's priorities, and Ambassador Satterfield on several occasions vocalized his concern about the law's impact on the Palestinian Authority, who have been found liable in U.S. courts for supporting terrorist attacks against Americans. When my staff asked for any alternative ideas they would support to help victims, State's team came back empty-handed, and after I found bipartisan support for a compromise proposal, the State Department made clear to other offices that it would not support the compromise unless and until Congress expressly protects the Palestinian Authority's presence in the United States. I refuse to assist the State Department in silencing any litigation arguments of U.S. victims of terrorism. I also understand that recent efforts in the House of Representatives have proved futile in finding language that both benefits American victims and gets support from the State Department. I am tired of our State Department putting the interests of alleged sponsors of terrorism over those of our own citizens. The State Department should work in good faith with Congress and victims by unambiguously demonstrating its support for restoring jurisdiction over sponsors of terrorism. ____________________