Globe in a box

The House of Representatives reconvened last Tuesday in Washington.  The Senate is in session today.  President Barack Obama will address a joint session of Congress tomorrow when he gives the annual State of the Union.

Iran – Obama Administration Stays the Course.  Lawmakers continue to advocate for new sanctions to be imposed on Iran for violations of U.N. Security Council Resolutions when it tested a ballistic missile in October 2015.  The Obama Administration, however, is making every effort to secure implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and President Obama is expected to veto any sanctions legislation that may threaten the agreement.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives (“the House”) will consider the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act (H.R. 3662).  The measure was introduced by Representative Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma) and would block the Obama Administration from lifting sanctions against certain individuals or banks without certification that they do not support terrorism, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Iran’s alleged proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea – New Sanctions Expected.  Lawmakers are also expected to advance additional North Korea sanctions in early 2016, following reports of nuclear testing soon after the New Year.  The House will consider a bill (H.R. 757) today that was introduced by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-California) in 2015.  The measure seeks to curtail North Korea’s access to the international financial system and would further make mandatory some sanctions authorities that are currently discretionary.

TPP Developments.  Last Thursday, House Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Michigan), along with the Committee’s Democratic members, held another TPP-related informal hearing focused on currency manipulation.  The Committee’s Democratic trade staff prepared an issue analysis paper that was circulated at the hearing.

Customs Bill Update.  While the Senate and House conferenced a pending customs measure in December, the bill was unexpectedly sidelined over objections to included language permanently extending a ban on some Internet taxes.  The House already approved the measure, but the ban’s opponents in the Senate are expected to raise a point of order to strike the tax provision and send the conference report back to the House.  The final customs bill includes updates to trade enforcement procedures that some Democrats argue must become law before TPP enters into force.


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