Press Release

April 16, 2024
Cardin Delivers Remarks at Business Meeting to Advance Critical Legislation, Nominees, and Foreign Service Promotions

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered opening remarks at a Committee business meeting to consider critical legislation to hold Iran accountable, counter authoritarianism, advance nominations to critical diplomatic posts, and provide promotions to professionals in the Foreign Service.

Among the bills advanced out of Committee today was the International Freedom Protection Act, bipartisan legislation authored by Chair Cardin alongside Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) to update and strengthen the U.S. approach to countering authoritarianism and promoting democracy globally.

The Committee also advanced bills related to the Middle East, including the Mahsa Amini Human rights and Security Accountability (MAHSA) Act, the Stop Harboring Iranian Petroleum (SHIP) Act, and the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Support Prevention Act. Before advancing the legislation, Chair Cardin secured substitute amendments to modify the bills to make them stronger through robust sanctions including on Iranian actions against current or former U.S. officials.

The Committee also advanced the nominations of 21 individuals to key diplomatic posts and 7 Foreign Service Officer promotion lists.

Chair Cardin’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

The events of this weekend in the Middle East are at the forefront of our minds, so I’ll start with a few words on that.

First, the attack was brazen – almost 300 drones and missiles, primarily launched from Iranian territory. There is no escaping the fact that the intention was to cause harm, including targeting areas that could have hit holy sites in Jerusalem and risking injury or death to many innocent civilians.

Second, the attack from Iran was a complete failure. The United States led an international coalition of European allies and Arab partners to make sure we demonstrated – with actions – our ironclad support for Israel’s defense. President Biden showed that support in no uncertain terms.

Third, it is as important as ever that we do not see a spiraling escalation in the region that leads to wide-spread violence and conflict. It is as important now as it has been since October 7. And I support President Biden’s efforts to keep a strategic eye on protecting U.S. interests, personnel, and assets in the region as well as containing any conflagration of the conflicts.

That brings us to the Middle East bills we are taking up today. Ideally, we would have sought to craft a bipartisan bill that met the moment of the post-October 7 context—one that enjoyed broad support and channeled our focus on the key levers of U.S. power to further confront the risks posed by Hamas, and to continue to address the threats posed by Iran.

At the ranking member’s request, we are debating several smaller bills including – the SHIP Act, the MAHSA Act, and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Support Prevention Act. In the interest of time, I won’t go into the details of each but will make a few quick points.

While the bills we are taking up today long pre-date the events of this weekend – and pre-date October 7 – they do seek to strengthen U.S. tools to cut off any international support to Hamas and also call for greater enforcement of sanctions on Iran – a country for which there are more U.S. sanctions authorities on the books than virtually any other.

Through my substitute amendments, we will be making each of these bills stronger and smarter – stronger in light of the key additional sanctions I have added, including in relation to any Iranian acts threatening current or former U.S. officials, and smarter in that we are preserving flexibility for the United States to implement our sanctions in ways that are most effective in furthering our objectives of constraining Iran and incentivizing the Iranian regime to end its malign activities.

I also want to take a minute to mention the International Freedom Protection Act, which I introduced along with Senator Wicker and which has benefited from the thoughtful engagement of Senators Merkley and Rubio. For years, authoritarianism has been on the rise. Autocrats in nations like China, Russia, Iran, and beyond are increasingly undermining democracy in every region of the world. This bill provides a framework for the United States to combat authoritarianism, modernizing our strategies, policies and tools.

I am also pleased that we have so many other important bipartisan items on the agenda, including bills and resolutions from Senators Shaheen, Rubio, Coons, Merkley, and Cruz.

Among them are two resolutions regarding Americans detained in Russia, including Evan Gershkovich and Marc Fogel. Evan has now been in a Russian prison for over a year. He has missed a year of his life, and his family, for merely reporting the truth. I am proud to have joined the Ranking Member in introducing this resolution calling for his immediate release, along with other Americans wrongfully detained in Russia, including Paul Whelan.

I also applaud Senator Shaheen for her important resolution condemning Hamas’ use of sexual violence as a weapon of war against the people of Israel. Sexual violence is one of the many ways Hamas has terrorized Israelis, and we must call it out and hold perpetrators to account.

This is the type of robust markup I have sought since becoming Chairman, and I look forward to more in the coming weeks.

Finally, although I would continue to urge the Ranking Member to clear qualified nominees for hearings and markups at a more responsible pace – a pace that is commensurate with the national security challenges we confront – I am pleased that so many are on the agenda today. I urge all of you to support them both here and on the floor.