Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, and Judiciary, and related agencies appropriations act, 1999 (House of Representatives – August 5, 1998)
Mr Saxton: Mr Chairman, I offer an amendment.
The Chairman: The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Amendment offered by Mr Saxton:
At the end of the bill, insert after the last section (preceding the short title) the following:
Title IX–Additional General Provisions
Sec. 901. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used by the United States to intervene against a claim for attachment in aid of execution, or execution, of property of a foreign state upon a judgment relating to a claim brought under section 1605(a)(7) of title 28, United States Code.
The Chairman: Pursuant to the order of the House of today, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr Saxton) and a Member opposed will each control 5 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr Saxton) for 5 minutes.
Mr Saxton: Mr Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
This amendment is known as the International Terrorist Must Pay amendment. In 1996, the Congress passed and the President signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This Act allowed victims of State-sponsored terrorism to sue foreign governments in Federal court for damages arising from terrorism.
In 1995, a young New Jersey woman named Alysa Flatow was killed in Israel by a suicide bomber from the Islamic Jihad, a terrorist operation financed by and sponsored by Iran. Her family sued under the aforementioned statutes and proved that Iran had financed the activities of the Islamic Jihad, and received a judgment of $247 million in damages.
Needless to say, Iran did not voluntarily step forward to pay the judgment. As a result, the Flatows sought to locate Iranian-owned property in the United States. Recently they located three properties in Washington, D.C. owned by the Iranian government. They proceeded to go to court to have the court attach the properties for subsequent sale.
The court issued the writs of attachment, and the Federal Marshals were ordered to serve Iran with the papers. The State Department at that time stepped in and raised objections to the sale, in effect taking the side of Iran, and asked the Justice Department to intervene on the side of Iran.
The Justice Department subsequently made an appearance in the trial and argued that the property should not be seized, their argument being that it would allow the seizure of Iranian assets. Of course, if their argument holds, this would defeat the purpose of the bill that Members on both sides of the aisle voted in favor of in 1996, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Iran therefore would be allowed to continue to finance terrorist activity without a price to pay. This amendment finalizes the process and creates a price for international terrorism.
Mr Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr Obey: Mr Chairman, I do not really want to oppose the amendment, but I ask unanimous consent to claim the time so we can explain why we are accepting it.
The Chairman: Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Wisconsin?
There was no objection.
The Chairman: The gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr Obey) will control the time.
Mr Obey: Mr Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
It is my understanding that the committee intends to accept this amendment on both sides. I would simply like to say that, as some Members may remember, this matter was brought up before the House once before several weeks ago on a previous appropriation bill. It was then offered in a form which was technically not germane to the bill and was subject to a point of order.
We felt that the Congress had not had sufficient time to examine the amendment and to understand its implications in terms of the administration’s ability to negotiate and to conduct foreign policy. So we were concerned at that time.
We have now learned a bit more about the status of the law. There are still, frankly, some questions about the advisability of going exactly this route, but, frankly, the State Department has not been as clear as we would like in laying out what other options might be available.
So under these circumstances, I think it is advisable for the committee to accept the amendment with the understanding that it will need to be worked on in conference to make certain that it is consistent with U.S. national interests.
Mr Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New York (Mr Engel).
Mr Engel: Mr Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time.
I rise in strong support of the amendment of the gentleman from New Jersey. This will help American victims of terrorism collect on judgments they have been awarded against state sponsors of terrorism.
As the gentleman from New Jersey pointed out, the Flatow family has gotten a judgment against the government of Iran, which sponsors terrorism. It is absolutely obscene that we would be in a position of taking the side of Iran. Iran must understand, as an outlaw nation, that we will never stop in trying to combat terrorism. This is certainly justice for the Flatow family.
By allowing this seizure of Iranian assets, this is something that teaches Iran, hits them where it hurts and let us them understand, again, that we will not accept state-sponsored terrorism.
It is ludicrous that the State Department had opposed this. Iran must pay a price for the continuing support of terrorism. I compliment my friend from New Jersey.
Mr Obey: Mr Chairman, I would simply say that there are some questions, also, the State Department has with respect to who should be ahead of whom in being able to make claims against countries like Iran.
Mr Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr Menendez).
(Mr Menendez asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
[Page: H7268] Mr Menendez: Mr Chairman, I want to rise in strong support of the Saxton amendment.
We clearly gave the right to victims of terrorists to sue foreign entities for compensation as a Congress. That is what the Congress passed in the law. And it is right for us to do so, to give a victim with a court-ordered judgment, to be allowed to enforce that judgment against any and all assets of a country in the United States.
It is offensive, in my view, that any department or entity of the United States Government would actively seek to inhibit such a judgment. This amendment would allow the family of Alysa Flatow, who is someone who in fact died at the age of 20, a resident of the State of New Jersey, a young, vibrant woman who had a lifetime of opportunity ahead of her. Her life was cut short and her family devastated by a bomb which exploded on the bus she was traveling on in Gaza. She was absolutely innocent.
They have a court-ordered judgment. The judge actually gave them a writ to go ahead against property. We should not be interfering. We should be standing up on behalf of the rights of United States citizens to be able to pursue such a judgment.
Mr Saxton: Mr Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr Pascrell) who represents the Flatow family.
Mr Pascrell: Mr Chairman, Alysa Flatow was a student at Brandeis University. She was a woman of great character, both in life and in death. Those who received her organs can attest to the kind of woman she was. Her heart was successfully transplanted to a 56-year-old man who had been waiting for a year. Her liver was donated to a 23-year-old man; her lungs, pancreas and kidneys to four different patients. Her corneas were donated to an eye bank.
New Jersey will not forget Alysa Flatow or the struggle and trauma her family have gone through as a result of this heinous act and this senseless loss of a promising young woman.
Mr Chairman, we have had enough victims. We do not need to victimize the family any longer. Personally, I have had enough of negotiating leverage, quote unquote. It is time that we stood and stood tall for the Flatow family.
Mr Saxton: Mr Chairman, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr Fox).
(Mr Fox of Pennsylvania asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr Fox of Pennsylvania. Mr Chairman, I rise in support of the Saxton amendment.
Mr Saxton: Mr Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr Andrews).
(Mr Andrews asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr Andrews: Mr Chairman, I rise in strong support of the amendment offered by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr Saxton). I congratulate him for it.
The life of Alysa Flatow was only 20 years long, and I am sure that her family feels a pain that is beyond description. But I am also sure that we can do something collectively here tonight that will help her life have even more meaning than it has already had.
We can change the law of our country and say to terrorists, whether in Iran or around the world, that in this country you will be held accountable. If you appear before our courts and you are adjudicated guilty, you cannot find a loophole or an escape.
This is a legacy that this young woman’s life can leave for generations to come that if, God forbid, if someone else is a victim of terrorism, those terrorists can and will be held accountable in a U.S. court of law.
I urge the amendment’s adoption.
Mr Saxton: Mr Chairman, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr Rogers).
Mr Rogers: Mr Chairman, we have no objection to the amendment. As the gentleman from Wisconsin indicated, this needs to be discussed at some point before and during conference to be sure we are consistent on our policy. But we have no objection to this amendment and congratulate the gentleman.
Mr Obey: Mr Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr Saxton: Mr Chairman, I thank very much the chairman and the ranking member and all those who have spoken in favor of this amendment tonight.
Mr Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
The Chairman: The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr Saxton).
The amendment was agreed to.