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- As Delivered -

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at the full Committee markup of a resolution calling on Iran to fulfill their promises of assistance in the Robert Levinson case (H. Res. 148), a resolution recognizing the importance of the U.S.-Israel economic relationship (H. Res. 551), the Enhancing Overseas Traveler Vetting Act (H.R. 4403), and the Global Development Lab of 2015 (H.R. 3924):

“Thank you for calling this markup.  I’d note that in the last few weeks, the President has signed a number of measures into law that this Committee advanced.  And that’s a real great reflection of the way we work across the aisle to get real results.  That should always be our focus.  And I’m glad we’re going to advance these four measures in that vein, and keep the Committee’s work chugging along. 

“Let me start with Mr. Deutch’s resolution.  Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief when five of our fellow citizens were released by Iran earlier this year.  But when it comes to American citizens being wrongly held, there are obviously no partial victories.  So the fact that at least two more Americans are still missing or detained in Iran means that we need to stay laser-focused on getting these people home.

“One of those missing is retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, and we have mentioned him a great many times with all the hearings we have done on Iran.  He disappeared in Iran in 2007, and it’s been five years since his family has received any evidence that he’s still alive.

“As in so many cases, we’ve heard a lot of promises from the Iranian government that they’ll assist in locating Mr. Levinson.  And again, as in so many cases, the Iranians have failed to follow through.  This is a slap in the face to our diplomatic efforts with Iran.  And it is a cruel affront to the Levinson family, who have already dealt with so much pain and heartbreak.

“This resolution calls on Iran’s leaders to live up to their word, and to help us find Mr. Levinson.  I want to thank Mr. Deutch for offering this measure, and for his hard work on trying to bring Mr. Levinson home.  Mr. Levinson is a constituent of his, and he has been a tireless champion in trying to get him back.  I wholeheartedly support this resolution, and I thank Mr. Deutch for his good work.

“I also support the measure sponsored by Mr. Lieu and Mr. Poe, which recognizes the importance of the economic ties between the United States and our ally Israel.  We often look at Israel through a security prism.  But our bond with Israel, of course, is much more dynamic than that.  We’ve had a free trade agreement with Israel for more than three decades.  In that time, trade between our countries has increased tenfold.  Our economic ties have been good for both countries, creating jobs and driving growth.

“Over the years, the United States and Israel have established a number of institutions to help strengthen these ties even further: the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, the Industrial Research and Development Foundation, the Agricultural Research and Development Fund. 

“This resolution calls for even greater cooperation in energy, water, agriculture, medicine, neuro-technology, and cybersecurity.  It encourages the Administration to hold regular, expanded economic dialogues, and to push for more private-public partnerships.  I’m happy to cosponsor this measure, and I again thank Mr. Poe and Mr. Lieu for bringing it forward.

“Next, let me commend Mr. Castro for his hard work on the Global Development Lab Act, which will strengthen one of our best tools for promoting new innovations in global development efforts.

“The Development Lab was established within USAID to help develop and deploy poverty-reduction technologies more widely, and at a lower cost.  The Lab works with NGOs, corporations, and universities to bring in the best ideas and stay on the cutting edge of development.  It’s also expanding USAID’s impact through a public-private, dollar-for-dollar matching program that allows us to scale these innovations up without expanding USAID’s budget.

“We’re seeing real results: in 2014, the Lab invested in 362 new solutions that touched nearly 14 million people around the world.  For example, the Lab funded an initiative aimed at producing more food where fresh water is hard to come by.  The Securing Water for Food Grant Challenge led to a system that makes seawater or brackish water usable for drinking or agriculture.  It consumes so little energy that the cost to use it is low, even in areas off the power grid.  This is what we mean we when talk about innovation.

“This bill would build on the Lab’s success by creating new authorities for the Lab to expand and manage its partnerships.  It will give the Lab greater flexibility for hiring experts on a project-by-project basis, and it will allow the Lab to award small, targeted grants that have proven so effective in supporting healthcare providers.  I commend Mr. Castro for his hard work on this very good bill.  It makes a good initiative better, and I’m pleased to support it.

“And lastly, I’m pleased that we’re taking up the Enhancing Overseas Traveler Vetting Act.  One of the best ways to crack down on violent extremism is to catch terrorists trying to cross borders—not just our borders, but borders around the world.  The bill would allow the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to develop open-source software to vet travelers crossing borders, and sound the alarm if a terrorist is trying to sneak through.  That software could then be shared with allies, partners, and multilateral organizations like the European Union.

“Existing safeguards would ensure that this software is developed in collaboration with our Intelligence Community, and that it only gets into the right hands.  This is an innovative way to help ensure that terrorists don’t slip through the cracks, and I’m happy to support it.  Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I yield back.”