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Corker Seeks Obama Administration Report on Lethal Aid for Ukraine

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; March 9, 2015:

WASHINGTON – In a letter to President Barack Obama today, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the administration to submit a report to Congress on plans for providing defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine. The report, required by law under the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, was due on February 15.

“We write to ask that you immediately submit to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a report on the provision of lethal military assistance to Ukraine as required by the Ukraine Freedom Support Act,” wrote Corker and Menendez in their letter to the president. “Now is the time for the United States to provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself from continued Russian aggression. We should not be misled by Vladimir Putin’s repeated efforts to exploit nominal ceasefire agreements.”

Corker and Menendez also noted the purpose of providing defensive weapons is to raise the cost for Russia’s hostile involvement in Ukraine and to create the conditions for a valid diplomatic resolution that guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“By equipping Ukraine with the means to impose a greater military cost on Russia, the United States will be contributing to a quicker, fairer, and more stable settlement of the conflict. After countless broken promises by the Kremlin, it is clear that Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine can only be stopped if Putin realizes that the United States and Europe are unequivocally committed to helping Kyiv impose this military cost on Russia,” Corker and Menenedez said in the letter.

The Ukraine Freedom Support Act, coauthored by Corker and Menendez, passed Congress with unanimous support and was signed into law in December. In addition to authorizing defensive lethal military and non-military assistance for Ukraine, the law imposes additional sanctions against Russia; provides Ukraine with energy, defense sector, and civil society assistance; and expands broadcasting programs to counter Russian propaganda in countries of the former Soviet Union.

Full text of the senators’ letter is included below and online here. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy in Ukraine tomorrow, Tuesday, March 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET. Details on the hearing are available here.

Dear President Obama,

We write to ask that you immediately submit to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a report on the provision of lethal military assistance to Ukraine as required by the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. The February 15,2015, deadline found in the law, which was unanimously passed by Congress in December 2014 and subsequently signed into law, has now passed. The provision of lethal assistance attracts broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House. We urge you to submit this report to Congress as soon as possible.

Now is the time for the United States to provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself from continued Russian aggression. We should not be misled by Vladimir Putin’s repeated efforts to exploit nominal ceasefire agreements. As Ukraine negotiated the second Minsk ceasefire in good faith, Putin sent dozens of tanks, armored vehicles, and rocket launchers to the Russian backed rebels in eastern Ukraine mere hours before he consented to the supposed ceasefire. Since the agreement was signed on February 12, 2015, the rebels have retaken the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve, launched offensives near Mariupol, and reportedly organized terrorist attacks in the city of Kharkiv, which threatens to spread the conflict beyond the current area of hostilities.

We often hear that no amount of lethal military assistance to Ukraine would be sufficient to defeat the rebels and their Russian sponsors, but our objective is not to provide Ukraine with enough weapons to overwhelm the Russian military in a direct confrontation. Rather, the provision of lethal assistance aims to increase Ukraine’s defense capabilities in a way that will give Kyiv the ability to produce conditions on the ground favorable to a genuine peace process.

By equipping Ukraine with the means to impose a greater military cost on Russia, the United States will be contributing to a quicker, fairer, and more stable settlement of the conflict. After countless broken promises by the Kremlin, it is clear that Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine can only be stopped if Putin realizes that the United States and Europe are unequivocally committed to helping Kyiv impose this military cost on Russia.

We respectfully urge you to fulfill the provisions of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, recognize the strong bipartisan majority in Congress that favors U.S. lethal assistance to Ukraine, and move quickly to provide the Ukrainian government with the capabilities that will allow Kyiv to inflict serious military costs using defensive weapons against the Russian forces that are destabilizing its eastern regions. Given the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s jurisdiction over U.S. policy in Ukraine, including over any arms transfer or sale, we also urge your administration to work closely with the Committee and its members during this critical period.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.

Sincerely,

Senator Bob Corker
Chairman

Senator Robert Menenedez
Ranking Member

Corker Seeking Veto-proof Majority as Bipartisan Iran Nuclear Agreement Bill Comes Up For Senate Consideration

Statement on upcoming Senate consideration of the legislation also released

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; March 5, 2015:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – With bipartisan momentum building in the Senate behind legislation to require congressional review of a nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the effort to seek support from a supermajority of 67 senators to override a presidential veto of the bill, which the White House threatened last week.

“The strongest signal we can send to the U.S. negotiators is having a veto-proof majority in support of Congress weighing in on any final nuclear deal with Iran,” said Sen. Corker. “This week, our bipartisan legislation gained momentum with four additional Democrats offering their support for the bill. I greatly appreciate the Majority Leader’s commitment to getting the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act across the finish line by allowing the vote to occur at a time when we will more likely generate a veto-proof majority.”

In a letter yesterday, nine Democrats and one Independent pledged to support the Corker-Menendez bill after March 24. The legislation would then need only three additional Democratic votes for a veto-proof majority, assuming the backing of all 54 Republicans.

Last Friday, Senator Corker and Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The legislation mandates the president submit the text of any agreement to Congress and prohibits the administration from suspending congressional sanctions for 60 days. During that period, Congress would have the opportunity to hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Angus King (I-Maine), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 contains the following key provisions:

  • Congressional Review: Within five days of concluding a comprehensive agreement with Iran, the president must submit to Congress (1) the text of the agreement, (2) a verification assessment on Iranian compliance, and (3) a certification that the agreement meets U.S. non-proliferation objectives and does not jeopardize U.S. national security, including not allowing Iran to pursue nuclear-related military activities.
  • No Suspension of Congressional Sanctions for 60 Days: The president is prohibited from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions for 60 days. During this period, Congress may hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. Passage of a joint resolution of approval, or no action, within the 60-day period would allow the President to move forward with congressional sanctions relief. Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (overriding a presidential veto) within the 60-day period would block the president from implementing congressional sanctions relief under the agreement.
  • Congressional Oversight and Iranian Compliance: After the congressional review period, the president would be required to assess Iran’s compliance with the agreement every 90 days. In the event the president cannot certify compliance, or if the president determines there has been a material breach of the agreement, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to restore sanctions that had been waived or suspended under the agreement.

Full text of the bill is available here.

Press release from U.S. Sen. bob Corker, R-Tenn.; March 3, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he welcomed upcoming Senate consideration of his bipartisan bill requiring congressional review of any comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced the legislation will be taken up on the Senate floor next week. Senator Corker indicated the Foreign Relations Committee could vote on the bill next Tuesday and the resulting legislation would be the version to be debated in the full Senate.

“I would think anybody who ran for the United States Senate and cares about the big issues facing our nation would want to support this piece of legislation,” said Corker. “I think everyone in America should want the House and the Senate to weigh in on this most important agreement that may be reached, and I’m glad we’re going to have the opportunity to do so.”

Last Friday, Senator Corker and Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The legislation mandates the president submit the text of any agreement to Congress and prohibits the administration from suspending congressional sanctions for 60 days. During that period, Congress would have the opportunity to hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Angus King (I-Maine).

Alexander, Corker, Blackburn File Legislation to Allow Songwriters to Receive Fair Market Compensation

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; March 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2015 – U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), along with U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and others, today introduced legislation that would allow songwriters to receive compensation based on the fair market value of their songs.

The Songwriter Equity Act would amend federal law to allow songwriters to receive market-based compensation and would remove government price controls. Hatch is a songwriter himself and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee that would consider the legislation. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is also a cosponsor in the Senate. Collins serves as the Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. In addition to Blackburn and Collins, U.S. Reps.Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) are also cosponsors in the House.

Alexander said: “Italy has its art, Egypt has its pyramids, Napa Valley has its wines and Nashville has its songwriters. Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City, and their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs – so that when they write a hit heard around the world, you can see it in their billfolds. My hope is that in this new Congress, we will pass this legislation to help give our nation’s songwriters the fair pay they have earned.”

Corker said: “Music showcases the incredible talent and vision of Tennesseans – its songwriters, musicians, and small and large businesses – across the country and around the world. Unfortunately, it’s easy for some to forget the countless people who bring to life the music we enjoy each day. We turn the knob, hit the button, click the mouse, and our favorite songs are there. As technology advances, it’s important that we remember where the music begins and modernize the way songwriters are compensated for their work.”

Hatch said: “The music business is among the toughest and most competitive industries, and our songwriters and composers should not have to accept below-market rates for their work. Ensuring that they are able to receive the fair market value for their songs is the right thing to do.”

Blackburn said: “Behind every great song is a great songwriter who deserves to be fairly compensated for their creative works. I am happy to once again join my House and Senate colleagues in this bipartisan effort to ensure fairness for our songwriters.”

Collins said: “In my home state of Georgia alone, there are close to 50,000 songwriters who have dedicated their lives to a talent and a calling that, in my view, God gave them. It is critical to ensure that songwriters – the engines that drive the music industry – are compensated fairly for their work. Copyright laws were never intended to create barriers to creativity that forces songwriters to sell their intellectual property at below-market rates. Congress should write laws that not only promote creation and pay creators, but also remain relevant even in times of rapid technological change. The Songwriter Equity Act is a vital step toward a music licensing system built on free market principles and fair compensation to creators. ”

The legislation would allow songwriters to receive market-based compensation and remove government price controls in two ways:

  • First, it would direct the Copyright Royalty Board to set compensation according to the fair market value when songs are sold, such as through music downloads and CD purchases, replacing the current below-market standard.
  • Second, it would remove a provision of law that narrows the scope of evidence the federal rate court may examine when asked to set songwriter compensation for when their song is played, such as in a restaurant or at a concert.

Songwriter compensation is dictated by the federal government. The rate of compensation that is set by the Copyright Royalty Board has increased only 7 cents over 100 years, and is currently 9.1 cents per song. The so-called “federal rate court” determines compensation rates for public performances, occasionally requiring songwriters to engage in complex litigation to be paid reasonable fees for their work.

Corker Against Auditing the Fed

Bob Corker thinks an audit of the Federal Reserve would be disastrous both for the U.S. and “the free world.”

Tennessee’s junior senator, who sits on the Senate Banking committee, told attendees at a Bloomberg breakfast last week that he “can’t imagine anything worse for the nation or for the free world than for Congress to get involved in monetary policy.”

Nevertheless, Corker said he supports more transparency in how the Fed regulates banks.

Corker, who served as commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Finance and Administration in the Republican administration of former Gov. Don Sundquist, characterized “this audit the Fed thing” as an unwelcome invitation to more congressional involvement in monetary policy. He called that out as “a problem.”

All the same, Corker said he expects Congress to take some action on making financial regulations — such as how the Fed administers stress tests at large banks — more transparent.

In January, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie, both libertarian-leaning Republicans from Kentucky, introduced legislation calling for a congressional review of the U.S. central bank’s monetary policy discussions, which have been exempt from legislative scrutiny since 1978.

The Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2013 passed the GOP-controlled U.S. House last September with over 100 Democrats joining 227 Republicans in support of the bill, but it was never taken up by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Audit proponents had hoped demands for hearings last year by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., regarding allegations the New York Fed was taking it easy on the banks it regulates, signaled broader support for a congressional audit. However, Warren recently announced her opposition to the audit proposed by Paul.

Corker Introduces Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015

Also releases statement on Obama’s veto threat against bipartisan agreement

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 27, 2015:

Legislation Prohibits Suspension of Congressional Sanctions for 60 Days after President Submits Any Comprehensive Iran Nuclear Agreement to Congress

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced bipartisan legislation (S.615) requiring congressional review of any comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 would mandate the president submit the text of any agreement to Congress and prohibit the administration from suspending congressional sanctions for 60 days. During that period, Congress would have the opportunity to hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement.

“There are few national security priorities for our country more important than preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and any agreement that seeks to do this must include Congress having a say on the front end. Allowing Congress to play its critical and historic role of reviewing international agreements will help, not hinder, these negotiations by ensuring any comprehensive agreement is verifiable and will stand the test of time,” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It is important that we preserve the integrity of the congressional sanctions, so this bipartisan legislation creates a responsible review process that will allow Congress the opportunity to approve or disapprove the agreement before the administration could attempt to remove these sanctions.”

“As we enter the final weeks of negotiations, Congress is rightly pursuing a duel track approach to the Iran nuclear issue and applying responsible pressure on Iran to ensure the right outcome is reached at these talks. The Kirk-Menendez sanctions legislation passed earlier this month is poised to move forward if a political framework agreement is not reached by the March 24 deadline,” Menendez said. “At the same time, if a nuclear deal is reached, Congress will have an opportunity to review the agreement and more importantly, ensure its compliance after it goes into effect.  This legislation establishes that vital review and oversight process.”

“The stakes of these negotiations with Iran are so important to our own national security that Congress should review and vote on any agreement before it becomes binding,” said Graham. “It would be a blessing if the Obama Administration were to strike a good deal which controls the Iranian nuclear ambitions.  A bad deal however, will be a nightmare for the region, Israel, and own our long-term national security interests.”

“I am a strong supporter of President Obama’s effort to find a diplomatic path to guarantee that Iran does not have the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon,” said Kaine, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “The interim deal reached by the P5+1 has been good for the United States – and the world – because it has rolled back the Iranian program and given us unprecedented inspection rights to make sure Iran is meeting its obligations. The content of any final deal is of great significance to the national security of the United States, our allies, and to international peace and stability. Iran is fully aware that its ultimate goal – elimination of statutory sanctions created by Congress – will require Congressional approval.  But long before Congress considers that repeal, a deal with Iran will involve up-front relief from a sanctions regime that was approved by Congress and implemented by the Administration. I believe Congress should weigh in on the content of the deal given the centrality of the congressional sanctions to the entire negotiation and the significant security interests involved.  This legislation sets up a clear and constructive process for Congressional review of statutory sanctions relief under a standard that is appropriately deferential to the executive branch negotiating the deal. I wish the P5+1 negotiators well in this final phase of negotiation and hope to work with my colleagues to provide support for a  diplomatic deal that effectively ends Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

The legislation also is cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), andAngus King (I-Maine).

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 contains the following key provisions:

  • Congressional Review: Within five days of concluding a comprehensive agreement with Iran, the president must submit to Congress (1) the text of the agreement, (2) a verification assessment on Iranian compliance, and (3) a certification that the agreement meets U.S. non-proliferation objectives and does not jeopardize U.S. national security, including not allowing Iran to pursue nuclear-related military activities.
  • No Suspension of Congressional Sanctions for 60 Days: The president is prohibited from suspending, waiving or otherwise reducing congressional sanctions for 60 days. During this period, Congress may hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. Passage of a joint resolution of approval, or no action, within the 60-day period would allow the President to move forward with congressional sanctions relief. Passage of a joint resolution of disapproval (overriding a presidential veto) within the 60-day period would block the president from implementing congressional sanctions relief under the agreement.
  • Congressional Oversight and Iranian Compliance: After the congressional review period, the president would be required to assess Iran’s compliance with the agreement every 90 days. In the event the president cannot certify compliance, or if the president determines there has been a material breach of the agreement, Congress could vote, on an expedited basis, to restore sanctions that had been waived or suspended under the agreement.

Full text of the bill is available here.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 28, 2015: 

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following statement regarding the White House’s threat of a presidential veto against his bipartisan bill requiring congressional review of any comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.

“It is disappointing that the president feels he is the only one who speaks for the citizens of our country,” said Corker. “Congress put these sanctions in place and helped bring Iran to the table with the administration working against the effort the whole way. As a result, Congress should decide whether a final nuclear deal with Iran is appropriate enough to have the congressionally mandated sanctions removed.”

On Friday, Senator Corker and Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The legislation mandates the president submit the text of any agreement to Congress and prohibits the administration from suspending congressional sanctions for 60 days. During that period, Congress would have the opportunity to hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement.

Corker Chastises Putin in Statement on Boris Nemtsov’s Death

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 28, 2015:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following statement today regarding the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was shot to death on Friday night in Moscow.

“The brutal slaying of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov just outside the Kremlin appears to be an attempt to silence those in Russia wanting to see their country move away from the authoritarianism, corruption, and lawlessness of Vladimir Putin’s regime. At the very least, Putin has created an atmosphere that condones and even encourages such actions,” Corker said. “Boris Nemtsov sought a better future for his people and believed in a strong partnership between our countries. We must remain committed to his vision of a free and democratic Russia that is at peace with itself and its neighbors.”

Corker Praises Foreign Relations Cmte’s Passage of Anti-Trafficking Legislation

Releases video, op-ed in support of the legislation.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 27, 2015:

WASHINGTON – In an interview today on CNN’s “This Hour,” U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the committee’s unanimous passage ofThe End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 and highlighted END IT’s “Shine a Light on Slavery Day” by joining the movement with a red X on his hand. Corker’s bold, bipartisan legislation would create a powerful effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to help eliminate modern slavery around the globe.

“There are 27 million people all over this world today that are in bondage,” said Corker in the interview. “They are in day labor, and rug manufacturing, or brick kilns, or they are young boys in Ghana that are in the fishing world, or they are in sexual servitude. It’s hard for people to imagine that’s the case, but I’ve seen it firsthand. We have outstanding organizations that are using best practices and yet we haven’t had a central effort to deal with this appropriately. Yesterday, unanimously, we passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a bill that I believe is going to have a transformative effect on us dealing with modern slavery.”

Corker, wearing a red X on his hand and lapel in honor of END IT’s “Shine a Light on Slavery Day” added, “I think you all know that today is END IT day. END IT has done an outstanding job in raising awareness, and now it’s time for us to take action. I’m proud to be the lead sponsor of this bill. Senator Menendez and our entire committee passed it out unanimously, and I think we’re going to do something that will affect millions of people in ensuing years…Anyone who has seen it firsthand would be just inflamed over the fact that it’s a crime of opportunity. People are taking advantage of young people, old people, mothers, daughters, sons, and fathers. And we can do something about it, and we’re getting ready to, and I’m glad that today we’re celebrating the beginning of that effort.”

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 is cosponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

In addition, a number of advocacy groups and faith-based institutions have issued support for the effort including, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), International Justice Mission (IJM), United Way Worldwide, Freedom House, Rotary International, and Circle of Friends, Inc., among others.

Click here for a summary of the legislation and here for the full bill text.

Those interested in Corker’s efforts to end modern slavery can join the conversation online using the hashtags #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement. They also can show support by posting a photo of themselves holding up their hand marked with a red “X”. Example here.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 27, 2015:

WASHINGTON – In an op-ed in The Tennessean today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes about the need for the United States to lead a bold vision to eradicate the insidious practice of modern slavery and his bipartisan legislation, The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which would create a focused effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to address this widespread epidemic.

The Tennessean (Corker Op-ed): We can end human slavery once and for all

By Bob Corker
February 27, 2015

It isn’t often splashed across the front pages or the nightly news. It isn’t something everyone even realizes exists today in the 21st century. But it’s destroying lives and tearing apart families across the globe. It is modern slavery and it is more pervasive than ever in our history.

I believe we can end it.

Despite the fact that slavery and human trafficking are illegal in every corner of the world, they exist in more than 165 countries, including our own, and thrive most where enforcement is weak.

The time has come for the United States, as the beacon of freedom, to lead a bold vision for eradicating this insidious practice that preys on the most innocent among us. But to do that, we need to understand the plight of victims and why this crime goes unpunished in so many places.

Parents desperate to provide for their impoverished family are approached by a person offering to educate their young son. All that is expected of the son in return is a few hours a day working in the local fishing business. The parents accept, hoping this could be the chance for their child to live a better life.

Reality is far different. Instead of going to school, the child is forced to work 17 hours a day under dangerous conditions with limited food. Abused and malnourished, he faces harsh punishment if he tries to escape and is unlikely to ever see his family again.

This is life in the modern slave trade on Ghana’s Lake Volta and just one example of millions of stories playing out across the world.

Rather than holding a schoolbook, children in India are stacking bricks. Rather than sitting in a classroom, young girls in the Philippines are sitting in brothels forced into sexual servitude. And worldwide, men and women hoping only to better the lives of their families are stripped of their passports and trafficked for labor.

More than 27 million people currently are trapped in this multibillion-dollar slave trade industry. These are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, living in slavery today.

According to the nongovernmental organization Free the Slaves, forced sexual servitude accounts for 26 percent of modern slavery and forced labor accounts for 74 percent of victims, 55 percent of which are women and girls.

Over the past year, our office has been working with various agencies, nongovernmental organizations and faith-based institutions to find out how we can be more effective in the fight against modern slavery. Last August, I visited Southeast Asia to get a firsthand look at this issue and meet with brave survivors. Hearing their horror stories challenges every moral fiber in you to find a way to act.

And as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I held hearings this year to shed a light on this issue and examine ways the United States can lead.

We learned that slavery is a crime of opportunity, flourishing where enforcement is lax or nonexistent. The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report found that in the three countries with more than half the world’s enslaved population, there were zero prosecutions for slavery-related crimes in 2013.

Fortunately, efforts to improve local law enforcement have shown dramatic results. In the Philippines city of Cebu, a project overseen by the International Justice Mission observed a 79 percent drop in victims of the illegal child sex trade after a significant number of arrests.

While we are beginning to see some successful methods, what is missing is a collaborative, international initiative to meet this growing challenge head-on and take our efforts to the next level.

This week, I introduced The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, bold, bipartisan legislation that would create a focused effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to eliminate modern slavery worldwide. On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the bill, taking us one step closer to turning awareness into real action.

This legislation would establish the End Slavery Initiative Foundation, a private, nonprofit grant-making institution to verifiably and sustainably reduce modern slavery in the areas where the fund operates. A U.S. investment of $251 million over eight years would help the initiative raise a total of $1.5 billion, of which $500 million would come from other foreign governments and $750 million from private sources. Use of U.S. funds would be restricted until the matching funds have been raised from other countries and the private sector. And results would matter. Projects would be required to meet strict benchmarks, including a 50 percent reduction in slavery within the target populations where the fund operates.

This model is designed to leverage limited foreign aid dollars and galvanize tremendous support and investment from the public sector, philanthropic organizations and the private sector to focus resources responsibly where this crime is most prevalent.

Success abroad also can lead to success at home. Stopping perpetrators of slavery overseas can help prevent them from exporting their crime to the United States. This legislation can also complement other proposals in Congress focused on addressing human trafficking within our country, and I look forward to working with members on those efforts as well.

There are many complex problems facing this country that demand our attention, but perhaps none whose existence threatens the very concept of what it means to live in a free society. Ending modern slavery will not come easy, but we have a moral obligation to try.

Bob Corker is a Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

© 2015 www.tennessean.com. All rights reserved

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 27, 2015:

Senator Shines a Light on Modern Slavery

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released a video, “Together, We Can End It,” to shine a light on modern slavery and highlight bold, bipartisan legislation he introduced this week to combat this growing epidemic around the globe.

The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015 would create a powerful effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to help eliminate modern slavery around the globe. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

In addition, a number of advocacy groups and faith-based institutions have issued support for the effort including, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), International Justice Mission (IJM), United Way Worldwide, Freedom House, Rotary International, and Circle of Friends, Inc., among others.

Click here for a summary of the legislation and here for the full bill text.

Those interested in Corker’s efforts to end modern slavery can join the conversation online using the hashtags #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement. They also can show support by posting a photo of themselves holding up their hand marked with a red “X”. Example here.

A full transcript of the video follows.

Over 27 million people are enslaved today across the globe.

That’s more than four times the population of my home state of Tennessee.

Modern slavery comes in many forms, and it preys on women and children the most.

Rather than holding a schoolbook, children in India are stacking bricks.

Rather than sitting in a classroom, young girls in the Philippines are sitting in brothels, forced into sexual servitude.

In Ghana, young boys are forced into a life of slavery on fishing boats.

Over 27 million people around the world today.

Daughters. Sons. Mothers. Fathers.

It’s time to shine a light on the problem.

And it’s time to turn awareness into action.

Together, we can end it.

Visit corker.senate.gov to learn more about The End Modern Slavery Initiative.

Corker: Alignment of ‘Full Range of America’s Elements of National Power’ Needed for Success Against ISIS

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 26, 2015:

WASHINGTON – At a hearing yesterday on the fight against ISIS, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized the importance of a cohesive U.S. strategy for success in confronting the terrorist organization as Congress considers President Obama’s request for an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).

“[W]e owe it to our nation as we consider this to know that the full range of America’s elements of national power, diplomatic, economic, and military means are aligned in such a way to get to the administration’s stated goals,” said Corker in his opening statement.

In questioning General John R. Allen, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (or ISIS), Senator Corker asked whether the AUMF will need to allow for the protection of U.S.-trained forces in Syria if they are attacked by the Assad regime.

“In the event that we needed to protect those that we’re training and equipping and other members of the Free Syrian Army…against Assad barrel bombing them, do you believe…that needs an additional authority other than what is now being requested?” Corker asked.

General Allen responded by saying, “My hope is that we’d be able to provide the kind of protection that they need and they deserve within the authorization that we’re currently proposing.”

During a separate hearing yesterday with Secretary of State John Kerry testifying before the committee, Senator Corker pressed the Obama administration to make a commitment to protect the force that the U.S. is preparing to retake territory from ISIS in Syria.

“If we’re not willing to protect them, it speaks to the fact that the administration doesn’t really seem serious about taking ISIS on as it relates to Syria,” said Corker in questioning Secretary Kerry.

Secretary Kerry recognized “defending those who are engaged in the fight of ISIL…is an important part of defeating ISIL” but acknowledged “the president hasn’t made a final decision on that.”

Corker Files Legislation to End ‘Modern Slavery’

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 24, 2015: 

Legislation to Create Powerful Effort in Concert with the Private Sector and Foreign Governments to Help Eliminate Modern Slavery

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced bold, bipartisan legislation that will create a powerful effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to help eliminate modern slavery around the globe. The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015, also cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would establish a private, non-profit grant-making institution known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation” to reduce forced labor and sexual servitude around the world. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the bill on Thursday.

“Today more than 27 million people, many of them women and children, suffer under forced labor and sexual servitude in over 165 countries around the world, including our own,” said Sen. Bob Corker. “As I have seen firsthand, the stark reality of modern slavery is unconscionable, demanding the United States and civilized world make a commitment to end it for good. Despite the pervasive nature of this horrific practice, modern slavery is a crime of opportunity that thrives where enforcement is weak, so raising the risk of prosecution can achieve significant results. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues and a number of other supportive organizations to introduce a transformative initiative that will work in concert with foreign partners and other private entities to help end slavery worldwide.”

“Human trafficking, in the form of forced labor and sexual exploitation, debt-bondage, involuntary servitude and the sale and exploitation of children – is one of the great moral challenges of our time,” said Sen. Robert Menendez. “We must end modern slavery in all its forms and U.S. leadership is critical in the effort to combat this grave injustice. Democrats and Republicans speak with one voice on this vital issue. I am proud to stand with Chairman Corker and look forward to the speedy passage of this legislation.”

A number of advocacy groups and faith-based institutions have issued support for the effort including, the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), International Justice Mission (IJM), United Way Worldwide, Freedom House, Rotary International, and Circle of Friends, Inc., among others.

The introduction of the legislation coincides with the End It Movement’s push this week to raise awareness about modern slavery by encouraging supporters to mark their hands with a red “X”. The “Shine a Light on Slavery Day” will culminate on Friday, February 27.

The act will charter a 501(c)(3) non-profit grant-making foundation in the District of Columbia to be known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation”.

The initiative will fund programs outside the United States that:

  • Contribute to the freeing and sustainable recovery of victims of modern slavery, prevent individuals from being enslaved, and enforce laws to punish individual and corporate perpetrators of modern slavery;
  • Set out clear, defined goals and outcomes that can be empirically measured; and
  • Achieve a measurable 50 percent reduction of modern slavery in targeted populations.

The U.S. contribution of $251 million over eight years will be used to raise a total of $1.5 billion, including $500 million from foreign governments and $750 million from private resources. For the Foundation to receive all of the U.S. government funds authorized, $500 million would need to be obtained from foreign governments and $250 million from the private sector. Projects that fail to meet goals will be suspended or terminated.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Corker has been shining a spotlight on the growing epidemic of slavery and human trafficking and has held two hearings about the issue this year. On February 4, the committee heard testimony from leading non-governmental organizations and slavery victims that elevated the scope of this global problem and offered successful strategies for combating human trafficking. The following week, on February 11, Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, testified on the role of U.S. leadership in international, anti-trafficking efforts. Sewall is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP).

Click here for the bill text and here for a summary of the legislation.

Corker to File ‘Bold, Bipartisan’ Bill to ‘Eliminate’ Human Trafficking

Statement from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Week of February 23, 2015:

This week, Senator Corker will introduce bold, bipartisan legislation to help eliminate slavery and human trafficking around the globe. Follow the conversation online using the hashtags #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement.

Background: Over 27 million people are trapped in the multi-billion dollar modern slave trade industry. Although slavery is illegal in every corner of the world, this crime of opportunity exists in more than 165 countries, including our own, and thrives most where enforcement is weak, whether due to indifference, corruption or lack of resources. While U.S. government agencies and many groups and organizations have taken significant steps toward fighting modern slavery, we need to take our efforts to the next level. But the United States cannot meet this challenge alone, so Senator Corker has introduced bold, bipartisan legislation to create a focused, sustained effort in concert with the private sector and foreign governments to eliminate sexual and labor human slavery worldwide. This model is designed to leverage limited foreign aid dollars and galvanize tremendous support and investment from the public sector, philanthropic organizations and the private sector to focus resources responsibly where this crime is most prevalent. This effort will complement other legislation focused on improving enforcement within the United States.

Establishing The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation: The legislation, similar to the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy, will authorize a 501(c)(3) non-profit grant-making foundation in the District of Columbia to be known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation” that will fund programs and projects outside the United States that must:

  • Contribute to the freeing and sustainable recovery of victims of modern slavery, prevent individuals from being enslaved, and enforce laws to punish individual and corporate perpetrators of modern slavery.
  • Set clear, defined goals and outcomes that can be empirically measured; and
  • Achieve a measurable 50 percent reduction of modern slavery in targeted populations.

Funding: The initiative will seek to raise $1.5 billion, more than 80 percent of which will come through matching funds from the private sector and foreign governments. Sources of funding are as follows:

  • $251 million in authorized funds from the United States over eight years: $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, followed by authorizations of $35.7 million in FY 2016-2022.
  • $500 million from other foreign governments. (Double the investment of U.S. funds.)
  • $750 million in private funding. (Triple the investment of U.S. funds.)

U.S. funds must be matched by $500 million from foreign governments and $250 million from the private sector. The remaining $500 million will be raised by The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation from additional private sector contributions. The U.S. government will channel diplomatic support and additional resources for law enforcement, rule of law, economic development and training assistance in support of The End Modern Slavery Initiative.

Monitoring and Evaluation: Progress will be tracked against baseline data to achieve a 50 percent reduction in slavery. Projects that fail to meet goals will be suspended or terminated. The bill requires the Foundation to remain focused on achieving a significant reduction in modern slavery within a period of seven years. The Foundation is required to comply with the Government Accountability Office’s mandate to conduct financial audits and program evaluations.