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The race for Congress

Gussen and Garrett spar over meaning of House vote

Did the entire Republican majority in the House of Representatives betray Israel’s security in a procedural vote last October?

That is the claim of Teaneck Councilman Adam Gussen, the Democratic challenger to Congressman Scott Garrett in New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District.

“Scott Garrett has stood with Israel on many occasions,” acknowledged Gussen, in a letter sent to this newspaper. “However, when Israel’s security was actually being threatened, Scott Garrett put partisan politics ahead of the safety of every Israeli man woman and child.”

At issue was a bill that would award land in Colorado to Rio Tinto, a multinational mining company whose subsidiary operates a uranium mine in Namibia. The Iranian government has owned a 15 percent stake in the mine since 1975.

Under an amendment to the bill offered by the Democratic minority – and voted down on party lines – Rio Tinto would have had to end its partnership with Iran in order for the land deal to take place. The proposed land swap would enable Rio Tinto to operate what would be one of the world’s largest copper mines in Arizona. The measure is opposed by the Obama administration, which said the proposal should be subject to environmental review. The Senate has not taken up the bill.

Gussen wrote: “The last thing in the world we should be doing is enriching a company that flaunts international sanctions by providing the Iranian government profits from uranium. Further, we should not trust a company that’s been sanctioned by the United Nations six times for violating international sanctions against Iran to keep uranium out of the hands of the Iranians.”

In a statement, Garrett wrote that linking the vote to Iran’s continued quest to develop a nuclear weapon “could not be further from the truth.”

The mining company, Garrett said, has “fully complied with U.N. Security Council resolution 1929, which prevents Iran from gaining access to the nuclear technology, prevents Iran from obtaining uranium product off-take rights, and freezes all dividend payments to Iran. It is clear that Iran’s nuclear program does not benefit from Rio Tinto’s operation and my votes in Congress will continue to reflect my unwavering support for Israel and commitment to ensuring Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.”

Following the passage of that U.N. resolution imposing sanctions on Iran, Rio Tinto told Bloomberg News that Iran “does not gain access to any nuclear technology through its investments. It has no uranium product off-take rights and all dividend payments have been frozen.”

One Republican Jewish Washington insider said that this is parliamentiary legerdemain. The Democratic vote was “strictly a talking point attached to a procedural motion to kill the underlying bill.” He said that when they had been in the minority, the Republicans had perfected the parliamentary technique of adding language that would block a bill by forcing the majority to vote against a popular cause. The Democrats, he said, have now taken up the technique. In this case, the popular cause is sanctions against Iran.

The insider said that “one acid test for any Iran measure is whether it’s backed by AIPAC and whether AIPAC includes it on its voting record. AIPAC has never taken a stance on these motions.

“If a measure relates to Iran sanctions and they’re not involved, it’s not exactly a mainstream bipartisan thing. It’s something someone stapled to a bipartisan procedural motion and something AIPAC steered clear of,” he said.

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