Congress has not voted to request a human rights report under 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act since its enactment into law in 1976
After more than 100 days of war, more than 23,000 Gazans have been killed, more than 85% of the population in Gaza has been displaced, 50% of Gaza risks starvation, and more than 130 hostages have yet to be returned
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this evening will force a vote on the Senate floor on a resolution under Section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act. An overlooked tool of Congressional oversight, Section 502B(c) allows Congress to direct the State Department to provide a human rights report and other information on any country receiving U.S. security assistance. Sanders’ resolution would require a report examining any human rights violations that may have occurred in the course of the military campaign being carried out by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Debate and remarks on the resolution will begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET, followed by a vote at 5:30 p.m. ET. Sanders’ remarks will be livestreamed on his socials, here.
“In essence, we will be voting on a very simple question: Do you support asking the State Department whether human rights violations may have occurred using U.S. equipment or assistance in this war?,” said Sanders in a speech on the Senate floor last week. “This resolution is not prescriptive – it does not alter aid to Israel in any way. It simply requests that the State Department report on how our aid is being used…I hope it is not controversial to ask how U.S. weapons are being used.”
Sanders continued in his remarks, “This is information Congress should have and, whatever your views on this war, this resolution should be something you can support. If you believe that the campaign has been indiscriminate, as I do, then we have a responsibility to ask this question. If you believe Israel has done nothing wrong, then this information should support that belief.”
The resolution to be voted on tonight – first introduced by Sanders on December 14, 2023 – is privileged and therefore cannot be amended or filibustered, and requires a simple majority for the motion to discharge from committee consideration and for final passage.
The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, requires that U.S. security assistance or arms provided to any country must be used in line with internationally-recognized human rights. The Act also provides Congress with several oversight tools to ensure the law is followed. One such tool is Section 502B(c), which allows Congress to direct the State Department to provide information on the human rights record of any country receiving U.S. security assistance.
If Sanders’ resolution passes, the State Department would provide a report to Congress within 30 days. After the report is received, Section 502B(c) stipulates that Congress may at any time thereafter consider a privileged joint resolution proposing any necessary changes to security assistance to the country in question. Any such resolution must pass both Houses of Congress and be signed by the President.