House Passes Foreign Relations Authorization Bill Larded with Negative Provisions

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House Passes Foreign Relations Authorization Bill Larded With Negative Provisions

Shirl McArthur, a retired foreign service officer, is a consultant in the Washington, DC area.

The Foreign Relations Authorizations Act for fiscal years 2002 and 2003, H.R. 1646, which the full House passed on May 16, included several provisions designed to further erode American interests in the Middle East. Before discharging the bill to the full House, the International Relations Committee inserted a section that effectively recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by requiring that (a) the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem be under the supervision of the U.S. ambassador to Israel; (b) any official U.S. government document that lists countries and their capital cities identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; and (c) a passport, registration of birth, or certificate of nationality of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem shall, upon the request of the citizen, record the place of birth as Israel. In addition, the section includes a fourth clause urging the president "to immediately begin the process of relocating the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem."

While the Jerusalem provisions were no surprise, it was not expected that International Relations Committee ranking Democrat Tom Lantos (CA) would introduce an amendment seeking to punish Lebanese educational institutions and non-governmental organizations for the activities of Hezbollah on the border with Israel. Lantos' amendment would terminate military aid (only about $600,000) to Lebanon until the Lebanese armed forces are deployed along the border and have controlled Hezbollah's activities against Israel. If this doesn't happen within six months, the $35 million or so in economic aid would be suspended.

Responding to a question during his testimony before the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly opposed the amendment, pointing out the educational and humanitarian nature of the majority of U.S. aid to Lebanon. In a subsequent letter to Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Powell went further, saying, "If enacted, this amendment would severely impede our ability to pursue critical U.S. policy objectives in Lebanon and the region."

In addition, Reps. John Dingell (D-MI) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent one letter and Reps. Ray LaHood (R-IL) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) another, with individual letters sent by Reps. Sonny Callahan (R-AL), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Knollenberg, and John Sununu (R-NH) to their colleagues urging them to vote against the amendment. Dingell, Issa, LaHood and Rahall, plus Reps. David Bonior (D-MI) and Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), all spoke against the amendment on the floor of the House. In the end, however, loyalty to Israel won out over humanitarian and U.S. national interest concerns, and the amendment passed by a vote of 216 to 210. (Those representatives who voted against the amendment are listed below.)

That, however, was not the initial tally. At the conclusion of the voting, but before it was officially recorded, the totals stood at only 206 for the amendment and 220 against. But then, 17 members announced that they were switching their votes from no to yes. They were partially offset by seven members who switched from yes to no, resulting in a net gain of 10 votes for the amendment.

One can only speculate about what or who caused those particular 17 members to abandon principles, but some members, who cannot be named, complained privately about the inordinate amount of pressure AIPAC was exerting to gain passage of this amendment. The 17 who switched from no to yes were Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Dave Camp (R-MI), Howard Coble (R-NC), Randy Cunningham (R-CA), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Virgil Goode (I-VA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Melissa Hart (R-PA), Van Hilleary (R-TN), David Hobson (R-OH), Chip Pickering (R-MS), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Thomas Tancredo (R-CO), David Vitter (R-LA), and Greg Walden (R-OR). …