Clinton Seeks Wider Authority on Sanctions: Eizenstat Testifies before Special Senate Task Force

By Selinger, Marc | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 9, 1998 | Go to article overview

Clinton Seeks Wider Authority on Sanctions: Eizenstat Testifies before Special Senate Task Force


Selinger, Marc, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The Clinton administration yesterday proposed overhauling a key U.S. foreign policy tool - economic sanctions - but the plan met resistance from some members of a Senate panel that's studying the matter.

Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat told the 18-member Senate Task Force on Economic Sanctions that the president believes Congress should give him the power to waive trade restrictions or other economic sanctions against particular countries when he believes that doing so would be in the U.S. interest. Mr. Eizenstat said that existing law does not allow the president to tailor sanctions to individual countries when they violate human rights or otherwise misbehave.

While seeking greater flexibility, the administration believes Congress should be able to override presidential waivers of sanctions.

"We don't expect carte blanche," Mr. Eizenstat said.

In addition, the administration proposed adopting, by executive order, new rules to curb the use of sanctions, including exempting food and other humanitarian aid from sanctions and requiring a cost-benefit analysis before sanctions are used.

Mr. Eizenstat said a presidential waiver in the Helms-Burton law, which can punish countries that do business in Cuba, allowed the United States to push the European Union to take a harder line against Havana. By contrast, when India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices, nonproliferation laws prevented the president from using a possible sanctions waiver to encourage those two countries to avoid an arms race.

But Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the Senate sanctions panel, said the administration's proposal "reflects a balance in principle" but "not in actual power" because, while the waiver authority would be written into law, the administration could overturn executive-order restrictions on its power on short notice. …

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