Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

CONGRESS WATCH: Legislative Mischief

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

CONGRESS WATCH: Legislative Mischief

Article excerpt

CONGRESS WATCH: Legislative Mischief

Congress seems incapable of letting an opportunity for mischief go by. The "30th anniversary of the reunification" of Jerusalem in June was such an opportunity. Both the Senate and the House passed similar concurrent resolutions congratulating the people of Israel on the anniversary, which by itself would have been an inappropriate meddling into a sensitive subject. However, they made matters worse by including a preamble referring to, among other things, the 1990 concurrent resolution, agreed to by both Houses, declaring that Jerusalem "must remain an undivided city," and to the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 "which states as a matter of United States policy that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel." In addition, this year's resolutions also declare that the Congress:

- "strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected as they have been by Israel during the past 30 years;

- "calls upon the President and Secretary of State to publicly affirm as a matter of U.S. policy that Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of the state of Israel; and

- "urges U.S. officials to refrain from any actions that contradict United States law on this subject." (That is from the Senate version. The House version says, "...that contradict this policy.")

Such statements in a concurrent resolution are not binding on the executive branch, and in any case, the last provision is so vague as to be meaningless.

The Senate bill, which was introduced by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and co-sponsored by 88 other senators, was passed unanimously by the Senate on May 20, and sent to the House on May 21. The 11 senators who did not co-sponsor the Moynihan bill were Sens. Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Dale Bumpers (D-AR), Robert Byrd (D-WV), John Chafee (R-RI), Wendell Ford (D-KY), James Jeffords (R-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), William Roth (R-DE), and Craig Thomas (R-WY).

The House bill, which was introduced by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and eventually attracted 185 other co-sponsors, was referred to the House International Relations Committee on April 10, and passed by the full House on June 10, under "suspension of the rules" (which limits debate and is normally used for "non-controversial" bills). The vote in the House was 406 for, 17 against, with one person, Rep. Herbert Bateman (R-VA), voting "present." the 17 voting against the resolution were Representatives David Bonior (D-MI), Eva Clayton (D-NC), John Conyers (D-MI), Ronald Dellums (D-CA), John Dingell (D-MI), Lee Hamilton (D-IN), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Jim McDermott (D-WA), David Minge (DFLMN), Jim Moran (D-VA), David Obey (D-WI), Ron Paul (R-TX), Thomas Petri (R-WI), Nick Rahall (D-WV), John Sununu (R-NH), James Traficant (D-OH), and Melvin Watt (D-NC).

Some Aid for Israel and Egypt May Go to Jordan

It has been widely assumed on Capitol Hill that the Clinton administration plans to seek Israeli and Egyptian cooperation to provide aid to Jordan and to finance the start-up of the Middle East Development Bank. This was all but confirmed by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright testifying before the Senate foreign operations appropriations subcommittee. Subcommittee chairman Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked Albright about reports that the administration plans to provide $100 million to Jordan from the $3.1 billion in U.S. foreign aid to Israel and $2.2 billion in foreign aid to Egypt. She did not give a direct answer, but simply said that the administration has been looking for ways to give substantial aid to Jordan.

This plan would overcome the long-standing objection of House foreign aid appropriations subcommittee chairman Sonny Callahan (R-AL) to spending any more aid money in the Middle East. Last year Callahan said that he supported funding for the Middle East Development Bank (MEDB), but that the money would have to come out of other Middle East aid funds. …

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