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House Votes for the Drug War & Against Humanitarian Aid

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Published On: July 24, 2001          Updated On: August 07, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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House Votes for the Drug War & 
Against Humanitarian Aid 072401

By JIM ABRAMS
Associated Press Writer

Jim Abrams of the Associated Press reported on July 24, 2001 that The House of Representatives voted to protect money for fighting drugs in South America from lawmakers who argued that foreign aid dollars would be better spent against AIDS and other world health problems.

The defeat of amendments to shift money from the Andean antidrug initiative to health programs was a victory for the Bush administration, which said that any reductions below what the president wanted ``would undermine the effort to develop healthy, licit economies and strong democratic governments in the Andes.''

The $15.2 billion foreign aid spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 contains $676 million to fight drugs and advance economic and political stability in Colombia and its neighbors. That total is already $55 million lower than the president's budget request.

But many lawmakers, led by Democrats, questioned the wisdom of military aid to Colombia and said combating the ravages of AIDS and other disease should be a higher foreign aid priority.

By 2005, 100 million people around the world will be infected by HIV-AIDS, said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. ``How much more staggering would the numbers have to become for us to respond in a way that is commensurate with the leadership of our country?''

The bill provides $474 million for international AIDS programs. Included in that amount is the $100 million the president requested for an international HIV-AIDS trust fund.

The House, by a 240-188 vote, defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., that would have shifted $60 million from the Andes initiative and military aid programs to the AIDS trust fund.

Then, by a 249-179 vote, it rejected an attempt by Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., that would have reduced military aid to Colombia by $100 million, moving half that money into programs to fight tuberculosis and the other half to child survival programs.

McGovern said he wanted to send a message to the Colombian military that it must sever all ties with paramilitary groups accused of human rights violations against Colombian civilians.

But opponents of the two amendments argued that the Andean anti-drug effort was a vital national security matter. ``What we don't want to do here today in misguided compassion is to turn the clock back on our efforts to stem illegal narcotics,'' said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.

The successor to President Clinton's $1.3 billion anti-drug plan, which concentrated on military aid to Colombia, the initiative provides support in such areas as coca crop eradication and crop replacement, judicial reform and bringing peace to Colombia. It aids Colombia's neighbors' suffering from spillover effects of illicit drugs and terrorism in that country.

House members close to the steel industry succeeded Tuesday in amending the bill to cut $18 million from the Export-Import Bank budget, the same amount the bank approved in a loan guarantee to a Chinese steel company to modernize its plant.

``The bank has financed the production of additional steel by a company that continues to dump steel products in our domestic market,'' said Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., before the 258-162 vote.

Opponents of the amendment contended that the Ex-Im Bank, funded originally at $805 million for the fiscal 2002 budget, provides a valuable service to small businesses trying to sell their products overseas.

But Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., said the steel loan was unwise because it helps the Chinese steel industry at a time that American steelworkers are losing work and there is a glut in world steel markets. The House vote would shift the $18 million to AIDS and children's programs.

The foreign aid bill also includes $768 million for Russia and former states of the Soviet Union, $2.7 billion in military and economic aid for Israel and $2 billion in aid for Egypt.

It requires the president to determine whether the Palestine Liberation Organization is complying with commitments to renounce terrorism and includes possible sanctions, including closing the PLO information office in Washington, if the PLO doesn't meet its promises.

The Senate has not yet taken up a version of the bill.

The foreign aid bill is H.R. 2506:  On the Net:

House Appropriations: http://www.house.gov/appropriations

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