Republicans Give Up After All-Night Effort to Pass Foreign Aid Cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democrats, stung by growing conservative GOP control of the House, quibbled into the morning today after an all-night session, blocking Republicans efforts to complete a bill sharply reducing foreign aid.
Early morning votes added conditions on aid to Haiti, a $25 million aid cut to Turkey as punishment for alleged human rights abuses and a prohibition of anti-narcotics assistance to Burma planned by the Clinton administration.
Another vote this morning restricted aid to Russia to $195 million of the $595 million proposed for former Soviet states. The House rejected efforts to cut $5 million in aid to India as a symbolic protest against government abuses in Kashmir and Punjab.
The bill, which is eventually expected to pass, is to be taken up again Friday. But the extent of Democratic support was uncertain. Republicans had hoped to hold onto fragile bipartisan support while dealing with more than 70 amendments, many of them proposing deeper cuts.
Democrats chose to stall by giving an endless series of five-minutes speeches, calling for roll call votes on nearly every amendment and engaging in other tactics to show their anger with the way Republicans wield power in the House, including the addition of a Democrat-turned-Republican on the important Ways and Means Committee.
Anti-abortion forces won one of their biggest congressional victories to date with a 243-187 vote Wednesday to ban aid to organizations involved in abortions anywhere in the world. Then the House engaged in a planned all-night debate on amendments to the $12 billion aid appropriations bill.
As the post-midnight hours ticked away on an otherwise quiet Capitol Hill, bleary-eyed members haggled over aid-restricting amendments to the bill that cuts nearly $3 billion from President Clinton’s aid proposals.
Democrats, extending debate on each issue, tried to thwart GOP efforts to pass a budget and other major legislation before Congress’ weeklong Independence Day recess.
The second day of debate on foreign aid Wednesday ended with six hours of debate on an amendment to bar aid from any Haitian government that takes power without a U.S.-approved election. Opponents said the provision, passed 252-164, was an insult to Haiti’s fledgling democracy.
Lurking behind the long debate on Haiti and another post-midnight marathon that ended in a vote to restrict aid to Azerbaijan was a domestic political issue: Democratic outrage over the GOP leadership’s addition of Rep. Greg Laughlin, R-Texas, who recently switched parties, to the powerful Ways and Means Committee without adding a Democratic seat.
``The real problem is the Republicans have essentially sold a seat on Ways and Means to a person who has voted with them anyway,″ said Rep. David Obey, R-Wis., in an interview just off the House floor.
But there also was considerable anger over issues related to Turkey, Haiti, Azerbaijan and Burma.
Rep. John Edward Porter, R-Ill., accused Turkey of ``unbridled violence″ against its Kurdish minority. The House voted for the cut that does not affect military aid, 247-155.
``The ongoing and worsening human rights problems are so severe that the Turkish democracy itself is being undermined and could be lost,″ Porter said.
Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., said Turkey’s ``unquestioned strategic importance″ to the United States and NATO makes it a vital ally undeserving of cuts. Other opponents of the measure pointed to its help in the Gulf War.
Democrats consider restoration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in Haiti a major Clinton foreign policy success.
But Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., who sponsored the Haiti restrictions, said he was concerned that democracy would fail in Haiti, but Democrats accused Goss of trying to undermine U.S. optimism over Haitian elections and support for Aristide, who is prohibited by the Haitian constitution from running in the planned December presidential election.
On Burma, an approved amendment to the bill would reject any money for cooperation with the military rulers of Burma in controlling narcotics traffic. The administration has been pursuing a two-track policy that seeks cooperation on drugs and criticizes Burma for abuses.
The discord over Haiti and the abortion vote were eroded Democratic support for the bill which cuts aid for the next fiscal year 11 percent from this year’s levels and 20 percent below Clinton’s proposal.
Opponents of the abortion amendment sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., said it would effectively end U.S. support for family planning around the world.
Smith said his amendment was ``pro-life and anti-coercion″ and would save thousands of unborn babies from death before birth. The biggest impact, he said, would be in China, which has a one-child-per-family policy and, he said, ``routinely compels women to abort their unauthorized children.″
The bill as amended would deny funding to any private, nongovernment or multilateral group that directly or indirectly performs abortions or promotes changes in abortion laws in any country. It exempts abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is endangered.
Family planning and human rights groups distributed a letter to members of Congress after the vote urging rejection of the whole foreign aid bill because of the abortion language.