Anti-Peace Amendments on the Docket
Senate Set to Take Up State Foreign Operations Appropriations
Last week the Senate stopped debate on a “minibus” (a bundle of several appropriations funding bills) that included international affairs funding. This bill was expected to be a lightening rod for amendments to undermine diplomacy, reduce the possibility of a lasting peace in the Middle East and increase the possibility of war with Iran.
While the Senate was all set to debate these dangerous amendments, at the last minute, the package of appropriations bills that included the international affairs budget fell apart over disputes on procedure and Cuba trade sanctions.
For supporters of peaceful U.S. engagement with the world, it is excellent news that the international affairs funding bill was not debated, and is unlikely to come to the Senate floor in the future. If it were, the debate would have led to a circus of anti-U.N. grandstanding, and a deluge of amendments to cut funding for the U.N. and other international engagement programs.
Amendments we are watching
- Sen. Jerry Moran (KS) is expected to offer an amendment that would prevent the U.S. from entering into the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty if it in any way restricts Second Amendment protections of U.S. citizens or domestic manufacture, use, procurement and sale of arms.
- Sen. Mark Kirk (IL) is expected to offer an amendments that would sanction Iran's Central Bank, threatening to collapse the Iranian economy and raise the stake toward war; as well as require an audit of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (an organization that assists Palestinian refugees living in the Middle East); and also an amendment commending the Kenyan government for taking military action against the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, based in neighboring Somalia;
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) is expected to offer an amendment that would require full U.S. withdrawal from participation in U.N. bodies that recognize Palestine membership; going beyond current U.S. laws (PL 101-246, PL 103-236), which require the U.S. government to cut off its financial contributions to UNESCO for recognizing a Palestinian government as a full member, codifying in law that the U.S.withdraws from the organization entirely;
- Sen. Tim Coburn (OK) will possibly offer amendments that would reduce the amount of U.S. government-wide voluntary contributions to U.N. bodies by $2 billion a year; eliminate the U.N. Tax Equalization Fund and transfer the cumulative surplus to United States to debt reduction; and make U.N. financial audits public;
- Sen. Jim DeMint (SC)might offer amendments, which would condition U.S. funding for UN Peacekeeping upon increased oversight and accountability mechanisms; and withhold U.S. non-voluntary funds for U.N. Human Rights Council;
- Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) is likely to offer a cutting amendment on the U.N. Human Rights Council if they offer state status to the Palestinians;
- reduce the U.S. assessment share at the U.N. from 27.2 % to 25%;
- cut off U.S. funding to any U.N. organization where Iran has a position of leadership;
- cut or eliminate funding to the IPCC/UN Framework on Climate Change;
Please write your senators and urge them to oppose amendments that would undermine peace and stability by cutting funding from the international affairs budget or pushing the U.S. closer to war with Iran.
November 15th The debate on the minibus was scheduled to resume, however the State and Foreign Operation Appropriations bill was pulled out of the minibus. Senators Marco Rubio, Nelsen (FL), and Robert Menendez (NJ) were concerned about a Cuba provision and Senator David Vitter (LA) raised concerns about how much money would be in the overall minibus.
November 14th The Senate began the debate on the second minibus (H.R. 2354) at 3:00 pm. The first debate focused on Energy and Water provisions and the Senate adjourned early in the evening without introducing State/Foreign Ops into the bill. Leadership hopes to pass the minibus by the end of the week in time for Thanksgiving break.
November 10th, the Senate will hold a procedural vote to bring the second FY12 minibus spending bill, including the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (S. 1601), to the Senate floor. If that succeeds as expected, debate on the minibus will get underway next week, with amendments being considered as early as Monday or Tuesday. Debate on this next minibus could last the duration of next week and may not be concluded before the Thanksgiving break the week of November 21.
The International Affairs Budget is very vulnerable with a number of cutting amendments expected to be offered during the Senate debate, including measures to cut funding for the United Nations, State and USAID Operating Expenses, Pakistan aid, climate change, the U.S. Institute for Peace, East-West Center, and cutting off assistance to nations such as China and Russia that hold more than $10 billion in U.S. debt.
In addition, a number of dangerous amendments related to Middle East foreign policy are expected, including measures that would push the U.S. closer to war with Iran.
In late September , the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2012 State-Foreign Operations bill, providing $5 billion more in funding for non-war related programs than the House counterpart legislation from July. The $53.34 billion measure includes $44.64 billion for non-war related “base” programs and while this represents a 12% cut below the President’s request, it’s essentially the same as current funding (as opposed to the drastic 20% cuts from FY’10 levels in the House).
The State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill funds U.S. diplomacy, development, and international cooperation programs. With respect to funding for the U.N. regular budget and peacekeeping, the Senate appropriated significantly more than the House and basically fulfilled the president’s request, which was very positive given how many other accounts received cuts.