November 6, 1999
House Approves Aid Bill but Some Call It Inadequate
By ERIC SCHMITT
ASHINGTON -- The
House overwhelmingly approved a
compromise foreign aid bill on Friday,
but some allied governments and
international aid workers expressed
disappointment at the debt relief for
By a vote of 316 to 100, lawmakers
agreed to an aid package negotiated
by the White House and Congress on
Thursday that added $799 million
more than Republicans wanted to
spend on matters like peacekeeping
in Kosovo, nuclear security in Russia
and cancellation of poor nations'
debts, mostly in Africa.
The $13.5 billion measure will advance next week to the Senate, where
approval is expected.
President Clinton said the bill
"meets our commitments" in key
policy areas. But some European
diplomats here and international aid
workers were more skeptical.
In debt relief, the Group of Seven
industrial nations agreed in Cologne,
Germany, in June to cut the debt
burden of the poorest countries to
ease poverty. To help pay the American share, President Clinton requested $370 million this year to help the
41 countries identified by the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund as "heavily indebted."
But Republicans, who included $33
million in their spending bill, agreed
to only $123 million in the compromise. They said that to spend more
would raid the Social Security surplus, which both parties vow to protect.
"The real danger today is not
American hegemony, but American
disengagement," said one diplomat
from a European country involved in
the debt fund set up at Cologne.
Aid workers said the United States
could well afford to cancel loans to
let poor countries focus their resources on needed services like education and health care. "We don't
think a farmer in Mali should be
selling some of his crop to go into the
U.S. Treasury when they need to get
children into school," said Seth Amgott, a spokesman for Oxfam, a
worldwide anti-poverty agency.
The initial foreign aid bill passed
by the Republican-controlled Congress last month contained $12.7 billion and was vetoed by President
Clinton as inadequate. The administration asked for $14.4 billion but
compromised on $13.5 billion.
The compromise restored some
administration priorities, including
an additional $170 million in economic support funds and $150 million for
The two sides agreed earlier to
spend $1.8 billion during three years
to underwrite the Israeli-Palestinian
peace accords. Of that amount,
which provides the full amount President Clinton requested, $1.2 billion is
for military support to Israel, $400
million in economic aid for the West
Bank and Gaza and $200 million for
Republicans also restored $104
million for nuclear security programs and other aid to republics of
the former Soviet Union, but the $839
million total fell far short of the
administration's request for $1.32
The United States has worked
hard to prevent nuclear material in
Russia from falling into the hands of
terrorists. Even some proponents of
safeguards have grown frustrated as
the Russian authorities have restricted access to some sensitive nuclear sites.
But Kenneth Luongo, the head of
the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, a private
group, said, "Given the problems in
Russia, the thought that devoting
less money is going to give them
incentive to be more cooperative, or
solve the problem faster, is inaccurate."