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APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending February 16, 2007

I. House Blocks Palestinian Aid Funds
II. Bills and Resolutions
III. Rep. Susan Davis on the Record
IV. Feinstein and Leahy on Cluster Bombs

I. House Blocks Palestinian Aid Funds
II. Bills and Resolutions
III. Rep. Susan Davis on the Record
IV. Feinstein and Leahy on Cluster Bombs


Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee's State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, is blocking the Administration's plan to provide $86 million in security assistance to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Lowey reportedly has asked for additional information about where the funds will go and why they are being provided. According to published reports, Lowey blocked the funds prior to the Palestinian national unity government agreement reached earlier this week in Saudi Arabia between Fatah and Hamas.

The funds, intended to finance training and non- lethal equipment for Abbas' security forces, are to be provided out of unspent funds previously appropriated for the Palestinians ("pipeline" funds) for other purposes. In order to do so, the Administration must notify relevant Congressional committees (House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and House and Senate Appropriations Committees) of the intention to reprogram the funds. Pursuant to this notification, there exists an informal protocol under which Committee members who object to the plan or have further questions may place a "hold" on the reprogramming request, ostensibly in order to obtain additional information or clarification. In reality, the "hold" is often used to simply block funding altogether.

While the "hold" is not legally binding - the Administration could, legally, ignore the "hold" and go ahead with the funding - in practice "holds" are respected, in large part because failure to respect a "hold" would almost certainly be punished by Congress. It is instructive to recall what happened the one time in the past when the President circumvented Congress in order to provide assistance to the Palestinians (in July 2003). At that time, he provided $20 million for the Palestinians out of an emergency contingency fund (section 451 of the Foreign Assistance Act), rather than out of regular aid funds which would have necessitated the regular notification process and permitted a member of Congress to issue a "hold." Congress punished the President in the next appropriations cycle, by cutting this contingency fund by exactly the amount he had provided to the Palestinians.



(IRAN) S.CON.RES.13: Introduced 2/15/07 by Sen. Sanders (I-VT), "expressing the sense of Congress that the President should not initiate military action against Iran without first obtaining authorization from Congress." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(CLUSTER BOMBS) S. 594: Introduced 2/14/07 by Sen. FEINSTEIN (D-CA) and three cosponsors [Leahy (D- VT), Sanders (I-VT), and Mikulski (D-MD), "to limit the use, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. See Section IV (below) for remarks on the record regarding this measure.

(IRAN) H.RES.163: Introduced 2/14/07 by Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) and six cosponsors, "Urging the collective judgment of both Congress and the President regarding the use of military force by the United States." (Note: the resolution does not explicitly mention Iran). Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Bills/Resolutions marked up and reported out by the House Foreign Affairs Committee 2/15/07:

(BANGLADESH/ISRAEL) H. Res. 64: Introduced 1/16/07 by Reps. Kirk (R-IL) and Lowey (D-NY), "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Bangladesh should immediately drop all pending charges against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury."

(ISRAELI SOLDIERS) H.RES.107: Introduced 1/30/07 by Rep. Ackerman (D-NY), "Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli soldiers held captive by Hamas and Hezbollah, and for other purposes."

(IRAN) HR 957: Introduced 2/8/07 by Rep. Ros- Lehtinen and 13 cosponsors, "To amend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to expand and clarify the entities against which sanctions may be imposed." Amended by the Committee, adopting an amendment offered by Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).


Below are remarks submitted for the Record, 2/9/07 by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), regarding the introduction of H. Res. 143. H. Res. 143 calls for the appointment of a special Middle East envoy and articulates important principles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. APN STRONGLY SUPPORTS H. RES. 143 AND IS URGING ALL HOUSE MEMBERS TO COSPONSOR THIS IMPORTANT RESOLUTION.

"Madam Speaker, I rise today to introduce a resolution urging President Bush to send a special envoy to the Middle East to focus on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"In my view, we have not committed enough resources to encourage peace in the region.

"Maintaining the security of the State of Israel will always remain a priority of Congress and the United States of America. This resolution does not change our policy for a secure and safe Israel, but acknowledges that we need to play a more constructive role in the region.

"I was encouraged to see Secretary Condoleezza Rice make a trip to the region last month. I was also pleased to see the Quartet recently meet to reaffirm their commitment to the peace process.

"These are important steps, but I worry that they will have the same result as similar efforts and we will not see the type of sustained diplomacy required to solve such a complex issue.

"I am calling on all my colleagues to help me send a message that we need a new approach. We need a special envoy with the authority to bring all responsible parties to the table. This role was critical in the 1990s and is necessary today.

"This envoy would work with the Secretary of State to ensure a constant, high-level American presence and provide our country with the ability to capitalize on every opportunity for progress.

"The United States, Israel and the entire international community cannot afford to miss an opportunity to broker a lasting peace. A special envoy, with the sanctioned mission of securing a lasting peace through negotiation, must be dispatched to the region."


Remarks on the Senate floor 2/14/07, regarding the introduction of S. 594, a bill to limit the use, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions.

FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Mr. President, I rise with Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Senator Mikulski to introduce legislation to address the continuing threat posed by cluster bombs to innocent civilians around the world.

Our legislation places common sense restrictions on the use of cluster bombs. It prevents any funds from being spent to use, sell or transfer cluster munitions: that have a failure rate of more than one percent; unless the rules of engagement or the agreement applicable to the sale or transfer of such cluster munitions specify that: the cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets and; will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.

The bill also requires the President to submit a report to the appropriate Congressional committees on the plan, including estimated costs, by either the United States Government or the government to which U.S. cluster bombs are sold or transferred to clean up unexploded cluster bombs.

Finally, the bill includes a national security waiver that allows the President to waive the prohibition on the use, sale, or transfer of cluster bombs with a failure rate of more than one percent, if he determines it is vital to protect the security of the United States.

The human death toll and injury from these weapons are felt everyday. Innocent children think they are picking up a play toy in the field and suddenly their arm is blown off.

...What gives rise, in part, to my bill are recent developments in Lebanon over alleged use of cluster bombs by Israel. It is estimated that Israel dropped 4 million bomblets in southern Lebanon and 1 million of these bomblets failed to explode. As Lebanese children and families have returned to their homes and begin to rebuild, they have been exposed to the danger of these unexploded bomblets lying in the rubble. 22 people, including six children have been killed and 133, including 47 children, injured.

One United Nations official estimates that 40 percent of the cluster bombs launched by Israel in Southern Lebanon failed to explode. So far, more than 58,000 unexploded bomblets in Lebanon have been destroyed but it will take 12 to 15 months to complete the effort. Source: United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon.

Looking at these figures it is clear that several countries are awash with unexploded bomblets. The number is indeed staggering and the consequences are real. Each death that results from an unexploded American bomblet weakens American diplomacy and American values. How are we supposed to win the hearts and minds of civilians in these countries when we leave behind such deadly weapons that indiscriminately kill boys and girls? How are we supposed to speed up reconstruction efforts--building homes, schools, hospitals, clinics, and ensuring electricity and water supplies--when populated areas are littered with these bombs? Simply put, unexploded cluster bombs fuel anger and resentment and make security, stabilization, and reconstruction efforts that much harder.

And it is not just a humanitarian problem, it is a military problem. By showering targets with cluster bombs, we ensure that our troops will face thousands of unexploded bomblets as they move forward. This will force them to change course and slow the mission. During the Iraq war, U.S. troops would fire six rockets containing 4,000 bomblets to eliminate one artillery piece in a civilian neighborhood. With a 16 percent dud rate, approximately 640 duds were left behind. Source: Human Rights Watch. As an August 2003 Wall Street Journal article noted: "Unexploded bomblets render significant swaths of battlefield off-limits to advancing U.S. troops." In fact, during the first Gulf War, unexploded cluster munitions killed 22 U.S. troops--6 percent of total U.S. fatalities-- and injured 58.

Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen recognized the threat cluster bombs posed to civilians and U.S. troops alike and issued a memorandum which became known as the Cohen Policy. It stated that beginning in fiscal year 2005, all new cluster bomb would have a failure rate of less than one percent.

This was an important step forward but we must remember that we still have 5.5 million cluster bombs in our arsenals containing 728.5 million bomblets. That is, we are still prepared to use an enormous amount of cluster bombs that have significant failure rates. That is unacceptable.

Let me be clear. While this legislation prohibits the sale, use, or transfer of cluster bombs with a failure rate of more than one percent, it does include a national security waiver to allow the President to waive the restriction. Instead of exercising the waiver, I would hope that administration would work with Congress to extend the Cohen Policy to the entire U.S. cluster bomb arsenal.

During the 1990s, a comprehensive pact was forged to protect civilians from land mines worldwide. The United States and the international community have since spent millions to remove mines in post- conflict regions. There is no question there should be a similar program for cluster bombs.

Simply put, this legislation will save lives-- civilians and soldiers alike--and will help save the reputation of the United States.

LEAHY (D-VT): ...The problem of cluster munitions, which overwhelmingly maim and kill civilians, has been known for many years. Perhaps the most egregious example is Laos, where millions of these tiny explosives were dropped by United States military aircraft during the Vietnam war. Over three decades later they continue to cause horrific casualties among local villagers and unsuspecting children.

I have urged the Pentagon to address this problem for nearly a decade. While they have acknowledged the problem, they have not yet taken sufficient steps to solve it. We used large numbers of cluster munitions in the invasion of Iraq, including in densely inhabited, urban areas, and many civilians paid and continue to pay a terrible price.

Israel used these weapons extensively in Lebanon, including cluster munitions supplied by the United States, and again it has been civilians who have suffered disproportionately.

Cluster munitions, like any weapon, have military utility. They can be effective against armor or other military infrastructure. But they are, in effect, indiscriminate, because they are scattered by the thousands over wide areas.

Many of them--between 1 and 40 percent depending on the type and the condition of the terrain--fail to explode on contact and remain on the surface of the ground as hazardous duds indefinitely, no different from landmines.

The duds are exploded by whoever comes into contact with them. Often it is a child who thinks it is a toy. The consequences are disastrous-- lifelong disfigurement and disability, or death.

No one suggests that it is possible to completely avoid civilian casualties in war. Innocent casualties are an inevitable, tragic consequence of all wars. But this legislation should not be necessary. Weapons that are so disproportionately hazardous to civilians should of course be subject to strict controls on their use...

For more information, contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations, at 202/728-1893, or at