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Legislative Roundup - June 17, 2005

I. House ForOps Markup - the Bill II. House ForOps - the Markup III. Bills and Resolutions

for the week ending June 17, 2005

I. House ForOps Markup - the Bill
II. House ForOps - the Markup
III. Bills and Resolutions


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I. HOUSE FOROPS MARKUP - THE BILL
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On June 16th the House Appropriations Committee's Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee met to mark up the FY06 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (ForOps). The bill is due to be marked up in the full Appropriations committee next week, with plans to bring it to the House floor the week of June 27th.

The ForOps subcommittee recommended:

Israel:

- not less than $2,280,000,000 in military assistance (FMF) for Israel, consistent with the President's request and the agreed-upon program to cut economic assistance (ESF) while increasing FMF by $60,000,000 annually; - early disbursal (lump sum, within 30 days of the Act passing into law); - language permitting that $595,000,000 of the aid shall be available for procurement in Israel (i.e., not spent on U.S. goods); - language noting that the Committee remains committed to helping Israel maintain security and is convinced that the U.S. must make every effort to carry out its longstanding policy of ensuring that Israel's technological edge is maintained.

Palestinians:

- $150 million in economic aid for the Palestinians, as requested by the President; - retention of language prohibiting direct aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) (and providing the President a national security waiver of this prohibition); - retention of language barring U.S. assistance to any person or institution that engages in, advocates, or sponsors terrorism; - retention of language requiring vetting and annual audits of all contractors, grantees, significant subcontractors and subgrantees; - retention of language that provides up to $1 million to the USAID Inspector General to conduct audits and inspections; - addition of new language requiring the Secretary of State to submit to the Committee on Appropriations, prior to December 1, 2005, and prior to the initial obligation of funds for the West Bank and Gaza program, a financial plan detailing the proposed use of the funds on a project-by- project basis, to be updated on a quarterly basis; - language explicitly noting that it is the Committee's understanding that the 2006 aid request for the West Bank and Gaza does not include any direct aid for the Palestinian Authority; - language urging USAID to work through the West Bank and Gaza program to support a proposed joint health project between Al Quds University and Hebrew University; - language recognizing the work of the Israeli "Save a Child's Heart" program; - language modifying the "West Bank and Gaza Program" to conform to amendments made in the emergency supplemental providing for a mandatory GAO audit of FY06 ESF for the West Bank and Gaza program;

Egypt:

- $495,000,000 in economic assistance, as requested by the President and consistent with the ongoing program to cut Egypt's ESF by $40 million annually; - $1,300,000,000 in FMF, with its normal interest-bearing account provisions and of which no more than $41,600,000 is provided for administrative expenses; - language noting that the Committee is convinced that continued military cooperation between Egypt and the United States remains in the national security interests of both countries; - language expressing concern about religious freedom in Egypt and particular concern about the Coptic community, and stating that the Committee expects the Department of State to make every effort to reinforce the importance of actively enforcing the religious freedoms that are, in fact, provided for in the Egyptian Constitution; - language supporting programs and organizations that seek to strengthen the role and capacity of women in Egyptian society, including $150,000 for the National Council for Women in Egypt.

Jordan:

- $206,000,000 in FMF; - language noting that the Committee strongly supports the Administration's effort to improve Jordanian security, recognizing the critical role Jordan plays in supporting peace and security in the Middle East, and recognizing Jordan's extensive security requirements, particularly in the areas of ground force modernization and border security.

Lebanon:

- $40,000,000 in economic assistance, an increase of $5 million over the President's request; - language directing that not less than $6 million of the assistance go to American educational institutions in Lebanon.

Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI):

- $85,000,000 in funding for MEPI, $35 million less than the President's request, noting that the Committee was concerned that it would be difficult to expend the full amount requested; - language directing that $4,500,000 of the funds be set aside to establish a scholarship program for students from countries with significant Muslim populations at the American universities in those countries; - language recognizing the work of Carnegie Hall in promoting cross-cultural exchanges and urging the State Department to consider its programs in the Middle East for MEPI funding.

Other

- language noting that in FY04 the Committee had directed that up to $5,000,000 be provided for the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, to assist in the creation of the Israel Society and Democracy Education Center. This year, the Committee notes that it understands the full amount has not been provided for this project, and urges the Department of State to complete the financial commitment made for the project; - Language modifying the "democracy programs" section to, among other things, provide up to $1,500,000 for democracy and human rights programs in Iran and Syria, including through the National Endowment for Democracy; - Language modifying the "Arab League Boycott of Israel" section to take into account improvements in the situation since the 2005 Act; - Language modifying the FY05 bill language that stated that not less than $12,000,000 in ESF shall support reconciliation programs and activities which bring together individuals of different ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds from areas of civil conflict and war. The committee recommended changing "shall" to "should" and increasing the funds available to $15,000,000.


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II. HOUSE FOROPS MARKUP - THE MARKUP
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The markup, which lasted less than an hour, included discussion of some of the Middle East provisions of the bill. This included:

- Chairman Kolbe (R-AZ), who in his opening remarks highlighted the $75 million increase in economic assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, matching the President's request, and the new project-by-project monitoring of the Palestinian aid program.

- Ranking Minority Member Lowey (D-NY), who in her opening remarks highlighted the new provision for an audit of funding to the West Bank and Gaza, declaring that the future success of the Palestinian Authority (PA) depends on standards of accountability and transparency, and that the PA must shut down terrorist groups like Hamas.

- Congressman Obey (D-WI), ranking minority member of the full Appropriations Committee, who voiced strong concerns about aid to Egypt, noting that he had supported Egypt's aid program for many years but that he now considers it "exceedingly difficult" to continue funding for Egypt. Rep. Obey acknowledged that Egypt has made many contributions to the peace process over the years, but voiced intense frustration with the undemocratic conduct of the Egyptian government. Rep. Obey spoke about the democratic values of the United States, and called for the U.S. to demand that countries receiving aid democratize; he said he felt "frustrated and insulted" after a recent meeting with the Egyptian Foreign Minister in which the Foreign Minister justified the jailing of an opposition politician on grounds of "forgery." Obey stated that "It's time for Egypt to stop pretending and start moving toward democracy." He also said he was "close to giving up on Egypt," noting that he had contemplated proposing an amendment to cut Egypt's funding in half but had decided that such a move would be "destructive."

- Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA), who expressed support for Rep. Obey's frustrations with Egypt and said he wanted to work with Obey in the future to address the issues he had raised.

- Chairman Kolbe, who in his closing remarks announced plans to hold an oversight hearing on funding to the West Bank and Gaza.

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III. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS
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(EDUCATION) HR 509: On June 16th the House Education and the Workforce's Subcommittee on Select Education passed HR 509, "To amend and extend title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965." HR 509 includes a provision, like the one included in HR 3077 (108th Congress) to establish an advisory board composed of government appointed experts to "provide advice, counsel and recommendations to the Secretary and the Congress on international education issues for higher education." Comments in the Congressional record related to HR 3077 indicate that the main impetus behind the creation of this board is to impose oversight over teaching of Israel- and Middle East-related issues. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.


For more information, contact APN Government Relations Director Lara Friedman at 202/728-1893, or at lfriedman@peacenow.org.