Africa: House Panel Approves $21.3 Billion 2007 Foreign Spending Bill

Washington, DC — The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee May 25 approved by voice vote a $21.3 billion foreign spending bill for the fiscal year beginning October 1 (fiscal year 2007), rejecting an amendment to withhold military aid to Egypt because of human rights abuses.

For the bill to become law, it must be passed by the full House of Representatives, the Senate must pass a version of the bill, and legislators must agree on compromise legislation if there are differences. The compromise measure still would require the president's signature to take effect.

The bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee would provide only two-thirds of the $3 billion President Bush requested for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which rewards countries for good governance and commitments to economic growth and investing in their populations. The cut was due to overall budget reductions, said Representative Jim Kolbe, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.

Although the Bush administration repeatedly has criticized Egypt for suppressing political dissent, it is seeking $1.7 billion in aid for the country, of which $1.3 billion would be for military assistance. (See related article.)

In opposing the amendment offered by Representative David Obey, the committee's senior Democrat, Kolbe said reducing aid for Egypt would hurt the country's military, one of Egypt's more progressive organizations, and force it to look elsewhere, like China and the former Soviet Union, for funding and equipment, according to reports.

Funding for Egypt would include $50 million for political reform programs and another $50 million for education initiatives.

The measure also would provide $3.4 billion to combat HIV/AIDS around the world, $752 million above the fiscal year 2006 appropriated level and the same as the president's request. It would provide at least $445 million for the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, more than double the amount requested by the president. (See related article.)

SUPPORTING THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR

The bill would provide significant increases in security assistance to U.S. allies in the global War on Terror and increase funding for anti-narcotic programs.

Under the committee-approved version of the bill, Israel would receive an $83 million increase -- for a total of $2.3 billion -- in military aid for security and counterterror efforts, the amount the president requested. Israel also would receive $120 million in economic assistance, again equal to the president's request.

The bill includes $522 million to promote further stabilization of Iraq, $227 million below the administration request but $461 million above the amount appropriated for fiscal year 2006.

The committee also removed a proposed $150 million in economic development funds for the West Bank and Gaza because the committee said the funding would aid the ruling Hamas group. The panel did approve $80 million in humanitarian aid for Palestinians.

The bill would increase funds to $962 million to continue counter-narcotic efforts, democracy building and economic self-sufficiency programs in Afghanistan. That is $85 million above the fiscal 2006 level. Pakistan would receive $200 million in military assistance for helping the United States hunt for terrorists along its border with Afghanistan. (See Rebuilding Afghanistan.)

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

The version of the bill approved by the committee fully supports Bush's request for assistance to Sudan. The bill would provide $450 million, which includes $138 million for the Darfur region. It stipulates that aid may be given to the coalition government only if it is used in support of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed in 2005 or the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May. (See related article.)

Funding for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) would be set at $4.1 billion, $71 million above the president's request but $303 million below the 2006 appropriated level. The Peace Corps would be funded at $325 million, $5 million more than the fiscal 2006 level but $12 million below the president's request.

The bill would provide $522 million for the Trade Capacity Enhancement Fund, a new initiative designed to give incentives to countries that embrace free-trade policies. Total funding for U.S. trade-capacity programs would be approximately $1.3 billion.

Support for family-planning programs in individual countries would receive $432 million; $34 million would go to the United Nations Population Fund. Current restrictions and prohibitions on how the funding for family planning is used would be retained.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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