STOP ATTACK ON LEAHY AMENDMENT
July 18, 1997
From Carlos Salinas (Amnesty Intl) with clarifications added by Colombia
FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION -- For Human Rights in Colombia -- ACT BEFORE 5
PM TUESDAY JULY 22
HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE RESOLUTION GUTS HUMAN RIGHTS SAFEGUARD
GOVERNING COUNTERNARCOTICS MILITARY TRANSFERS:
CALL YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE (HOUSE SIDE ONLY) AND ASK
PLEASE VOTE _AGAINST_ THE "RULE FOR FOREIGN OPERATIONS BILL"
US Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121. Ask them for your Representative.
Or if you know your Representative's fax number, please send them a letter.
Please tell them that:
The rule for the consideration of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill
(Foreign Ops Bill) specifically targets the Leahy Amendment which
prohibits US counternarcotics aid from going to specific foreign military
units where there is credible evidence they've been involved in violations.
(THIS IS, IN ESSENCE, REFERRING TO COLOMBIA AS WELL AS PERU.) Even
offending units can receive aid if steps are taken to bring the responsible to
The rule was designed in part to remove this provision from the bill thus
voting for the rule is voting to strike the Leahy provision.
Voting for the rule is tantamount to saying the US should send military aid
to units in spite of credible evidence those units have been involved in
torture and murder.
It is morally indefensible to provide military aid to known or suspected
torturers and murderers.
The rule must be voted down or rewritten to ensure the Leahy Amendment is
The rule was going to be voted on the evening of Wednesday July 16 but was
postponed to Thursday, July 17. But then House Democrats, angry about
another provision in the rule, protested during consideration of the
Agriculture Appropriations bill and the House adjourned. The next vote that
can take place is Tuesday July 22 after 5:00 p.m. This may come up from
that point forwards.
The vote may well be taking place in a highly charged partisan atmosphere
with strict party line votes (Republicans for the rule, Democrats against),
although the stated reason for the recess until Tuesday was to let tempers
cool. It may also mean that some efforts may be made to rewrite the rule.
Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), sponsor of the rule resolution
insinuated as much during a C-SPAN interview as the House was adjourning
on the afternoon of Thursday July 17.
It is imperative that any re-writing include the Leahy Amendment. If the
rule is rewritten, it should be done in such a way that it no longer makes
the Leahy Amendment vulnerable.
In the House of Representatives, a rule is a resolution which governs the
handling of a bill on the floor, in this case, the "Foreign Operations, Export
Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill, 1998," H.R. 2159, a.k.a.
the Foreign Ops Bill.
The Resolution providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 2159) or Rule
reads (page 2, lines 11-15): "Points of order against provisions in the bill
for failure to comply with clause 2 or 6 of rule XXI are waived except as
follows: beginning with ": Provided" on page 24, line 8, through "justice" on
line 16." This refers to the Leahy Amendment which reads ( page 24, lines
8-16 of the Foreign Ops Bill): "Provided further, That none of the funds made
available under this heading [Department of State, International Narcotics
Control] may be provided to any unit of the security forces of a foreign
country if the Secretary of State has credible evidence to believe such unit
has committed gross violations of human rights unless the Secretary
determines and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the
government of such country is taking steps to bring the responsible
members of the security forces unit to justice."
What this does is allow a point of order against the Leahy Amendment (and
only the Leahy Amendment), which will result in the removal of the
Amendment. A point of order is an objection raised by a member that the
chamber is breaking its own rules. The objector cites the rule, and the
chair sustains the objection if its correct.
The reason this can happen is that the Leahy Amendment is "authorizing" and
not "appropriating" language. The "authorization" language is supposed to be
language which specifies the programs to be funded: which ones and in what
way, and includes restrictions such as those of the Leahy Amendment.
"Appropriations" on the other hand is only supposed to designate amounts of
money to be spent on the "authorized" programs. But this has not been the
case as there has not been an "authorizing" bill for foreign aid in several
years. Instead, all of this has been included in the appropriations.
Since the Foreign Ops Appropriations Bill has been replete with such
language in the past few years, it has been common practice for the rule
against such language to be waived by precluding such points of order from
being raised when the bill is considered. In this case, the waiver on such
points of order is applied to the entire bill except for the Amendment. So if
the rule is approved any member can raise the point of order and the
Amendment will be stricken.
The rule will be voted on by the entire House, and usually is approved
because few want to be on the bad side of the Rules Committee. However,
given the controversy over another provision and the pressure they are
already feeling from many constituents and organizations, there is a chance
the Rule may either be defeated or rewritten.
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