The Administration supports House passage of H.R. 2415, but reserves support for final congressional action on the bill pending the disposition of a number of key provisions. The Administration's concerns regarding these provisions must be resolved before the President's senior advisers will recommend that the bill be signed.
The Administration welcomes the inclusion of authorities sought by the Administration and the FY 2000 authorization of appropriations. However, the Administration has concerns related to certain appropriation authorizations and earmarks, reorganization, foreign policy provisions, and possible floor amendments, which are described below.
Foreign Affairs Appropriation Authorization Levels
H.R. 2415 provides the necessary authorization for FY 2000 appropriations, but does not include authorization for FY 2001 appropriations. The Administration's FY 2001 authorization request was for "such sums as may be necessary".
The Administration is greatly concerned that the bill does not include authorization for the payment of U.S. arrears to the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations. Without payment of arrears, U.S. interests and the Administration's ability to gain desired UN reforms are severely diminished.
The Administration strongly supports increased embassy security and construction necessary to protect American lives abroad. For this reason, the President's FY 2000 request includes $300 million for new diplomatic facilities for FY 2000 and an advance appropriations request totaling $3.6 billion over five years to provide an assured funding base for capital investment.
Reorganization and Management Issues
The Administration strongly opposes legislation that would micromanage executive authority and prolong the debate on the reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies. After extensive consultations with Congress on the reorganization, the Administration is eager to implement the President's revised Reorganization Plan and demonstrate its effectiveness. Mandating the establishment of a Bureau for International Information Programs and authorizing separate appropriations for International Information programs is counterproductive to the Department's streamlining efforts and would impede effective integration of the foreign affairs community. In addition, the Administration opposes a number of the reports and permanent report extensions included in H.R. 2415, many of which are unnecessary and burdensome requirements that distract from conducting the Nation's foreign policy.
Foreign Relations Restrictions
H.R. 2415 also contains objectionable provisions that would restrict the President's ability to conduct foreign policy. The Administration will seek to modify or delete these provisions as the legislative process continues. These include:
Section 206, which would require the Secretary of State to take the necessary steps to begin negotiations to conclude an international agreement on restricting arms exports to countries that do not meet certain criteria relating to, among other things, democracy and human rights. While the Administration supports the intent of this provision, it could significantly hinder U.S. efforts to increase the effectiveness of the Wassenaar Arrangement and raise constitutional concerns regarding the President's foreign affairs negotiating authority.
Section 274, which would prohibit the use of authorized funds to increase current staffing levels at U.S. posts in Vietnam unless the Secretary of State certifies to Congress that the Vietnamese in-country refugee processing program meets certain conditions and standards that the Administration believes are inappropriate. The refugee program should focus on cases of individuals facing current persecution and requiring international protection. This provision could affect the Administration's ability to protect and promote U.S. interests regarding POW/MIA accounting, human rights, vital consular services for American citizens, visa processing, and American business interests.
Section 402, which would restrict U.S. educational and cultural exchange programs with countries defined as non-democratic and section 403, which would extend the congressional notification period for grants. These provisions would undermine both the purpose and responsiveness of exchange programs.
A number of amendments that have been ruled in order are of serious policy concern. For example, the Administration strongly opposes:
The amendment linking all voluntary contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to its activities in China. Although we prefer the language in the underlying bill, the Administration could accept an amendment that would preserve funding for UNFPA programs outside of China.
The amendment that casts doubt on America's commitment to key obligations under the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea and which is unnecessary in view of existing authorities. The Administration urges the House to reject this amendment in view of the North Korea policy review being conducted by Dr. William Perry.
The amendment regarding terrorist attacks in Israel, in territory administered by Israel, and in territory administered by the Palestinian Authority. This amendment is especially unhelpful at a time when renewed energy is being brought to the Middle East peace process. It also could compromise law enforcement investigations.
The amendment that would prohibit all voluntary contributions to the UN and to UN-affiliated bodies.
The Administration also objects strongly to the amendment linking U.S. foreign assistance to UN member states not opposing U.S. positions in the UN General Assembly. One practical effect of this amendment would be to undermine our South Asia non-proliferation strategy and security dialogue. We similarly oppose measures reducing procurement flexibility in foreign assistance programs in Kosovo and more sweeping "Buy America" procurement restrictions. Such measures would render many projects prohibitively expensive and could shut U.S. suppliers out of competition for non-U.S.-funded projects. The Kosovo-specific measure also would minimize economic benefits to the struggling war-torn economies of Front Line States. These measures appear unnecessary as relevant "Buy America" procurement provisions in existing law, including those contained in the Foreign Assistance Act, have substantially promoted U.S. business interests without these consequences. The Administration opposes the amendment concerning trade in prescription medicines, which would place an excessive infringement on diplomatic activities and make it more difficult to tailor trade negotiations to particular circumstances.
The Administration also objects strongly to the amendment that would direct scorekeeping procedures for the Department of State's lease-purchase agreements contrary to Budget Enforcement Act scoring rules. It runs counter to existing policy, designed to minimize costs to the taxpayer by requiring that full costs to the U.S. Government of acquiring capital assets are clear up-front.
The Administration has concerns with a number of other amendments ruled in order, for which the Administration will provide views for conference consideration, if they are adopted.
H.R. 2415 would affect receipts and direct spending; therefore, it is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirement of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1990. OMB's preliminary scoring estimate is that the PAYGO effect of this bill would be negligible. Final scoring of this legislation may deviate from this estimate.