U.S. House approves US$15.2 bil. foreign aid bill


WASHINGTON, AP

The House of Representatives passed a US$15.2 billion foreign aid bill after a debate that centered on the administration’s program to eradicate drugs and bring political stability to Colombia and its neighbors.

The House rejected several amendments offered by lawmakers who questioned the effectiveness of the Andean anti-drug initiative and contended that the US$676 million allotted for the initiative would be better spent fighting the worldwide epidemic of AIDS and other health problems.

The foreign aid bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 passed by 381-46 votes. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The legislation contains US$2.7 billion in military and economic assistance for Israel and US$2 billion for Egypt. It provides US$474 million for AIDS programs, US$425 million for reproductive health assistance, US$768 million for the states of the former Soviet Union, and US$600 million for Southeast Asia and the Balkans.

The House defeated, by 240-188, an amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, that would have shifted US$60 million from the Andes initiative and military assistance programs to an international AIDS fund.

Up to 100 million people could be infected worldwide in the next four years if action is not taken, said Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri. “We cannot allow the enormity of the problem to numb us or convince us that this pandemic is beyond our ability to fight it,” Gephardt said.

The House defeated, by 249-179, an amendment by Rep. James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, that would have cut military aid to Colombia by US$100 million, with half that money going into tuberculosis programs and the other half into child survival programs.