WASHINGTON (Feb. 9)
Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D., Maine) and Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D., N.Y.), backed by members of both major parties introduced yesterday identical bills in the Senate and House calling for a grant of $85 million to Israel to help care for Soviet Jewish refugees there. The bills were referred to the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees for further consideration. The Senate committee last Thursday received a bill introduced by Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D., Wash.) calling for a grant of $250 million for the same purpose with the President authorized to determine its expenditure.
The Muskie and Bingham measures would be added to the State Department’s appropriation for the fiscal year beginning July 1 “on terms and conditions” the Secretary of State “considers appropriate assistance to Israel.” The funds would be used for housing, clothing, food, medicare, education and training for settlement in Israel of Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union. Muskie announced his intention to introduce the legislation on Jan. 18 in Miami.
TRADITION OF REFUGEE ASSISTANCE CITED
In his presentation to the Senate yesterday he cited the American tradition of refugee assistance which he said amounted since the end of World War II to $2.8 billion. This amount, he said, included $600 million for Cuban refugees, $500 million for Arabs, $85 million for Koreans and $237 million to the International Refugee Organization.
Muskie observed that the $85 million in the bill was “for the moment” an “appropriate and realistic initial commitment.” Noting that he was well aware that the burden on Israel will amount to several times that figure, Muskie declared that if the current rate of immigration continues next year and into the future “we most certainly will want to consider additional assistance.” The State Department, Muskie added in his statement, is already providing some funds although at a very modest level, for maintenance costs in Vienna of Soviet Jewish refugees in transit to Israel.
Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D., Conn.) and Republicans Jacob K. Javits of New York and Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania joined in co-sponsoring the Muskie bill. Rep. Seymour Halpern (R., N.Y.) joined Bingham in co-sponsoring the bill. About 40 other members of the House of both parties, the majority of them Democrats, declared their support for the measure.