Foreign Aid Bill Stalled

Much to the current U.S. governmental fiscal year may have elapsed before the Congress adopts new foreign aid legislation, already two months overdue, and President Carter signs it into law. The Senate-House conference held its last session Nov. I in attempting to iron out differences between the appropriation bills passed in the two chambers and the likelihood is that the conferees will not reconvene until late January at the earliest.

The hang up involves a dozen items on which they disagree or have not decided but the main issues are on U.S. funding for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund with the Senate being more liberal. Agreements have been reached with no dissent on most. Middle East appropriations but until the legislation is formally determined all decisions are considered merely tentative.

The legislation calls for $1.8 billion in military aid and economic supporting assistance for Israel; $750 million for Egypt in economic supporting assistance exclusive of some $250 million in Food for Peace products, and $180 million for Jordan in economic and military support. The Senate bill is for $8.140 billion while the House measure is for $7.746 billion for the fiscal year 1979-1980 that began last October I.

The conferees agreed to pare down the funding for Syria to $?5 million from the $60 million asked by the Administration but they disagreed on the Senate-approved measure that would prohibit use of the U.S. funds to the United Nations to be diverted to programs helping the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization. The item concerning the PLO includes a ban on funding also for Rhodesian guerrillas.

Congress will enter its year-end holiday recess either Dec. 14 or Dec. 21 and not return until probably Jan. 22. Should the conferees report to their respective chambers that they are unable to reach agreement, it is indicated that the Congress will vote a continuing resolution to fund the foreign aid programs on the last fiscal year’s limitations until the new programs are legislated, which may not take place until late winter.

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