Debt relief for Jordan is once again in a state of legislative limbo. When President Clinton returned a $16.4 billion spending cuts bill to Congress on Wednesday, $275 million slated to forgive Jordan’s outstanding debts to the United States went with it.
“I cannot in good conscience sign a bill that cuts education to save pet congressional projects,” President Clinton said in announcing his veto at a Rose Garden ceremony Wednesday.
“That is old politics, it is wrong,” he said.
Despite the setback for Jordan’s debt relief, which has garnered widespread support in the Jewish community, Clinton scored high marks for his veto.
“The slashing of federal assistance to the poor and the near poor will injure or destroy programs that supply indispensable assistance to the most disadvantaged members of our society,” said Flora Perskie, chair of the American Jewish Congress’ Commission on National Affairs.
While “applauding” Clinton’s veto, Perskie said the bill “unfortunately” includes “much needed and much deserved” debt relief for Jordan.
Perskie urged Congress to find an appropriate mechanism to “immediately provide [Jordan] with the financial assistance it so desperately requires.”
Jordan’s $275 million in debt relief, which would forgive its remaining $490 million it owes the United State under the debt relief formula, has had a rocky road in Congress.
President Clinton promised the relief to King Hussein when the Jordanian leader made peace with Israel in October.
Republican leaders had initially opposed writing off the debt this year. After pressure from the administration, Israel official and Jewish groups, Democrats and Republicans united to include the money in the so-called rescission bill.
In the end, relief fell victim to other Washington pressures when Clinton vetoed the bill.
Clinton has asked Congress to restore $1.4 billion cuts to education, crime prevention, environment, housing and job training programs. The additional spending would be offset by cuts to federal construction projects and governmental travel.
The bill cut $7 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and slashed funds for nutrition programs for low-income children, eliminated energy assistance programs for low – income families and ended funding of summer youth employment programs.
Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for Jordan’s debt relief.
If the rescissions bill is not amended and passed by Congress, congressional aides say, the money would most likely be attached to an appropriations bill this summer or fall.
Congressional Republicans have said they do not have two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate necessary to override the president’s veto.
Negotiations on a new bill are expected to begin later this month.