The latest scramble for diminishing federal funds has resulted in a victory and a defeat for American Jewish groups.
On the domestic front, American Jewish leaders expressed disappointment at last week’s compromise between the House of Representatives and the Clinton administration to cut spending by about $16.4 billion for 1995.
Known as the “rescissions and Disaster Supplemental Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1995,” the legislation is a softer version of a previous bill that mandated nearly $17.1 billion in cuts. President Clinton vetoed that bill.
But even this agreement does not go far enough in revoking a painful array of spending cuts, according to many Jewish organizational leaders.
But on the foreign policy side, American Jews voiced unbridled support for the House decision to preserve the forgiving of Jordan’s $275 million debt to the United States.
“This is a very important and positive development,” said Neal Sher, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby.
“It demonstrates there are tangible benefits for making peace with Israel,” he said.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, agreed.
“It’s good for U.S. credibility because it is something the president has promised,” Hoenlein said.
Clinton promised to forgive Jordan’s debt when King Hussein made peace with Israel last October.
Perhaps more important than the practical benefits of the Jordan debt relief are the symbolic ones, said some Jewish officials.
“Congress is standing with the administration in its commitment to the peace process,” said Martin Raffel, associate executive vice chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.
In addition, Raffel said, the measure serves to reassure skeptics in the Middle East.
“Jordan’s leadership is being rewarded to help shore up support among the Jordanian people,” the NJCRAC official said.
On the domestic front, however, NJCRAC, like many American Jewish organizations, does not believe that the House’s concessions to the administration would sufficiently mitigate the damage to social service programs.
“We’re looking at such severe cuts across the board,” said Karen Senter, NJCRAC’s co-director for domestic concerns.
Of the $770 million in spending that the House restored, $220 million would go to the safe and drug-free school program and $225 million would go toward safe- drinking water projects. The bulk of the remaining money would go to assorted environmental and educational projects.
That still leaves $16.4 billion in spending cuts, some of which would indirectly, if not directly, affect Jewish organizations and charities.
According to the Council of Jewish Federations, the rescissions bill would severely affect a wide range of Jewish sponsored social-service programs, including housing for AIDS patients and the elderly, job-training programs for young people and nutrition programs for the poor.
“This is very serious stuff,” said Joel Carp, senior vice president at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Carp, however, said he hopes that all is not yet lost, because the Senate has yet to vote on the bill.
The Senate postponed debate on the entire rescissions bill until after the July 4 break, after Sens. Carol Mosley Braun (D-Ill.) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) protested the cuts as being too steep.
Clinton pledged to sign the House version if it crosses his desk.