Congress Drops Mcclure Amendment Easing Fears of Soviet Jewry Groups
Menu JTA Search

Congress Drops Mcclure Amendment Easing Fears of Soviet Jewry Groups

Download PDF for this date

Congress this week dropped an amendment from the 1989 Defense Authorization Bill that Soviet Jewry groups feared could dilute the power of the 1975 Jackson-Vanik Amendment.

The decision on the amendment, introduced by Sen. James McClure (R-Idaho), was made in the House-Senate conference committee resolving differences between each chamber’s version of the defense bill.

But H.D. Palmer, McClure’s press secretary, said the senator intends to “revisit the issue” and possibly attach it to another bill. Palmer would not say when that might occur, or if it might be revised to satisfy concerns from Soviet Jewry activists.

The Senate approved the amendment May 13 by voice vote, which would have made conferral of most-favored-nation trade status on the Soviet Union contingent on overall compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, and not just to the emigration standards set forth in Jackson-Vanik.

McClure is on the 21-member U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring Soviet compliance with the act, whose third review is currently taking place in Vienna.

It has yet to produce any communiques, but commission chairman Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) recently said the United States must demand “no more, no less” than Soviet compliance with the measure, signed by 35 nations.

While Seymour Reich, B’nai B’rith International president, has called the amendment a “wholly unrealistic demand,” Soviet Jewry groups have refrained from publicly opposing it.

At a press conference Wednesday at the offices of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, National Director Micah Naftalin and President Pamela Cohen said they are still studying the amendment.

Naftalin did express personal reservations about “vitiating” the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and establishing an “unmeetable” human rights standard for the Soviets, one that may lead them to ignore human rights policies totally, including the emigration standards.


The Congressional action followed an unusual one-hour meeting Wednesday between Soviet Ambassador to the United States Yuri Dubinin and Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Abram said earlier Thursday that the discussion, which he described as “warm and friendly,” focused on the topic of Soviet Jewish emigration, and specifically the McClure Amendment.

Abram said he told Dubinin at the meeting, held at Abram’s request, that he was opposed to the amendment, and that the Soviet ambassador had agreed with him.

In a related matter, the Senate last week passed a sense-of-the-Senate resolution 96 to 0, urging President Reagan to “consult with” leaders of allied nations at the Toronto economic summit on “the impact on western security of tied and untied loans, trade credits, direct investments, joint ventures, lines of credit, and guarantees or other subsidies to the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact countries, Cuba, Vietnam, Libya or Nicaragua.” It was sponsored by Sen. James Sasser (D-Tenn.).

The House, in a letter drafted by Reps. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Toby Roth (R-Wis.), had also urged Reagan to raise the issue of the roughly $19 billion lent to Warsaw Pact countries by U.S. banks in 1987 with no human rights guarantees in return.


The loans are not covered by the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, since that measure only applies to U.S. government contracts with Communist countries.

On another matter, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary recently discussed the idea of setting up a U.S. consulate in Kiev and allowing the Soviets to set up a new one in the United States.

Mark Levin, Washington director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said plans to open that consulate in 1983 fell through following the shooting down of a Korean Airlines passenger plane by the Soviets. He said such a U.S. facility could serve as an “outpost not only to gather information but also as a form of protection for the refuseniks.”

On May 29, there were threats of violence against Jews in Kiev that led Soviet police to advise Jews to stay in their homes, UCSJ’s Cohen said Wednesday.

“This was during the (Reagan-Gorbachev Moscow) summit,” she said, “so the Soviets did not want any kind of action.”

“What happens when there’s not a summit and the press are not in Moscow?” she asked.

(JTA reporter Yitzhak Rabi contributed to this report.)

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund