Two senators criticized President Bush on Tuesday for moving too slowly to waive trade sanctions against the Soviet Union. But a third said he did not necessarily disagree with the president’s judgment.
The subject came up during a Capitol Hill news conference during which the three senators proposed a $511 million aid package for Eastern Europe.
Responding to a question, Sens. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) and Paul Simon (D-Ill.) said they felt Bush should have moved more quickly to issue a waiver of trade sanctions under the 1975 Jackson-Vanik Amendment.
But Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) said it was a “close call” as to whether Bush should issue a waiver of the amendment, which denies most-favored-nation trade status to Eastern European countries until they improve their emigration policies.
The Bush administration indicated in December that it would consider a waiver after U.S.-Soviet negotiations on a trade bill are completed. This would give the Soviets time to adopt and implement promised legislation instituting emigration reforms.
The two largest Soviet Jewry groups in the United States are split on whether Bush should issue a waiver. The National Conference on Soviet Jewry said last June that it would favor a waiver if Bush receives assurances from the Soviets in four areas, including that they will sustain a high level of Jewish emigration.
But the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, a grass-roots confederation of 1,200 local Soviet Jewry groups, is still opposed to a waiver, until “fair implementation” of the Soviet emigration reforms is achieved.
U.S. NOW AN EMIGRATION ‘BARRIER’
Congress could conceivably repeal the amendment and then send the measure to Bush to sign or veto. But members of Congress have yet to make a united effort to approve a waiver.
Pell, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “As months go by, it will be more and more inevitable that we will repeal” Jackson-Vanik.
“I think it has moved a little slowly,” in issuing a waiver, Pell said of the administration.
Simon said a waiver should have been issued on Oct. 1, “when we shifted the process for refugees from the Soviet Union.”
At that time, he said, “we became the great barrier to emigration, rather than the Soviet Union. So I think the time has come for a reappraisal of it.”
Simon was referring to the administration’s Oct. 1 decision to no longer consider allowing Jews who leave the Soviet Union on Israeli visas to come to the United States as refugees. Those wishing to settle in the United States must apply for American visas while still in the Soviet Union.
This fiscal year, the administration and Congress agreed to allow 50,000 Soviet refugees to enter the United States. By contrast, an estimated 200,000 Soviets have reportedly applied for U.S. refugee status.
During the news conference, Biden was asked about the recent proposal by Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) to cut U.S. foreign aid to the largest recipients, including Israel, by 5 percent. The savings would be reapportioned to Eastern European countries and Panama.
Asked about Senate support for Dole’s proposal, Biden said, “I think the prospects of it passing are zero.”
“The Dole proposal is particularly insidious, in my view,” he said. “It pits longtime allies against emerging, potential democracies.”
“I think it would be particularly dangerous if the Poles and the Hungarians” thought that the reason why they were not getting additional assistance was because of Israel, he said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.