House debates measure to cut off Kosovo funding
Senate: U.S. will not pay for rebuilding Serbia
June 9, 1999
Web posted at: 5:40 p.m. EDT (2140 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 9) -- The House debated Wednesday a GOP measure to cut off future funding for U.S. military operations in the Balkans, even as Yugoslav and NATO officials finalized an agreement on the withdrawal of Serb troops from Kosovo and suspension of NATO airstrikes.
Democrats, claiming the debate was ill-timed considering the delicate talks leading up to Wednesday afternoon's signing of the agreement, worked to strip the provision attached to the $288.8 billion defense spending bill now on the House floor. That effort was joined by some Republicans
Meanwhile, the House adopted, 428-0, a package of amendments to the appropriations bill from members of the House committee that released a report last month cataloged 20 years of alleged Chinese spying that resulted in stolen U.S. nuclear secrets.
The proposals would strengthen counterintelligence initiatives at the Department of Energy, require polygraph tests of employees at national laboratories, restricts lab visits by foreigners and requires a barrage of new reports to Congress on technology exports.
"This is a balanced response to an urgent problem," said Rep. Christopher Cox (R-California), the chairman of the committee and the author of the amendments. "Our report found wholesale inexcusable national security weaknesses ... at our laboratories."
The Kosovo-related measure in the defense spending bill would cut off funds for U.S. involvement in any NATO-led military operations in Yugoslavia after September 30.
"Now is not the time to have this particular debate," Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas) said earlier in the day. He called the provision "inappropriate and ill-advised. ... It makes the House a laughing stock."
Rep. Porter Goss
Republicans, who have not been generally supportive of the NATO airstrikes against Serb targets in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, defended their right to take up the issue now.
"It would be a huge embarrassment for us not to discuss the Kosovo situation," said Rep. Porter Goss (R-Florida), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
The House debate follows Senate approval Tuesday of a measure that insists that the United States not be billed under the terms of the Kosovo peace plan for any costs associated with rebuilding Serbia, so long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is still in power.
"Rebuilding should primarily be done with European money," said Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Stevens said some European leaders were estimating that the U.S. would pay up to half the costs of repairing the damage from NATO airstrikes that began March 24.
Sen. Ted Stevens
The prohibition, which had wide bipartisan support, was part of its $265 billion defense spending bill approved Tuesday by the Senate by a 93-4 margin.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) said that even if the Kosovo peace plan is approved, "the problem is Milosevic."
Lott and other Senate leaders say they want to see Milosevic arrested and tried on his indictment by an international war-crimes tribunal -- although Lott did not say how Milosevic might be apprehended.
Included in the package is a 4.8 percent across-the-board pay raise for military personnel. That figure is an increase over the 4.4 percent hike requested by President Bill Clinton. The whole bill is $1.4 billion higher overall for the year than the White House's budget for the fiscal year that begins October 1.