OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL HEADED TO SENATE FOR APPROVAL
WASHINGTON–DC (ANCA)–The House finalized its foreign aid figures for fiscal year 2004 on Monday–voting to appropriate "not less than $75 million" in assistance to Armenia–with an additional $3.4 million in military assistance–and a $5 million allocation of humanitarian assistance to Mountainous Karabagh. The decision came as part of the $820 billion Omnibus spending bill–which includes $17.4 billion in foreign assistance. The bill is now headed to the Senate for consideration.
The House adopted the foreign aid figures following a conference of Senate and House appropriators to iron out differences between legislation adopted by the two bodies. The Conferees agreed on the larger Senate approved $75 million figure for Armenia–which represents an $8.5 million decline from fiscal year 2003–but a larger percentage of the overall foreign aid totals for the Newly Independent States. The measure also includes $2.5 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF)–and not less than $900,000 in International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds for Armenia. The Conference report makes special mention about the American University of Armenia (AUA)–"[recognizing] the important contribution of AUA to the development of Armenia’s future leaders." It also praises "House report language regarding proposals–spearheaded by the Armenia Technology Group–to establish and develop in Armenia a central diagnostic laboratory for the Caucasus region to address health and food safety." Both the House and Senate had approved language allocating $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Mountainous Karabagh. The complete text of the Conference Report is available at:
The Omnibus bill did not include specific allocations for Azerbaijan and Georgia–who would receive funds from the overall $587 million allocation for states of the former Soviet Union. Regarding Azerbaijan–the Conferees commented on the recent Presidential elections–stating that they "condemn the manipulation of the electoral process by Azeri officials and deplore the post-election crackdown on demonstrators that killed at least one individual and injured more than 300. The managers note that Azerbaijan has yet to hold national polls that meet internationally recognized standards of free and fair elections." They went on to continue with calls on the "State Department–the Federal Bureau of Investigation–and the Azeri Government to reinvigorate efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the murder of John Alvis in December 2000." Authorities have yet to take action against the killers of Alvis–an American who worked on a democracy building project with the International Republican Institute in Azerbaijan.
The ANCA worked closely with House and Senate appropriators in the months leading to the House vote in support of continued high levels of assistance to Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh to offset the ongoing Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades. Last month–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone and Rep. John Sweeney were joined by 48 House colleagues urging at least $75 million in assistance to Armenia and $5 million to Mountainous Karabagh–both of which were adopted by the House. Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–the leading advocate for aid to Armenia on the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee–was joined by Senate and House Subcommittee chairmen Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Jim Kolbe (R-AZ)–and foreign aid appropriators such as Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ)–in ensuring adoption of the Armenia earmark at a level significantly higher than the Administration’s request.