WASHINGTON–The House of Representatives–late Tuesday evening–approved its version of the fiscal year 2002 foreign aid bill– allocating $82.5 million for Armenia and Georgia–maintaining restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan and calling for the immediate release of some $8.2 million in assistance previously appropriated for Nagorno-Karabakh–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
By a vote of 381 to 46–the House passed the $15.2 billion measure–which is some $300 million greater than the fiscal year 2001 allocation. Under this bill–assistance to Armenia dropped some $7.5 million from the previous year’s enacted level. In a statement on the House floor earlier today–Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) voiced opposition to this decrease and called on the Senate and House-Senate conferees to increase assistance to Armenia at least to last year’s levels.
"Armenia–alone among the New Independent States–faces the unique challenge of developing its economy in the face of devastating blockades. The dual Turkish and Azeri blockades have cut off Armenia’s traditional trade routes and severely limited Armenia’s access to the outside world," explained Rep. Schiff. "As long as Armenia’suffers from blockades on its east and west borders–continued and robust U.S. assistance to Armenia is necessary."
Similarly–during floor speeches last Thursday–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) pledged to work with Senate and House Conferees to increase aid to Armenia.
Assistance to Armenia is part of a $768 million aid package to the NIS–reduced from last year’s level of $810 million. The bill includes special provisions in support of peace efforts in the South Caucasus and maintains Section 907 in its current form. The legislation also calls for the immediate release of the remainder of the $20 million aid package for Nagorno Karabakh–of which only $11.8 million has been used for programs benefiting victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict since Congressional allocation in 1998.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations is expected to take up its version of the foreign aid bill later this week. Once finalized–the Senate bill–which will propose spending roughly $200 million more than the House bill–will then go to House and Senate conference where legislators will work out differences and adjust individual foreign aid allocations.
Throughout the House and Senate process–local ANC chapters have encouraged Armenian Americans from across the country to contact their Members of Congress in support of maintaining assistance levels to Armenia at least at the fiscal year 2001 level of $90 million–and restricting U.S. aid to Azerbaijan due to its ongoing blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.