*Sarbanes–Kennedy–Boxer–Durbin and Reed Lead Effort to Pass McConnell-Abraham Amendment in Defense of Section 907
WASHINGTON–After several hours of spirited–often heated–debate–the Senate Wednesday defeated a powerful attempt by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) to remove Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
By a vote of 53 to 45–the Senate voted for the McConnell/Abraham amendment to strike the anti-Section 907 provision in Sen. Sam Brownback’s "Silk Road" amendment–which he had offered as an amendment to the foreign aid bill.
As a result–the Senate’s version of the fiscal year 2000 foreign aid bill will not contain any language removing or weakening Section 907–which was first enacted in 1992 to restrict US assistance to Azerbaijan until that country lifts its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
The McConnell/Abraham amendment was spearheaded by Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.). They were supported by strong speeches–throughout the course of the day–from Senators Paul Sarbanes–Ted Kennedy–Barbara Boxer–Richard Durbin–and Jack Reed–all of whom spoke forcefully and eloquently in support of Section 907.
Each of these Senators reminding their colleagues of the ongoing blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s recent rejection of the OSCE peace proposal for Nagorno Karabakh.
In heated debates with Sen. Brownback–who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Near East–Senator Sarbanes voiced deep concerns about changing a key US policy at a critical juncture in the peace process. Sarbanes also discussed Azerbaijan’s deplorable human rights record– citing passages from the 1999 State Department Human Rights report.
The debate over Section 907–which began at 9:30 a.m.–with Senator Brownback–introducing an amendment to append the "Silk Road Strategy Act" to the foreign aid bill.
The Silk Road Strategy Act calls for improved economic–political cultural ties between the Central Asian and Caucasus countries–but would–in effect–repeal Section 907.
In response–Senators McConnell and Abraham introduced their amendment for the Silk Road Bill–which would maintain the Azerbaijan aid restriction.
Senator Brownback was joined in opposing Section 907 by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Gorton Smith (R-Wash.).