The following is a report of how some major bills fared last week in Congress and how Southern Maryland's representative, Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th District), and Democratic Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski voted.
The House voted to allow the fiscal 2000 defense budget (HR 1401) to fund peacekeeping in Kosovo now that Serbia has agreed to withdraw its army. The vote removed a Republican requirement that President Clinton submit a separate funding request for military involvement in Kosovo after Sept. 30. The $288.8 billion defense budget, later approved by a 6 to 1 margin, authorizes a 4.8 percent military pay raise, funds a nuclear and conventional weapons buildup, and spends $3.7 billion on national missile defenses. A yes vote was to allow use of the 2000 defense bill as a Kosovo funding vehicle.
The House refused to place a two-year moratorium on visits by scientists from "sensitive" countries such as China to unclassified areas of U.S. nuclear weapons labs. The amendment was offered to a defense bill (HR 1401, above) that already tightened lab security in response to a new congressional report on Chinese espionage at the Department of Energy facilities. The bill imposes an approximately two-month ban on visitors to give the department time to put new security measures in place. The measures will include stepped-up counterintelligence, more thorough background screening of visitors, and polygraph testing of employees in sensitive posts. A yes vote backed a two-year rather than two-month ban on foreign access to U.S. weapons labs.
TROOPS IN EUROPE
The House rejected an amendment to HR 1401 (above) to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Europe from 100,000 to 25,000 over three years. A yes vote was to cut U.S. troop strength in Europe by 75 percent over three years.
The House approved an amendment to HR 1401 (above) to pull American troops out of Haiti by the end of the year. The force was deployed in 1994 to restore Haiti's elected civilian government and curb the flow of illegal refugees to Florida. About 500 U.S. troops are based in Haiti at a cost of $20 million annually. A yes vote was to call U.S. troops home from Haiti by year's end.
The House refused to cut funding of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that destroys predators such as coyotes to protect livestock on ranches in the West. The amendment was offered to a bill (HR 1906), later passed, that provides $60.8 billion for the USDA in fiscal 2000. It sought to eliminate $20 million for the department's main predator control program, on grounds it is a taxpayer subsidy of private ranchers. Defenders called it essential protection for sheep and cattle. A yes vote was to cut the program.
The Senate refused to transfer $3.1 billion from lower priority military accounts to higher priority defense readiness and modernization accounts. The amendment was offered to a $267.8 billion defense appropriations bill (S 1122) for fiscal 2000 that was later passed by a wide margin. The $3.1 billion is to fund scores of home-state projects favored by individual senators. Critics called them wasteful, while defenders said they deserve taxpayer support. A yes vote backed cuts in lower priority defense programs.