The bottom line about appropriations bills is that they're not just about dollars and cents, especially when it comes to foreign policy.
EXHIBIT A: Tucked inside the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments is a provision that would put the United States more firmly behind the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, just as negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians about the final status of Jerusalem are about to intensify.
The provision would instruct the American consulate in Jerusalem to report to the U.S. ambassador in Israel instead of reporting directly back to the State Department in Washington, as it does now. The provision would also direct State to change its documents to refer unequivocally to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The measure would accomplish what members of Congress have been unable to get passed in separate legislation to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "This is a back-door way of accomplishing what the Jerusalem embassy act sets out to accomplish: U.S. interference with a final status issue that Israelis and Palestinians should work out for themselves," said Lewis Roth, assistant executive director of Americans for Peace Now, who opposes the measure.
EXHIBIT B: In the wake of Indonesian-backed militia violence in East Timor in early September, skirmishes broke out in Congress over legislation imposing sanctions against Indonesia.
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) wants to cut military links until Indonesia implements a pro-independence referendum by East Timor, assists in the return of refugees, ends violence by militia groups and helps with investigations of the violence that rocked the territory. Although the measure, co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), breezed through the panel by a 17-1 margin, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and at least one other foe of the measure are blocking it from reaching the floor of the Senate for a vote.
Enter the foreign operations appropriations bill. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) tacked an amendment onto the $12.7 billion bill--which President Clinton ultimately vetoed yesterday--that would do much the same thing. Leahy's measure is more restrictive than Feingold's. Feingold would allow continued lending by the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp.; Leahy wouldn't.
The Indonesia sanctions measure also illustrates the law of unintended consequences. Feingold pegged his sanctions list to the the State Department's list of goods with military applications. Included on State's munitions list: commercial communications satellites. They were put there after the uproar in Congress over whether satellite companies inadvertently shared sensitive missile technology with China.
Now the satellite companies want to avoid becoming casualties of the East Timor conflict, and many lawmakers want to help. Lockheed Corp., for example, fears the bill would cut off a ground station it plans to use for a commercial satellite, and other communications satellites could be affected. Freeport-McMoRan Inc., a major copper and gold mining firm, is trying to polish its relations with the Indonesian government by also trying to get the Leahy and Feingold measures modified or dropped.
The business community, which opposes nearly all sanctions, argues that more than self-interest is at stake. It says that with Indonesia's parliament about to pick a new president, students demonstrating, and civilian-military relations tense, it's a bad time to add new pressures.
"It struck us that this was not the most felicitous time to whack them with sanctions," said Dan O'Flaherty, vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council. "Indonesia is a very important country for business. It's not Burma. . . . China is all potential. In Indonesia, people really make a profit. The business stakes are high. The national security stakes are high. The foreign policy stakes are high."
EXHIBIT C: The billion-dollar question: Will Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) and other House members insist once again on attaching new anti-abortion conditions to the appropriations measure that would release funds to pay the United States' back dues to the United Nations? The restrictions would limit the funding of global organizations that seek to lobby for policies that permit abortions.
Helms and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) have backed language that President Clinton could sign, but the House leadership is still trying to find a way to satisfy its anti-abortion members.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard C. Holbrooke has been spending one day a week in Washington trying to persuade lawmakers to pass a measure to pay the U.S. arrears.
"The House put in non-germane amendments about family planning that the president felt were not acceptable," said Holbrooke last Friday. "They are not related to the United Nations, not related to national security, and the linkage should be severed."