Jordan Aid On Fast Track
This week President Bill Clinton indicated he plans to speed up delivery of the $300 million in extra foreign aid he promised to Jordan in October, when King Hussein — who died on Sunday — rose from his sickbed to boost the sagging Wye River negotiations.
With his successor, King Abdullah facing a faltering economy and internal political pressures, officials here also want to marshal international economic assistance for Jordan, and they are looking at plans for restructuring the country’s national debt.
U.S. aid could total $1 billion over the next three years, State Department officials say, if Congress goes along.
Originally, the boost for Jordan was part of a big supplemental appropriation that included $1.2 billion in new U.S. aid to help Israel with implementation of the
Wye River agreement, as well as additional funding for the Palestinians.
Pro-Israel activists had hoped sympathy for the ailing king and concerns about Jordan’s stability would boost the entire package, despite the effective freeze on Wye implementation.
But this week, with King Abdullah on the throne, there were indications the administration is working with congressional leaders to split off the Jordan appropriation and attach it to some fast-moving legislation, and deal with Israel and Palestinian aid later. The request for what one Jewish staffer called a “funeral supplemental” could come as early as this week.
Pro-Israel groups led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are expected to signal their support for the Jordan aid, although it is unlikely they will take a high profile in the debate.
“How it gets done on a technical level is less important than the decision that we need to expedite funds for Jordan,” said Jess Hordes, Washington director for the Anti-Defamation League. “We will be supportive of that effort.”
The administration has hinted that it doesn’t plan to move on the Israel supplemental aid until there is progress in the peace process, something they don’t expect until after the Israeli election on May 17.
AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups “are not particularly eager to raise the issue at this stage,” said a longtime pro-Israel lobbyist here. “Right now, nobody is interested in restarting the debate over who is complying [with the Wye agreement] and who isn’t.”
Bigger Cut In Israel’s Economic Aid?
Also on the foreign aid front: pro-Israel activists are seeking clarification of an obscure item in the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2000.
According to an agreement reached last year over a phased 10-year reduction in economic support funds, Israel’s economic aid was supposed to decline by $120 million in the new fiscal year, with a predetermined percentage of that recycled into the military aid portion of the budget.
But the administration’s proposal calls for a $150 million decline. The extra $30 million cut would not result in an increase in military aid.
Congressional sources say the deeper-than-expected decrease could reflect the administration’s well-known desire to accelerate the 10-year phaseout in economic aid.
But pro-Israel activists say they expect Congress will restore economic aid to the levels agreed to in talks between the administration and former finance minister Yaakov Ne’eman a year ago.
Two Resolutions On Racist Group
Jewish groups are being asked to support competing congressional resolutions condemning the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that some Jewish leaders say advocates white supremacist views.
Recent revelations that several leading Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Trent Lott (R-Miss.) appeared at CCC gatherings have put pressure on the GOP leadership to disown the group, which analysts say is a successor to the White Citizens Councils that fought integration in the 1960s.
Last month, Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson acknowledged that the CCC advocates racist views and called on Republican members of the organization to resign. Now, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) is sponsoring a resolution formally condemning the group.
“The council has been quietly maneuvering and representing itself as a mainstream conservative group,” Wexler said in an interview. “They are nothing of the sort. They are a white supremacist group that promotes racism, anti-Semitism and hatred.”
He decided to seek a congressional resolution, he said, “because certain members have spoken at the group’s meetings and have associations with them that can legitimize the group.”
But one of those members — Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who gave a keynote address at a CCC gathering earlier this year — is considering his own resolution criticizing the group he once addressed.
Barr, one of President Bill Clinton’s harshest critics, also plans to add language condemning the Nation of Islam, the black separatist group led by Louis Farrakhan. This
week, staffers for the conservative legislator were touching base with Jewish groups to gauge support.
Jewish activists here are no fans of the black Muslim group — but privately, some worry that Barr’s proposed legislation is intended to divide the forces seeking condemnation of the CCC. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), chair of the Congressional black caucus, is a cosponsor of the Wexler resolution. Congressional sources say the influential group is unlikely to support a new resolution condemning the Nation of Islam as well.
“The real question is why Mr. Barr doesn’t simply sign our resolution,” Wexler said. “Congress has already gone on record criticizing the Nation of Islam; we don’t need to do it again. If the question is just pride of authorship, I’d be happy to give him top billing.”
But so far, Wexler has had no success getting Republicans to sign on as cosponsors — and there are reports Barr is lining up Republicans, but no Democrats.
“It would be sad if this turned into a partisan affair,” Wexler said.
Christian Right Seeks Standard Bearer
With only one year left until the first presidential primaries, groups on the Christian right are trying to solve one of their most vexing problems: the tendency to split their big vote among many candidates.
But most observers predict they will be no more successful next year than in the past.
Last week, an ad-hoc group of Christian right leaders and top conservatives met in Washington to screen Republican contenders — at least some of them. Not surprisingly, no Democrats were considered.
The meeting included representatives of the Christian Coalition, the Eagle Forum, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Home School Defense Association.
The interviews included questions about abortion, school choice, the elimination of government programs and gun control.
Earlier, some of the conservatives — led by televangelist Pat Robertson — tried to coalesce around Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), one of the Senate’s most conservative members.
But last month Ashcroft, facing a challenge for his seat from a moderate Democratic governor, backed out, leaving the conservatives adrift.
Under consideration to get the Christian right nod: Gary Bauer, the longtime head of the Family Research Council; Rep. John R. Kasich (R-Ohio), a budget hawk; former Vice President Dan Quayle, Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) and publisher Malcolm “Steve” Forbes, who is waging an aggressive effort to recast himself as a religious conservative.
Also on the list: perennial candidate Alan Keyes, a former State department official who has never won elective office.
Not included were the two presumptive front runners. Texas Governor George W. Bush reportedly rejected an invitation, and former Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole, who is reportedly edging closer to a decision to run for the GOP nomination, didn’t get an invitation.
Bauer, who has long been associated with evangelist/psychologist James Dobson, is the favorite of many religious conservative leaders, but there are deep concerns about his ability to win in the general election.
Republican insiders say Forbes seems positioned to pick up much of Ashcroft’s support — but there appears little likelihood the Christian conservatives will be able to unite behind a single standard bearer.
“In the past, internal disagreements have always kept them from working together effectively, particularly in the primaries,” said John Green, a professor of political science at the University of Akron who studies the religious right. “While it is possible they could unite behind a single candidate, it depends on whether winning is foremost in their minds — or pushing an agenda.”