Senate committee endorses administration’s Armenia aid reduction

Figures to be reconciled with House version

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Thursday July 09, 2009

Senators have approved President Obama's proposal to cut US aid to Armenia by $18 million in fiscal 2010. The Senate version of the bill must be reconciled with the House version that maintains 2009 levels of aid.

Washington - The Senate Appropriations Committee on July 9 approved a $51.23 billion foreign aid bill for Fiscal Year 2010, including $745 million in assistance to Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia, the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), who chairs the Senate's foreign operations subcommittee, reported the same day.

As part of the bill, senators endorsed President Barack Obama's request for $30 million for Armenia and no funds set aside for Nagorno-Karabakh. The president's request had been criticized by Armenian-American groups and congressional friends as inadequate.

The Senate subcommittee includes Sens. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (D.-N.J.), Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) and Barbara Mikulski (D.-Md.) all of whom have been supportive of Armenian-American issues.

Separately, the House of Representatives was expected to pass before the end of the week its version of the foreign aid bill that includes $48 million for Armenia, $10 million for Nagorno-Karabakh, and $3.5 million each in military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The two versions will next need to be reconciled by a committee of Senate and House negotiators before the bill can be signed into law by the president.

Asked by the Armenian Reporter for comment, Ross Vartian of the U.S.-Armenia Public Affairs Committee said, "USAPAC is disappointed with the Senate version and will actively support the House version in the Senate-House conference process."

Earlier this year, the co-chairs of the congressional Armenian Caucus recommended $75 million in aid to Armenia and $10 million to Nagorno-Karabakh. They also called for strengthening of Section 907, which provides oversight for U.S. aid to Azerbaijan; that provision was adopted by House appropriators.

In a news release, the Armenian Assembly cited congressional sources that anticipated that the Senate version of the foreign-aid bill would also include language strengthening congressional oversight over a presidential waiver of Section 907, and provide equal amounts of military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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