In March 2006, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) added $26.3 million in new military aid for Colombia to a bill adding â€œsupplementalâ€ funds for Iraq, Hurricane Katrina relief, and the â€œwar on terror.â€ Said Burton at the time, â€œ[W]e have to decide as a Congress are we going to continue to fight the war against drugs or are we going to start acquiescing? Are we going to start caving in?â€
The funding, intended to give Colombia maritime interdiction aircraft, was to come from a cut to an unpopular program: prison construction in Iraq. It passed the Republican-majority House by a vote of 250-172. The Senate didn’t include the $26.3 million, so both houses ended up splitting the difference: the bill, signed into law last June 15, ended up adding $13 million to Colombia’s 2006 military and police aid total (about $600 million).
Almost a year has passed, and the aircraft purchase has not been finalized. Now, a much different, Democratic Party-led Congress has almost completed another â€œsupplementalâ€ funding bill for Iraq and the â€œwar on terror.â€
In a surprising move, this bill – as agreed to by the House and Senate – will undo last year’s Burton provision. The final bill adopts this language, which was proposed by the Senate:
Of the amounts made available for procurement of a maritime patrol aircraft for the Colombian Navy under this heading in Public Law 109â€“234, $13,000,000 are rescinded.
President Bush is likely to veto this bill because it sets a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. It will have to become law eventually, though, because the government needs the â€œsupplementalâ€ money. Once it passes, it appears that our estimate of 2006 U.S. military aid to Colombia will decrease by $13 million.
This is a small but significant step. It is the first legislative evidence so far that the new Congress intends to change course in Colombia.