The House has passed, and the full Senate has begun to take up, a bill appropriating new money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and by extension, Pakistan), among other priorities. Congress expects to send the bill to the White House before the end of the week, when it goes into a weeklong recess for the Memorial Day holiday.
- The House bill is H.R. 2346.
- The Senate bill is S. 1054.
- The Obama administration’s April 9 request is here (PDF).
The two chambers’ bills would also give significant new aid to Mexico this year. However, each bill’s Mexico provisions are wildly different. Here is a comparison.
- The Obama administration had requested $66 million in additional 2009 assistance to Mexico through the State Department’s International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement program (INCLE), which funds both military and economic aid efforts.
- The bill passed by the House of Representatives goes well beyond this request. It would provide Mexico with $470 million: $160 million in INCLE funding and $310 million in military and police aid through Foreign Military Financing (FMF), the main non-drug military aid program in the foreign aid budget. If the House version of the bill is approved, Mexico would surpass Colombia as the Western Hemisphere’s number-one recipient of U.S. military and police aid in 2009.
The House Appropriations Committee’s report describes how this additional money would be spent:
In order to facilitate and sustain the difficult task undertaken by the Mexican government, the Committee is accelerating the provision of Merida program funding. In addition to the $66,000,000 requested for the purchase of three UH-60 `Black Hawk’ transport helicopters for the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP), the Committee is providing an additional $94,000,000 in INCLE funding and $310,000,000 in FMF funding. The additional INCLE funding for Mexico is intended for such items as forensics and nonintrusive inspection equipment, computers, training and fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
… [FMF] funds are available to expand aviation support for Mexico. In support of a continued cooperative partnership with Mexico, the Committee recommendation provides funding for the final three surveillance planes (CASA 235) and for medium lift maritime transport helicopters (HH-60). The Committee notes that the provision of such additional equipment in an expedited fashion will greatly assist the Mexican government by enhancing the air transport ability and maritime aerial surveillance of the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) to conduct counternarcotics, and counterterrorism operations.
- The bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee provides exactly what the Obama administration asked for: $66 million in INCLE funds for Mexico.
Human rights conditionality
In February, Congress passed the bill governing the regular foreign aid budget for 2009. Aid to Mexico’s security forces in that bill includes human rights safeguards. Section 7045(e) holds up 15 percent of this aid pending a State Department certification that Mexico’s human rights performance is improving according to four criteria. The Obama administration’s request makes no recommendation about whether these conditions should also apply to the supplemental 2009 aid.
- The House bill, however, contains specific language exempting the $470 million in aid to Mexico from the human rights conditions. The committee report language argues that the human rights language must be lifted in order “to ensure the expeditious delivery of this equipment to Mexico.” This would set a very troubling precedent for aid to Colombia and elsewhere, where human rights conditions have been an important tool to exercise leverage against impunity for abusers.
- The Senate bill, by contrast, makes no mention of the conditions, and would leave them in place.
Border security fund
- The administration’s request and the House version of the supplemental bill both include a provision allowing the Defense Department to spend $350 million “for counternarcotics and other activities including assistance to other Federal agencies, on the United States border with Mexico.” The language would allow the Pentagon to transfer the money to other agencies. It is not clear whether the confusingly worded language would also allow the Defense Department, through its regular counter-narcotics aid authority, to give some of these funds to Mexico. We have been told that the intent of this fund is to support possible National Guard deployments to the U.S. side of the border, and to assist unaccompanied minors among the migrants apprehended crossing into Mexico.
- The Senate bill does not include this border funds provision. It does, however, provide funding to the Justice and Homeland Security departments to beef up domestic border security.
Restrictions on Mexico’s use of aid
- The Senate bill would prohibit the use of U.S. funds to provide fuel or logistical support for aircraft Mexico has purchased with its own money. It would require that communications equipment provided to Mexico be compatible with equipment used by U.S. agencies. And it would require the State Department to submit a report on actions Mexico has taken “to investigate and prosecute violations of internationally recognized human rights by members of the Mexican Federal police and military forces, and to support a thorough, independent, and credible investigation of the murder of American citizen Bradley Roland Will.” Will, an independent journalist, was shot and killed while covering a crackdown on protests in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006.
- The administration request and the House bill do not contain similar provisions.
The next steps for the bill are:
- Passage by the full Senate, which as of Tuesday evening has begun to debate the bill.
- Drafting of a compromise bill by a House-Senate conference committee, which will have to work out the sharp differences between both chambers’ Mexico provisions.
- Approval of the conference committee’s compromise version by votes in the House and Senate. This could happen before the weekend.
- Signature by the president.