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Foreign Affairs Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007 -- Continued

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Location: Washington, DC


FOREIGN AFFAIRS AUTHORIZATION ACT, FISCAL YEARS 2006 AND 2007--Continued

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I will be very brief. The amendment I have sent to the desk does a simple thing. It maintains the current cap on the amount that the United States contributes to the United Nations peacekeeping missions. It keeps it at 27.1 percent for the next 2 years.

For those who may be watching, they may wonder what that is all about. When a peacekeeping mission gets sent overseas, authorized by the United Nations, the countries in question have a prior assessment as to how much they are going to pay, usually based on the size of their countries and the size of their economies, and it has been agreed to by us that the appropriate figure for the United States to chip in is 27.1 percent. So if it costs $1 million for peacekeeping, our share would be $271,000, and so on.

Let me briefly explain the history of the law and what this does to the Lugar amendment.

In 1994, Congress unilaterally limited what we would pay for the peacekeeping endeavors of the United Nations. We said we will no longer pay any more than 25 percent. I believe at the time we were paying 31 percent. That is what the previous administrations had agreed to. That is what the U.N. was assessing us, 31 percent. We said in 1994: No, no, we are not going to pay any more than 25 percent.

What happened was, we never negotiated that rate with the United Nations. We unilaterally stated that. We did not go back to the U.N. and say: Look, we want to reconfigure how much we are paying. We want to go down from 31 percent, which we had been paying, to 25 percent. It never occurred, and the U.N. continued to bill us at 31 percent. So if a peacekeeping mission was $1 million--and none are as cheap as $1 million--we were getting billed $310,000 and we only agreed to pay $250,000. So we were in arrears of $60,000.

The bill that my former colleague Jesse Helms and I did in the late 1990s to clear up what the United States allegedly owed--everybody used to call it dues, but it was more than dues. This peacekeeping is part of what people euphemistically refer to as dues. The accumulated obligation that we owed to the United Nations, although somewhat in dispute, was a little over $1 billion.

Senator Helms, and many others, when he was chairman of the committee, argued that we should not be paying any of this; we did not owe any of these arrears. Senator Helms, after conferring with his trusted aide who has passed away, the Staff Director for the Foreign Relations Committee, Admiral Bud Nance, when he realized a lot of this was owed to some of our friends such as Great Britain, Europe, and others, he said I did not realize that; OK, we should pay that amount we owe. But in the process Senator Helms, Senator Lugar, myself, and many others also thought there should be reforms that should take place in the United Nations. In addition to settling this arrears question, we wrote a much larger bill that required some changes and commitments on the part of the United Nations as well. In the process of doing that, Senator Helms agreed and the Helms-Biden legislation said we would only pay at 25 percent.

The Ambassador to the United Nations at the time was Richard Holbrooke. Richard Holbrooke, who was in negotiation with the United Nations to try to get them to agree that we would only pay 25 percent and that they would agree with that beyond us unilaterally asserting it, worked out an agreement that said the United Nations agreed we would only pay 27 percent. I know what I am talking about sounds arcane, but it is real money. Senator Helms and I said: OK, close enough. And we agreed to amend the Helms-Biden law to let these arrearage payments flow.

What we never did was repeal the underlying law that was passed in the Congress, signed by the President in 1994, that said we would pay no more than 25 percent. The underlying law in 1994 was never repealed.

In 2002, because these arrearages are running up again, the difference between 25 percent and what the U.N. thought we owed and what we had been paying at the 27 percent, we put in a provision in the law, a 3-year amendment that amended the 1994 law putting a ceiling on our payments at 27, not 25, percent through the year 2004.

Last year, we came up against this issue again, and the Appropriations Committee, because we were unable to get our bill passed, extended the 27-percent number through calendar year 2005. So if nothing else is done now, the 1994 law kicks back in, and our maximum payment drops from 27 percent to 25 percent, and we are back in the same old tangle of building up arrearages of whatever the 2-percent difference would be every year that we thought we solved initially. So we need to address this issue. We do not want to get into this fight again.

The U.N. peacekeepers perform critical functions in the area of conflict and instability around the world. They monitor cease-fires, human rights conditions, clearing minefields, disarming combatants, providing humanitarian assistance, and organizing and observing elections, which all costs money.

The U.N. peacekeeping missions have become increasingly critical in the past year as authorizing missions that support U.S. policy objectives for stabilization in Burundi, Haiti, and other places, as well as an operation to Sudan which will begin to deploy in the upcoming weeks.

Through missions such as these, the United States contributes to international peace and stability while sharing the cost of doing so with other nations. Therefore, it is my view that we need to continue to pay our U.N. peacekeeping bill, the one negotiated by Holbrooke, particularly at this point in time when we are asking for and need U.N. cooperation on issues such as democracy building in Iraq, post-tsunami disaster relief in Indonesia, and other areas.

I remind my colleagues, and I am in no way being critical of my chairman, the bill we reported out of the Foreign Relations Committee corrected the problem. It said we are lifting the 25-percent cap passed in 1994, and we are doing it permanently. What the chairman of the committee is doing is introducing an amendment saying: I guess, on second thought, I do not like that idea very much. I want to now go back and amend what passed 18 to 0 and say we are going back to the 25-percent level.

I know that is complicated for all the Members, but the bottom line is my amendment does what the President's budget request proposed. I want to do it permanently, but the President said keep it at 27 percent for another 2 years. That is what the President requested. That is what I am attempting to amend the Lugar amendment with. If I prevail, the President's position prevails. We no longer go in arrearages, and we put off another 2 years reckoning with the underlying problem.

I see my colleague from Maryland is in the Chamber. With the permission of the Senator from Indiana, I would be happy to yield to him on this point. There is a time agreement. I do not know how much of my time I have used, but I am sure we could accommodate the Senator for the time he wants.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, very briefly, necessarily, the administration has not asked for any latitude. The administration is quite clear. They came up and said there is nothing we are trying to negotiate on 27 percent for dues. They didn't ask for that. Speaking to the Secretary of State, I asked her about Assistant Secretary Bolton, nominee for the United Nations post. She assured me he shares the administration's view. The administration's view was sent to me in writing. It said we ask you to extend for 2 more years at the 27-percent number. There may be negotiation in the future. But as recently as an hour ago--although this was not the subject matter, in my discussions with the Secretary of State--no reference was made by me to anyone in the administration that they were desirous of having a stronger negotiation in hand by keeping this at 25 percent.

So it may turn out to be that. The administration's statement says--this is Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, date April 5, 2005:

Section 401 makes permanent the 27.1 percent United Nations peacekeeping rate, which is not consistent with the Administration's request for a two year extension.

So they are asking for a 2-year extension. They didn't want to make it permanent, but they asked for 2 years. That is the only point I want to make.

Mr. SARBANES. What does the Senator's amendment do?

Mr. BIDEN. My amendment does exactly what the administration asks. I thank the Senator for the additional 2 minutes.

Parliamentary inquiry: Tomorrow the vote is set for 10, and I believe the Senator from Delaware will have 2 or 3 minutes before the vote?

I thank my colleague. I yield the floor. I see our friends are on the floor to debate another substantive issue, and I thank the Chair.

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