Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Dry Well:I just got this press release:

BREAKING: Senate Panel OKs Unused Iraq $ For Darfur Crisis In Sudan

Senate Panel Votes

To Tap Unused Iraq Reconstruction Funds

For Emergency In Sudan’s Darfur Region

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Sept. 15) -- The Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved legislation offered by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to redirect $102 million in unused Iraq reconstruction funds to be used for emergency relief efforts in Sudan.

Leahy, joined by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), drafted the amendment, which was added to the annual Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. The Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved the bill with the amendment included. Leahy is the ranking member of the panel’s Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which handles the Senate’s work in writing the annual foreign aid budget bill. McConnell is the panel’s chairman. DeWine is a member of the committee.

The amendment triggers a provision Congress wrote into last year’s $18.4 billion supplemental appropriation for reconstruction assistance for Iraq. Only $1.1 billion of that has been spent. In that bill, Congress opened the door to tapping up to .5 percent of any unused funds to be used in two countries: Sudan, and Liberia. The Leahy-McConnell-DeWine-Frist-Daschle Amendment gives the Administration 30 days from enactment of the bill to submit a request to Congress for the $102 million in humanitarian aid for the crisis in Darfur. If no request is made, the funds revert back to the Iraq account.

"A humanitarian crisis is unfolding before our eyes, and the world’s response is inadequate to the scope of this tragedy," said Leahy. "This is an opportunity to save the lives of thousands of people who would otherwise succumb from hunger, exposure and disease, simply because of their ethnicity."

Leahy said the amendment is flexible and allows the Administration to use the funds for virtually any needs the Administration identifies in the Darfur crisis: assistance for the African Union mission, humanitarian aid, or security assistance.
I'm very much for U.S. intervention in Sudan. (I've been meaning to blog about that for some time. Eugene Oregon has been doing an excellent job for me.) But I'm confused about the term "unused Iraq reconstruction funds". Granted, $102-million is pittance compared to the billions spent in Iraq. It just seems like an odd place to look for excess cash.

Regardless, more needs to be done about the crisis in Darfur.


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