Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) neared victory Thursday in a long-running vendetta against the U.S. foreign policy establishment when Senate and House negotiators reached agreement on a compromise bill to abolish the Agency for International Development, the U.S. Information Agency and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
Helms said the bill would save $1.8 billion over four years, although the spending reduction probably would be much smaller than that because the legislation would authorize President Clinton to issue a waiver keeping two of the agencies, in effect requiring the president to pick the one to be eliminated.
The Senate and House passed their own versions of the legislation earlier. Thursday's action by a conference committee sends the finished version of the bill back to each chamber for final action. The Clinton administration opposed the bill earlier, but officials declined to say Thursday whether Clinton will veto the legislation.
In addition to requiring at least one of the foreign policy agencies to be merged into the State Department, the compromise bill contains a number of provisions dear to the heart of the conservative lawmaker, a longtime critic of the foreign policy bureaucracy who now serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
For instance, the measure contains several provisions likely to create new friction between the United States and China. It would require an annual report by the State Department on "conditions in occupied Tibet," and it would authorize--but, unlike earlier versions of the bill, would not require--the president to appoint a special envoy for Tibet.
And it seeks to upgrade U.S. relations with Taiwan by calling for admission of the island to the World Trade Organization and by urging the administration to invite Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to visit the United States this year "with appropriate courtesies."
"We understand that the conference committee has just completed its work," a senior State Department official said. "We have yet to see the final report. We look forward to studying it."
The legislation officially is the foreign relations authorization bill for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. In a normal year, the authorization bill would set policy and establish limits of spending, with funding provided in a later appropriations bill. However, this year's budget impasse has upset that schedule. The State Department, including foreign aid, is being funded under a stopgap spending bill that may be extended later this month for the rest of the fiscal year.
Under this year's circumstances, Clinton could veto the authorization without automatically ending foreign policy spending. But if he signs the bill, he would have to accept its provisions.
The measure would impose new restrictions on U.S. participation in the United Nations and other international organizations.
For instance, it would limit U.S. contributions to U.N. peacekeeping operations to 25%, down from a little more than 30%.
It would prohibit U.S. assistance "to international organizations espousing world government" without identifying them.
And it would require the United States to pull out of such organizations as the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, the Pan American Railway Congress Assn., the International Cotton Advisory Committee, the World Tourism Organization, the Inter-American Indian Institute and the International Tropical Timber Organization.