The House voted Tuesday to cut off the U.S. troop deployment to Bosnia after June 1998, and lawmakers voiced doubt that President Clinton has leveled with Americans about the duration and cost of the mission.
The White House indicated that Clinton would probably veto the measure if it reached his desk.
In a partial victory for Clinton, the House rejected a measure that would have cut off funding by the end of this year, six months before the U.S. troops are scheduled to pull out of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Essentially, the 278-148 vote for an amendment by Reps. Stephen E. Buyer (R-Ind.) and Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) enshrined the status quo but sent the message that lawmakers will have little patience if Clinton tries to extend the Bosnia peace mission yet again.
The vote, an amendment to a pending defense authorization bill, also signaled European allies that Congress wants them to carry a greater burden of policing a trouble spot much closer to their doorstep.
U.S. forces make up more than a third of the 31,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led troops in and around Bosnia as part of the peace Stabilization Force; 8,000 U.S. troops are in Bosnia itself; 2,900 others support the mission in neighboring countries.
Lawmakers had nothing but praise for a military mission that has resulted in no U.S. fatalities due to hostile fire and that has ended a brutal ethnic war that claimed about 250,000 lives. But the Republican majority, with some Democratic allies, vented frustration over the skyrocketing cost of the Bosnia commitment, estimated to reach $7.3 billion by mid-1998.
“The time is long overdue for Congress to express its will on behalf of the American people,” said Rep. Floyd Spence (R-S.C.), chairman of the House National Security Committee. “It is important that the Clinton administration be held accountable for the nation’s foreign policy.”
Spence pointed to recent comments by Clinton that seemed to back away from his earlier commitment to a June 30, 1998, deadline for the Stabilization Force mission. Clinton last month told his counterparts in Europe that the United States will not “disappear in a year” from Bosnia and said he wanted to “stop talking about what date we’re leaving on.”
European allies have said repeatedly they would pull out of Bosnia if U.S. troops left.