WASHINGTON–The US House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid voted Wednesday to allocate $68 million in fiscal year 2008 assistance to Armenia, a 48.5 percent increase over the President’s budget request earlier this year, but less than the $75 million sought by the Armenian National Committee of America in testimony submitted to the panel this March.
The State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee also approved $6 million in direct assistance to Nagorno Karabakh, double the amount allocated in FY2007. The panel did not, as the ANCA had recommended, require the expansion of the Nagorno Karabakh aid program from solely humanitarian to developmental assistance.
Despite the Bush Administration’s proposal to break military assistance parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the panel, led by Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Member Frank Wolf (R-VA), voted to allocate $3 million in Foreign Military Financing assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan and an additional $300,000 in International Military and Education Training. The foreign aid bill does not directly set the level of funding for the ongoing "Caspian Guard Program" in Azerbaijan. In previous testimony, the ANCA has argued that, "each dollar in US military assistance–either specifically appropriated or provided at the discretion of the Administration–should be matched with a dollar of military aid to Armenia."
The Subcommittee also rejected efforts by Azerbaijan’s lobbyists to weaken the Section 907 restriction on US assistance to Azerbaijan, which was put in place more 15 years ago as a response to Baku’s ongoing blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Economic assistance to Azerbaijan was set at $18 million.
"We value the leadership of Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Wolf, and the key members of the panel–Steve Rothman, Joe Knollenberg, Adam Schiff, Jesse Jackson, Mark Kirk, and others–for maintaining military aid parity, elevating aid to Armenia above the President’s request, and for approving substantial increase in direct assistance to Nagorno Karabakh," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We look forward to working with our friends on Capitol Hill, both in the Senate and during the conference committee process, to bring Armenia’s aid level at least to last year’s level of $75 million, and to ensure full funding of our request for $10 million in humanitarian and development aid to Nagorno Karabakh. We will work, as well, to secure Congressional support for the growth of the California-Armenia Trade Office, which has already proven its value in promoting increased commercial ties between Armenia and the Golden State."
The full House Appropriations Committee is set to consider the foreign aid bill next week.
In testimony submitted to the Foreign Operations Subcomittee on March 29, ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian touched upon a number of key issues, including:
1. Restoring parity in all military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan
2. Increasing economic Assistance to Armenia to at least $75 million.
3. Expanding US Assistance to Nagorno Karabakh to at least $10 million in both humanitarian and development aid.
4. Preserving Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.
5. Funding the California-Armenia Trade Office.
In a March 16 letter to Chairwoman Lowey, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) were joined by some 30 Members of Congress in urging $75 million in assistance to Armenia, $10 million in assistance to Nagorno Karabakh and calling for maintaining military aid parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Members of Congress joining Representatives Pallone and Radanovich in cosigning the letter to Chairwoman Lowey were: Joe Baca (D-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Mike Capuano (D-MA), John Conyers (D-MI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Joe Crowley (D-NY), William Delahunt (D-MA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rush Holt (D-NJ), James Langevin (D-RI), Sander Levin (D-MI), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Doris Matsui (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Diane Watson (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Anthony Weiner (D-NY).