- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

House Republicans are trying to preserve President Bush's right to withhold money from the U.N. Population Fund against an effort to force him to release the money.
Congress appropriated $34 million for the U.N. Population Fund known as UNFPA in December, but the president froze the money after Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, and other members charged that UNFPA funds are being used for China's coercive family planning programs, including forced abortions and sterilizations.
The president sent a fact-finding team to China to investigate the charge. The group left for China on Sunday and is expected to spend two weeks there and issue a final report by the end of June.
Congress is still fighting over the issue. Last Thursday night, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill, requiring that the full $34 million be released to the UNFPA by July 10, unless the agency is found to violate U.S. laws.
Republicans are trying to change that amendment. A Republican leadership aide said it must be removed or changed, and that failure to do so could hold up the entire $30 billion supplemental bill.
The amendment crafted by Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican and chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee, and Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat and ranking member of the subcommittee passed the committee on a 32-31 vote.
It was supported by four Republicans besides Mr. Kolbe: Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey; Dan Miller of Florida; and David Hobson and Ralph Regula, both of Ohio. Two Democrats opposed it: Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia, and John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania.
Republican leaders had been counting on Rep. John E. Sweeney, New York Republican, to vote against the amendment Thursday night. But Mr. Sweeney was outside the committee room when the vote was called and did not return in time to cast his vote, despite House Majority Whip Tom DeLay's effort to find Mr. Sweeney and bring him back in time.
The amendment differs from the language in the appropriations bill passed by Congress in December. The appropriations bill gave the president discretion to release up to $34 million to the UNFPA, if he saw fit so he could choose to release less than that amount.
When the committee continues consideration of the supplemental bill, expected late today, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Kansas Republican, is planning to offer an amendment that would weaken the amendment adopted by the committee and essentially adhere to the language in the appropriations bill giving the president discretion in how much money should be released, if any.
"Congressman Tiahrt wants to preserve the president's discretion in how or if that money is expended," said Chuck Knapp, spokesman for Mr. Tiahrt.
Mr. Tiahrt is still deciding the final form of his amendment, Mr. Knapp said. An amendment he filed with the committee last week would give the president until July 31 or 30 days after the U.S. team returns from China and files its report to decide whether or not funds would be expended. "He's definitely planning on offering something," Mr. Knapp said.
A 1985 law called the Kemp-Kasten amendment prohibits U.S. funding to any organization that supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
President Reagan denied federal funds for UNFPA based on that prohibition, as did Mr. Bush's father. UNFPA funding was reinstated under President Clinton.
UNFPA says that it does not use American money for its Chinese programs, and that its work in China is limited to 32 counties where the one-child family policy is no longer enforced.
But last fall, the Population Research Institute (PRI) conducted an investigation in Sihui, one of the counties in China where the UNFPA operates. Investigators said victims and witnesses told them family planning in Sihui is not voluntary and includes forced abortion, forced sterilization, age requirements for pregnancy, mandatory use of birth-control devices, fines and imprisonment for breaking these laws and sometimes destruction of homes or property.


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