Panel Drops Arms Sales 'Code of Conduct'

On March 10, the House-Senate conference committee dropped arms sales "code of conduct" legislation from the State Department authorization bill for fiscal years 1998-1999.

The House of Representatives had attached code of conduct legislation as an amendment to the State Department authorization bill in June 1997, but action on the bill was held up over a number of contentious issues. The modified code required the president to submit two lists to Congress every fiscal year. One would detail states that promote democracy, respect human rights, are not engaged in "armed aggression" and fully participate in the UN Register of Conventional Arms and are therefore eligible for U.S. military assistance. The second would list states that did not meet the four criteria, but that the president determined should be allowed to receive U.S. military arms and equipment. To block arms transfers to states on the second list, Congress would be required to vote a resolution of disapproval for each state.

House supporters of the code-of-conduct legislation plan to continue efforts to make the code law by pressing for its inclusion on the foreign aid authorization bill. A nearly identical code remains alive as a stand-alone bill in the Senate where Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced it on July 24, 1997. Code-of-conduct legislation first appeared in Congress in late 1993, but has been rejected by votes in the House in 1995, by the Senate in 1996 and in the House International Relations Committee in April 1997.