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Congress and Kosovo

May 17, 2000 at 12:00 AM EDT

TRANSCRIPT

KWAME HOLMAN: The United States still has some 5,900 troops in Kosovo. That’s about 15% of NATO’s peacekeeping mission there. But this afternoon in the House of Representatives, an unlikely pair of allies made a move to end U.S. involvement in Kosovo. Republican John Kasich of Ohio and Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank cosponsored the legislation that would force U.S. troops to withdraw from Kosovo by next April 1, unless the President certifies America’s European allies are meeting their military and humanitarian obligations.

REP. JOHN KASICH, Chairman, Budget Committee: When you take a look at it in terms of the commitment that the United States has made and the amount of resources that have been expended, it is very reasonable for us to call on our European allies to live up to there pledge.

REP. FLOYD SPENCE, Chairman, Armed Services Committee: The air war was mainly our war. They couldn’t even participate. They didn’t have the technology to do it. So we expended a lot of our assets in doing that. Now our European allies must shoulder the burden of keeping the peace.

KWAME HOLMAN: Opposition to the conditional withdrawal of troops from Kosovo was voiced primarily by Democrats.

REP. SAM GEJDENSON, (D) Connecticut: We are now in a position where the European forces are the overwhelming part of the military, and they are, not in every instance, not in every account, but shouldering their burden for the first time.

REP. NORM DICKS, (D) Washington: If we have an argument with our allies, we should sit down with our NATO partners and negotiate directly with them. But to come to the floor of the House of Representatives and to try to set a date certain on this matter to me is foolish and counterproductive.

KWAME HOLMAN: While the House was debating withdrawing troops from Kosovo, the Senate was preparing to begin its debate on similar legislation.

SPOKESMAN: Mr. President, could I take one minute to state the Byrd-Warner amendment?

KWAME HOLMAN: An amendment cosponsored by Virginia Republican John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, would bring the troops out by July of next year, unless Congress votes to extend their stay. Defense Secretary William Cohen is opposed to setting a deadline for the troops in Kosovo, and has said he would recommend the President veto any such legislation. And a spokesman for George W. Bush yesterday said the Republican presidential candidate also is opposed to the measures. Nevertheless, the House approved the Kasich-Frank amendment on Kosovo troop withdrawal overwhelmingly.

SPOKESMAN: The ayes 264, the nays are 153 and the amendment is agreed to.

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, this evening back in the Senate Arizona Republican John McCain and Michigan Democrat Carl Levin introduced an alternative amendment that would allow troops to remain in Kosovo indefinitely unless Congress votes to remove them. Final Senate votes are expected tomorrow.