July 24, 2003: ACTION NEEDED: Urgent Follow-up on Colombia Vote!


The House voted on the McGovern-Skelton amendment on Colombia at 1:15 this morning, after a long, heated debate. The debate was incredibly strong; 9 members spoke on the floor (Reps. McGovern (D-MA), Skelton (D-MO), Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Obey (D-WI), Kucinich (D-OH), Lowey (D-NY), and DeLauro (D-CT)). Reps. Pelosi (D-CA) and Doggett (D-TX) also worked hard leading up to the vote to rally support for the amendment.


The speakers offered a VERY strong argument in favor of reducing military aid to Colombia. They spoke about the ties between the armed forces and the paramilitaries; the inhumane and ineffective nature of fumigation; attacks on union leaders, and other human rights concerns; and the quagmire of the US mission in Colombia. They sent a clear message that was reprinted in Colombia's major newspaper today: US military aid rewards a brutal military that refuses to reform, worsening the human rights situation in Colombia.


Members we spoke with before the vote said that the Congress had been flooded with grassroots calls and letters-- your hard work helped make this one of the most passionate debates on the foreign aid bill last night.


5 members spoke against the amendment: Rep. Kolbe (R-AZ), Mica (R-FL), Ballenger (R-NC), Souder (R-IN), and Delahunt (D-MA).


In the end, after a day of lobbying by Colin Powell and Speaker Dennis Hastert, the amendment lost by a vote of 195-226. While this wasn't as close as the vote on Colombia aid in the Iraq war bill last April, it was the best vote ever on an amendment to cut military aid to Colombia in the foreign aid bill. Your hard work helped make this progress happen.


FOLLOW UP NEEDED! While the vote did not win, it showed that Colombia continues to be one of the most contentious foreign policy issues in Congress. The best way to help increase the chances of a win next time is to give feedback to your member of Congress based on how they voted.


ACTION: Please call or write your member of Congress as soon as possible and thank them if they voted to support the McGovern-Skelton amendment to the foreign aid bill. Special thanks should go to the twelve Republicans who voted in support: Ehlers (R-MI), Flake (R-AZ), Hoekstra (R-MI), Hulshof (R-MO), Kelly (R-NY), Leach (R-IA), Paul (R-TX), Petri (R-WI), Ramstad (R-MN), Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Toomey (R-PA). These members withstood an intense lobbying effort by Republican House leadership and Colin Powell. If they hear positively from constituents now, they will be more likely to vote well next time.


If your member of Congress voted against the amendment, please contact them immediately to express your concerns. This is especially important if you live in the district of one of the seventeen Democrats who voted against the amendment: Berry (D-AR), Cardoza (D-CA), Cramer (D-AL), Davis (D-FL), Delahunt (D-MA), Dooley (D-CA), Edwards (D-TX), Frank (D-MA), Holden (D-PA), Lipinski (D-IL), Marshall (D-GA), Menendez (D-NJ), Peterson (D-MN), Rothman (D-NJ), Stenholm (D-TX), Tauscher (D-CA), Taylor (D-MS).


-To see how your member voted, please go to http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2003&rollnumber=426. The "ayes" supported the amendment, and the "noes" opposed.

-If you do not know who your member of Congress is, please see www.house.gov/writerep.

-To call your member of Congress' office, dial the US Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected with the office.

-A state-by-state breakdown of the vote will be sent out later today over the list and will be available on our website, www.lawg.org.


Thank you to everyone for your hard work on this vote. Changing US policy is a long process, but this debate sent an incredibly important message to Colombia and helped educate other members of Congress; none of this could have happened without your efforts. We will continue to build support for a more peaceful Colombia and a more humane US foreign policy.


Elanor Starmer

Program Associate, Colombia and Central America

Latin America Working Group

T: 202/546-7010 F: 202/543-7647 estarmer@lawg.org


Latin America Working Group

Action at home for just policies abroad www.lawg.org