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McKinney-Rohrabacher "Code of Conduct" Amendment Passes House - First Reform of Arms Sales Policy in Twenty Years

June 10, 1997

Code of Conduct Legislation Prohibits the Transfer of U.S. Arms and Technology to Non-Democratic Regimes

WASHINGTON, DC - Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-4th-GA), a member of the House Committee on International Relations, won House passage today of an amendment that will significantly change United States human rights policy as it relates to the transfer of U.S. arms and technology. The Code of Conduct for Arms Transfers, an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1997 (H.R. 1757), passed by voice vote, bans countries that are non-democratic, involved in acts of armed aggression and are abusers of human rights.

"This legislation helps to give the United States a conscience for the leaders around the world who don't have one. This legislation helps to give a voice to those people around the world who can't speak out in their own countries. And finally, this legislation puts the international behavior of the United States in synchronization with our words, our beliefs and our fundamental values," the Congresswoman said on the floor of the House today.

Congresswoman McKinney initially offered the "Code of Conduct" Amendment during the 103rd Congress to give Congress -- for the first time in two decades -- a role in United States Arms export policy. On Wednesday, April 30, the legislation lost by two votes in the Committee on International Relations. The amendment has the support of 227 grassroots organizations. The original bill had more than 100 co-sponsors during the 103rd Congress and 54 in the 104th.

The McKinney-Rohrabacher Amendment offered today was altered after discussions with Congressman Lee Hamilton (D-IN), the House International Relations Committee Ranking Democrat. The presented and (passed) Code of Conduct retains its annual Presidential certification of nations on four important criteria: democracy; human rights; non-aggression; and compliance with the U.N. Arms Register. The new amendment provides the President more latitude to conduct arms transfers policy by the inclusion of a national security waiver for those nations that do not meet the Code's criteria. This differs from the national security exemption in the original Code of Conduct that has been in force for the past 20 years. It required Congressional approval for any nation not meeting the Code's criteria.

Congresswoman McKinney, who is the second ranking Democratic member on the International Operations and Human Rights, received support for the revised bill from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Chairman Christopher Smith (R-NJ). Mr. Smith is Chairman of the International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee. Both members joined her in a June 6, 1997 "Dear Colleague" letter and spoke in support of the bill today on the floor of the house.

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