The Cable

Senate approves Pakistan aid bill

The Senate approved a newly negotiated version of the Kerry-Lugar Pakistan aid bill today, a compromise version that is now likely to move through Congress quickly. President Obama announced that the Kerry-Lugar bill had been approved "unanimously" when addressing today’s Friends of a Democratic Pakistan summit. Of course, the bill still has to go through ...

The Senate approved a newly negotiated version of the Kerry-Lugar Pakistan aid bill today, a compromise version that is now likely to move through Congress quickly.

President Obama announced that the Kerry-Lugar bill had been approved "unanimously" when addressing today’s Friends of a Democratic Pakistan summit. Of course, the bill still has to go through the House (congressional staffers say that could be in the coming days), but the new version seems greased to move after wording on several issues was worked out between the version sponsored by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders and the House version of the bill put forth by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, D-CA.

The Senate approved the bill through a process known as "Unanimous Consent." This is where the Senate doesn’t actually vote on the bill, but nobody raised any objections, so it goes through. Also, the bill simply authorizes the money ($1.5 billion for each of the next 5 years) and appropriators still have to weigh in to actually spend the funds. But anyway, back to the compromise.

Most significantly, the compromise bill tweaks the language governing oversight of funds that would assist Pakistan’s military. The House version conditioned the release of military assistance on the president’s certification that the Pakistani government "demonstrated a sustained commitment to and made progress towards combating terrorist groups."

The new version states that the president has to certify that Pakistan is "making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups … including taking into account the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress on matters" related to counterterrorism.

Also, the compromise version doesn’t actually say how much Pakistan military assistance is to be given, using the language "such sums as are necessary."

Regardless, House staffers seem satisfied that the new version still has strong accountability measures and they also say the legislation maintains the call for U.S. access to notorious Pakistani proliferator A.Q. Kahn, although that language was also tweaked and Kahn is not actually mentioned by name in any version of the bill.

"The clear, tough-minded accountability standards and metrics contained in the original bill are carried through in this version," Kerry said in a press release, "The legislation passed today incorporates House language compatible with the intent of the original  bill, and is the product of two months of bicameral, bipartisan, and inter-branch consultation."

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