January 19th, 2024
Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler (D-CA) joined Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in supporting their amendment to require that the weapons received by any country under the proposed national security supplemental are used in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict. The amendment is now supported by Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.). These Senators add their support to the group of over a dozen Senators who initially cosponsored the amendment: Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
The Senators’ amendment also requires that the president report to the Congress on whether countries receiving military equipment paid for by American taxpayers meet that test and whether the use of U.S-supplied weapons comports with established presidential directives on arms transfers and Defense Department policies for reducing harm to civilians. And it would buttress current law that prohibits U.S. security assistance to any country that prevents or restricts U.S. humanitarian assistance to those in need, subject to a presidential waiver. The amendment does not apply to funds for air defense systems or other systems that the president determines will be used for strictly defensive purposes.
“We have a responsibility to make sure civilians and children are never the targets of war and humanitarian assistance is never blocked,” said Senator Butler. “Our partners and allies deserve America’s unwavering support, and it is also true that we must hold those nations accountable for what they choose to do with that support. Senator Van Hollen’s amendment to the National Security and Supplemental Appropriations Act affirms our values and reinforces America’s commitment to human rights and humanitarian aid in times of conflict.”
“I am pleased to see growing momentum behind our effort to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are used by our partners in a manner that aligns with our values and our interests – and not come in the form of a blank check. This amendment requires that all recipients of U.S. military assistance in the national security supplemental use our support in accordance with U.S. law and international humanitarian law, and that they cooperate fully with our efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance. For the purposes of transparency and accountability, it also puts in place reporting mechanisms to track compliance with these and other measures. I am confident that support for this common-sense amendment will only continue to grow,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“When the United States provides security assistance to our allies, that assistance should only be used in accordance with U.S. and international humanitarian law, including the obligation to minimize harm to civilians and facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid. This amendment requires the transparency and accountability the United States expects and deserves from our friends and allies receiving security assistance,” said Senator Smith.
“As a pastor I have a profound reverence for life, and as we continue working with our allies to navigate wars in the Middle East and beyond, it is imperative that the United States ensures any country receiving our security assistance is using those resources in a way that is consistent with American values and international law,” said Senator Reverend Warnock.
“The American people expect that when we use taxpayer dollars, it is accounted for and used in line with our values,” said Senator Baldwin. “As we work to help our allies defend themselves, it’s our responsibility to make sure our aid is used in accordance with international humanitarian law – just as our country regularly does.”
“Congress has an obligation to oversee how foreign governments are using American weapons. I thank Senator Van Hollen for his leadership crafting this provision to strengthen Congressional oversight of U.S. security assistance. U.S. aid must be used consistent with our national interests and our laws,” said Senator Ossoff.
“The American people should feel confident that every country that receives U.S. military assistance is held to a standard consistent with our values. This amendment underscores that we expect any country that receives U.S. assistance to follow international laws of war and take measures to protect innocent civilians caught in conflict zones,” said Senator Kaine.
“American aid should be used in line with our values and international humanitarian law – no matter who’s using it,” said Senator Schatz.
The Senators’ amendment:
- Requires that the weapons received by any country under this bill are used in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict.
- Requires that the president obtain assurances that any country receiving weapons through this bill cooperate fully with U.S.-supported efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, subject to a presidential waiver.
- Requires that the president report to the Congress within 30 days on whether each country receiving U.S. security assistance through this bill is:
- Using U.S.-funded military equipment in accordance with:
- Their intended purposes and U.S. end-use monitoring programs;
- international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, and U.S. law;
- the President’s 2023 Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) Policy and the Defense Department’s Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan (CHMR-AP);
- Fully cooperating with U.S. efforts and U.S.-supported international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians
- Clarifies that these provisions do not apply to funds for air defense systems or other systems that the president determines will be used for strictly defensive purposes.