Code of Conduct in 1998!

last updated: 17 November 1997

With the strong leadership of Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the Code of Conduct advanced greatly in the United States during 1997, but it fell just short of becoming law. Their efforts were paralled by John Kerry (D-MA) in the U.S. Senate.

During 1997, the campaign to establish a Code garnered strong citizen and media support from across the country and around the world. In a June editorial, the New York Times endorsed the Code, calling it "an entirely sensible idea." And Amnesty International became an active and strong advocate. The Code also made great strides internationally in the United Nations and European Union.

While Congress will be in recess until late-January 1998, the Code is alive and well, and still in need of continued support from citizens across the country. Schedule an appointment with your Representative or Senator during the holiday recess and urge him/her to support the Code in 1998.

Background: The Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers Act establishes four eligibility criteria for countries to receive American arms: democratic form of government; respect for the human rights of its citizens; non-aggression against neighboring states; and participation in the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms. The Code's requirements are all primary foreign policy tenets of past and present U.S. administrations. Nevertheless, 85% of U.S. arms transfers during 1990-95 went to states which do not meet these criteria. Check out the Customer Profiles page to see what is going on in some of America's leading arms clients.

Under the Code, the President could still export arms to governments that don't meet these criteria, if he certifies that doing so is a matter of U.S. national security interest.

1997 Recap:

On June 10th, the House of Representatives voted to accept the Code as an amendment to H.R. 1757, the FY 1998-99 State Department Authorization Act. Several members from both parties made very strong statements in support of it. Read the text of the Amendment and the floor statements.

The Senate passed its version of the same bill on June 17th, but without including the Code of Conduct. Members of the House International Relations Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee started meeting during July in a "conference committee" to resolve differences between the two bills.

While both the Clinton Administration and the arms industry strongly opposed this measure and wanted it removed from the final bill, strong legislative and grassroots support kept it in place.

After months of negotiations at the staff and member levels, however, the conference committee on H.R. 1757 made very little progress toward a final version of the bill due to contentious issues unrelated to the Code. Upon adjournment of the first session of the 105th Congress, the State Department authorization remained stalled and the Code with it.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), along with eight of his colleagues, introduced S. 1067, The Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers Act of 1997, on July 24. The original cosponsors are Byron Dorgan (ND), Russell Feingold (WI), Patrick Leahy (VT), Carol Moseley-Braun (IL), Paul Wellstone (MN), Mary Landrieu (LA), Edward Kennedy (MA), Tom Harkin (IA). Since then, Richard Durbin (IL), Ron Wyden (OR), Jack Reed (RI) and Tim Johnson (SD) have joined as sponsors.

The Senate version of the Code contains some differences from its House counterpart, in particular it emphasizes parallel international arms control efforts.

Contact your Senators and urge them to support the Code of Conduct. Please also See remarks from Senators Kerry and Dorgan in support of the Code of Conduct act.

The Code of Conduct home page contains updated news and additional background information about the Code.

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