Politico | Meredith Shiner | June 13, 2011
The Senate Banking Committee will vote Thursday on a bipartisan bill to distribute an initial $4 billion in the Qadhafi government’s frozen assets to the Libyan people, the panel’s top two members announced Tuesday.
“The Libyan Assets for Humanitarian Relief Act” would authorize President Barack Obama to confiscate Qadhafi’s assets, use those resources exclusively for humanitarian aide to citizens of the war-torn nation and enable Congress to oversee the distribution of the funds.
The legislation is co-sponsored by the top Democrat and Republican of the Senate Armed Services Committee as well as Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass) and Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
“These frozen government assets are the property of the Libyan people and there is no reason why they should continue to be locked up while Libyans are in such dire need of assistance,” Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said. “Conditions in Libya continue to deteriorate and it is vital that the Libyan people get this assistance as soon as possible. I appreciate my colleagues coming together to quickly move this bipartisan bill forward.”
The announcement of the humanitarian aid bill comes in the middle of a larger debate waging in Congress on how to deal with the conflict in Libya. The House approved a bill earlier this month calling for a detailed report from the White House on the extent of American military engagement. Meanwhile, the Senate has stalled on passing its own resolution, and the Forein Relations Committee is set to potentially mark up a bill this week after its original meeting last week was postponed.
The legislation introduced Tuesday was drafted by the group of senators in consultation with the White House and follows a call from the UN Security Council to use the Qadhafi assets to assist the Libyan people.
Specifically, if the bill were to clear Congress, Obama would be authorized to confiscate the assets held by the Libyan central bank, establish an account for the transfer of the funds, from which the initial $4 billion would move, and then require him to report to Hill lawmakers every 90 days on the progress of the transfers.