Prominent Hastert constituent questions blockage of H.R. 5680

October 3rd, 2006 Print Print Email Email

October 2, 2006, prominent Hastert constituent, Ms. Chana Bernstein, Executive Director, Community Focus, slammed Hastert for blockage of a human rights bill in a letter to the editor of Daily Herald published in the Chicago area ( Hastert’s constituent wrote:

Hastert blocking human rights bill

I am completely mystified by the conduct of our representative and House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, who has chosen to block an important Ethiopian human rights bill pending in Congress from a long awaited vote.

The Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Act is supported widely in Congress and follows the spirit of the president’s address to the nation: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know “” the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”?

The bill passed unanimously in the House International Relations Committee this past June, but Speaker Hastert has blocked it from going to the House floor for a final vote. Why? That is the question Ethiopian-Americans are asking. A cursory reading of the bill shows that the Ethiopian human rights bill is a reasonable one. It encourages Ethiopia to have free speech and press, honest elections, fair judges and a just judicial system and demands release of hundreds of innocent political prisoners.

The bill also provides support to Ethiopia to become an effective partner in the global war on terror.

What is curious about Mr. Hastert’s actions in blocking the Ethiopian human rights bill is the explanation given by his district office that the White House needs to do “additional fact-finding on the bill”? and that Hastert “is waiting to hear from the president on what should be done on the legislation.”?

The International Relations Committee did all of the fact-finding, including getting input from the State Department, before passing it unanimously.

What additional fact-finding does Mr. Hastert or the president need? Could there possibly be a connection between the bill and former House Majority Leader Richard Armey, a lobbyist for the Ethiopian government, that has the Speaker’s ear?

But the real issue is why Hastert does not actively support human rights in a country that has experienced so much political turmoil, oppression and instability over the past decades. Why is Hastert (or is it the White House?) keeping the Ethiopian human rights bill from getting a floor vote?

Maybe he can answer it if he is listening!

Chana Bernstein

Executive Director

Community Focus


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