S. 793: Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013

S. 793

Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013

Sponsor
Sen. Robert Menendez

Date
September 17, 2013 (113th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, September 17, 2013, the House will consider S. 793, the Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013, under a suspension of the rules.  The bill was introduced on April 24, 2013 by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  The bill was passed in the Senate by unanimous consent.  S. 793 was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which ordered the bill reported (as amended) by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

S. 793 first states that it is the policy of the United States to:

  • Promote democracy and the rule of law in the Western Hemisphere
  • Promote the protection of human rights and freedoms in the Western Hemisphere
  • Support the principles and practices expressed in the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and other fundamental instruments of democracy

In addition, this legislation establishes the Sense of Congress that the OAS should, “be the primary diplomatic entity for regional dispute resolution and promotion of democratic governance.”

S. 793 establishes a strategy for reforming the OAS.  Within six months of enactment, the Secretary of State is directed to submit a report to Congress on a multiyear strategy, which:

  • Identifies a pathway toward reforms that prioritize the OAS’ core competencies, including strengthening peace and security, promoting representative democracy, resolving regional disputes, monitoring and assisting in elections, fostering economic growth and trade, addressing migration, and combating drug trafficking and transnational crime
  • Outlines a budgeting approach that would accurately reflect the OAS’ priorities and promote transparent hiring and firing practices
  • Reflects the inputs and coordination from other executive branch agencies

Finally, this legislation directs the Secretary of State to carry out diplomatic engagement to build support for reforms and budgetary burden sharing among OAS member states, promote donor coordination among members, and help set OAS priorities.  The legislation also directs the Secretary to offer a quarterly briefing that analyzes the progress of OAS reforms.  An amendment adopted in the bill’s markup addresses the fee structure of the OAS, ensuring that no member pays more than 50% of the organization’s fees within five years of the bill’s enactment.[1]

Background

When the Organization of American States (OAS) was founded in 1948, it served as the sole multilateral body serving in the Western Hemisphere.  Today, however, there are a number of other regional organizations with competing interests that do not represent the same values recognized by the OAS.  This legislation was drafted in order to maintain the OAS as an influential force in the Western Hemisphere by adopting measures to improve transparency and focus on its core missions. 

In markup, the bill was amended to add language that would require the State Department to find a pathway to ensure that the U.S. assessment of the OAS budget would fall below 50% of the total operating budget within five years of the enactment of this Act.  As the United States currently pays above 50% of the OAS’ assessed fees, this bill would lessen the cost burden on the United States required to keep the OAS funded.  This amendment is the major change made to the original bill.

Cost

The CBO estimates that implementing S. 793 would have discretionary costs of less than $500,000 each year and would total about $1 million over the 2014-2018 period.[1]

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.