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Price Resolution Passes House - Bill Would Help Emerging Democracies in Europe, Middle East

March 14, 2005
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - Late Monday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution authored by US Reps. David Price (D-NC) and David Dreier (R-CA) to establish a House commission that will provide assistance to parliaments in emerging democracies worldwide.

House Resolution 135 establishes a House Democracy Assistance Commission to better prepare parliaments in emerging democracies to oversee governmental expenditures and military operations, and to improve their capabilities in the areas of constituent services, committee operations, information services, and research. Price is expected to take a leadership role on this new effort.

"Since its founding, the United States has championed the development of democracy everywhere," said Price. "That work has arguably never been more important than it is today. We must continue to serve not just as a model, but as a partner in the effort to strengthen democracy across the globe."

Price had introduced an earlier version of this bill a year ago, during the 108th Congress, with former US Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-NE). Price and Bereuter had been inspired to introduce the initiative as a result of their involvement in a task force during the early 1990s that provided assistance, equipment, and training to new parliaments in Central and Eastern European countries.

Excerpts of Price's remarks from the Floor debate are found below:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Dreier-Price Democracy Assistance Commission Resolution. H. Res. 135 will establish a Commission in the House charged with helping parliaments in emerging democracies play a more independent, transparent, and representative role.

"I am also pleased that Chairman Dreier will be taking the lead role on the Commission, and I look forward to working closely with him to make this commission a success, and a worthy successor to the Frost-Solomon Task Force, which helped build the capacity of new parliaments in Central and Eastern Europe between 1990 and 1996.

"The Frost-Solomon Task Force, under the leadership of our colleagues Martin Frost and the late Gerry Solomon, went in at the ground level with ten parliaments from former Soviet and Warsaw Pact states, providing them with the kind of basic resources and technological infrastructure required for any legislature to play a meaningful role in an emerging democracy – things like computers and other office equipment, and reference materials for parliamentary libraries – and helping them establish the systems and procedures necessary to create an efficient and well functioning legislature....

"I had the opportunity to participate in the activities of that task force, and to witness first hand the positive impact it had, not only on the maturation of parliaments receiving assistance, but also in engendering a positive image of the United States, and of the U.S. House of Representatives, abroad. It was one of the most worthwhile and rewarding experiences I have had as a member of this body.

"The spread of democracy is continuing, and the U.S. Agency for International Development and its partners in the non-profit world have been active in assisting new parliaments all around the world. Many other developed democracies have also gotten into the act of providing assistance to parliaments in emerging democracies.

"But there is still an important role for the U.S. House to play – in fact, there is a role I would argue that the House is uniquely positioned to play.

"The U.S. House is the oldest, directly-representative democratic body in existence, one of two chambers in the oldest democratic federal legislature in existence. We have been doing something that the world admires for quite a long time. We should pass along the benefits of our experience to our colleagues in emerging democracies abroad, always in the spirit of realizing that, for all of us, the fullness of democracy is still a work in progress.

"Our knowledge and experience as members and support staff of this great institution are something we can share directly with our counterparts in emerging democracies, helping build their capacity to better perform the essential role that legislatures must play in democratic government – through oversight of governmental expenditures and military operations, constituent services, committee operations, information services, and research....

"Over the course of the next several months, the Commission will be appointed by the Speaker and Minority Leader, and the staff will be evaluating candidate countries from around the world for potential participation in the Democracy Assistance Program.

"The Commission will eventually narrow that list down to five countries that will be invited to participate in the program beginning in fiscal year 2006.

"Assistance will be provided through visits by Commission members, other interested members, and staff to participating countries, and members and staff of those parliaments will also have an opportunity to come to the United States to become more familiar with both state and federal legislative institutions and practices....

"This is an exciting endeavor, and one that I am looking forward to helping move forward. I hope that many of my colleagues will agree and find some way to contribute to the work of the Commission, to help support the spread and consolidation of democracy around the world. The passage of H. Res. 135 is the essential first step, and I urge its adoption."