President Clinton vetoed legislation Friday that would force the United States to abandon the international arms embargo against Bosnia, calling the move “the wrong step at the wrong time.”
Congress passed the legislation by veto-proof majorities in both houses recently, but events are changing so fast these days in the Balkans that no one in Washington is certain how Congress will react to Clinton’s veto now.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he thinks he has the 34 votes necessary to sustain Clinton’s veto in the Senate, then quickly added that the situation in Bosnia is so volatile that “every senator, including this one, will want to look at the circumstances” anew before voting again.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, agreed that Clinton probably could sustain his veto if the Senate had to vote again today, “but things can change very quickly in that part of the world … If the news reports are true about mass graves near Srebrinica, it would be my view that there would be plenty of votes to override a veto.”
A showdown over Clinton’s veto is likely to come early next month when Congress returns from summer recess and the Senate is expected to vote on whether to override.
That vote could provide a climactic confrontation between Clinton and Congress over who has control over the thorniest foreign policy problem facing the United States.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry voiced confidence that Clinton will prevail. He argued that recent military and diplomatic events are producing changes on the ground in the Balkans that strengthen the credibility of Clinton’s policy.
Among the recent developments:
A new determination by NATO to counter any assault on United Nations-designated “safe areas” with massive air strikes, and a fresh agreement by the United Nations to surrender control over such strikes to military commanders on the ground.
Croatia’s recent conquest of Krajina.
A new U.S. diplomatic effort is under way. Anthony Lake, Clinton’s national security adviser, is leading a mission to Europe proposing new ideas for brokering peace.
“All of those things, we would argue, are going to work in the direction of members of Congress feeling they ought to wait and think twice about the perilous course they’ve embarked upon,” McCurry said.