March 29, 2022

Van Hollen Statement on Ethiopia Peace and Stabilization Act

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released the following statement regarding his vote to report the Ethiopia Peace and Stabilization Act (S. 3199) out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation included updated language drafted by the Senator to ensure the bill takes a more balanced approach and provides needed flexibility for the Biden Administration to respond to this complex and rapidly changing crisis. 

“Over the last several weeks we’ve seen tentative progress towards a humanitarian truce in Ethiopia. The Biden Administration’s recent efforts have played a key role in this progress, but it remains fragile. We must hold all parties accountable for the atrocities they have committed throughout this conflict. But as we seek unfettered humanitarian access and a durable peace, we should not tie the hands of the Administration. Instead, we must work to ensure that the Administration has the tools it needs to hold bad actors accountable and the flexibility to tailor those restrictions based on the actions of each party. Additionally, we must recognize that our adversaries – including Russia and China – are already seeking to exploit any misguided efforts by the United States to economically isolate Ethiopia.”

“The bill, as introduced, would have unwisely tied the hands of the Biden Administration and denied them the flexibility they need to address the very challenging and changing situation in Ethiopia. I am pleased the Committee adopted the amendment I offered together with Senators Rounds and Murphy to enable the Administration to calibrate their actions by allowing them to waive any sanctions that they conclude are inconsistent with U.S. national security interests. In addition, the Committee accepted my proposal to eliminate provisions in the original bill that could lead to the violation of the free speech rights of American citizens. Even with these changes, I made clear that this bill should be voted on by the full Senate only if the parties to the conflict do not cooperate in efforts to allow for humanitarian relief and achieve a peaceful settlement.”

Senator Van Hollen proposed the following amendments and changes that were incorporated in the bill as reported:

  1. Give the Administration a flexible “national security interest” waiver for the sanctions in the bill to ensure that they can tailor efforts to the situation on the ground. 
  2. Add a presidential waiver to the international financial institutions lending restrictions and remove the associated Sense of Congress.
  3. Clarify the ban on security assistance to Ethiopia. The U.S. government has already suspended all security assistance to Ethiopia. While a resumption of security assistance is not anticipated in the near term, the Administration should have flexibility to respond to changing conditions and incentivize progress.
  4. Modify a reporting requirement that would have directed the Secretary of State to investigate and report on the “disinformation” activities of individuals, which could have targeted American citizens, violating their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech.