This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep Royce (R-CA) to H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which would have required the Secretary of State to designate the African nation of Eritrea as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” The amendment also called on the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions against Eritrea. Rep. Royce, arguing on behalf of his amendment noted that “U.N. report after U.N. report cites Eritrea for providing arms and military training to members of . . . an al Qaeda-linked group that has been designated by the United States as a ‘foreign terrorist organization.’”
Royce also argued that “(T)he case for adding Eritrea to the state sponsor of terrorism list is compelling. It's even overwhelming. It has been so for some time. The Obama administration's Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs has noted that ‘we have clear evidence that Eritrea is supporting extremists,’ and that ‘the government of Eritrea continues to supply weapons and munitions to extremists and terrorist elements.’ The U.N. Security Council has made similar statements citing Eritrea's destructive role in the horn, and so have many neighboring countries. So it is time that Eritrea should be named a state sponsor of terrorism.”
Rep. Payne (D-NJ), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, opposed the amendment. He argued that it “could undermine critical engagements currently going on between the U.S. and Eritrea (and) . . . would have limited effect on our effort to try to stabilize the region and build alliances with governments in a wider battle against extremism.” Payne went on to say that “some of the assertions made in the amendment are factually wrong and dated (and) . . . the geopolitical dynamics and interstate rivalries in the Horn of Africa cannot be addressed properly without concerted diplomatic engagement. Declaring Eritrea a state sponsor of terrorism and imposing international sanctions would do nothing to further our diplomatic aims and would impose further hardship on the people who are struggling to survive on a daily basis.”
Payne went on to say that “the proposed amendment does not recognize the diplomatic efforts currently under way by the State Department . . . (and) putting Eritrea on a sanctions list would have limited effect on our effort to try to stabilize the region and build alliances with governments in a wider battle against extremism.
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 183-245. One hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and fourteen Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and thirty-nine Democrats and six Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the effort to have Eritrea designated as a “state sponsor of terrorism” was not successful.