WASHINGTON -- With the war declared over, lawmakers are increasingly demanding that America's allies pay their share of the costs.
Two members of Congress yesterday introduced what is apparently the first legislation that would penalize governments like Japan and Germany that have pledged support but not yet sent most of it.
The bill, by Reps. Lane Evans, D-Ill., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., would impose a 2 percent levy on imports from such nations if they don't pay by April 15 -- the deadline Americans have to pay their federal taxes.
Congressional resentment about foreign contributions to the war has taken other forms as well.
On Jan. 3, Maryland Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd, introduced a resolution "expressing the sense" of the House that reconstruction contracts for Kuwait be "awarded proportionately to the contractors of nations that shouldered the burden" in the war.
In response, Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S., Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, wrote Bentley that Kuwait's policy is "to award the largest proportion of contracts to U.S. companies in recognition of the immense sacrifice of the people of the United States. . . ."
Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, has complained about nations "who have not stepped up to the plate with anything real meaningful. This is not a telethon."
"Americans protected other nations' interests, too," he said. "And they should come up and share this burden, a tremendous burden that the American taxpayers should not be forced to eat. I have a great deal of suspicion as it relates to West Germany and Japan saying nice things, but doing little about putting their money where their mouths are."
The allies have promised $54 billion in cash and in-kind services. About two-thirds has been pledged by Arab states while Germany has promised $6.6 billion and Japan $10.7 billion.
As of a week ago the U.S. had received $12.2 billion in cash and $2.7 billion in in-kind contributions, according to Budget Director Richard G. Darman.
The administration, meanwhile, is asking for $15 billion from U.S. taxpayers to help cover war bills. But Darman, speaking Tuesday, said that a swift end to the war might mean that foreign contributions would cover the total financial cost.
What Congress wants to know is when those contributions will arrive.
"We have this 'check in the mail syndrome' -- especially with some of the countries that have the most ability to pay, the most at stake in keeping the oil flowing," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Administration officials have sought to assure Congress that the allies would meet their obligations.