This vote was on a motion to suspend the usual House rules and pass a resolution encouraging Hungary to respect the rule of law, treat foreign investors fairly, and promote a free and independent press. Rep. Engel (D-NY) was leading the support for the resolution. He began his statement in support by noting that the recent history of Hungary showed that the country was moving toward democratic practices, and also noting its contribution to the efforts of the U.S. in the war in Afghanistan.
Engel then said that he had “become concerned about recent reports of possible unfair treatment of foreign investors in Hungary and possible efforts to inject politically motivated demands into the commercial process.” He noted, in particular, “the actions of the Hungarian National Radio and Television Board, deciding not to renew the national radio licenses for two foreign companies, one of which is American-owned, and to award them instead to two local bidders.”
Engel added: “According to widespread media reporting, the two foreign companies have alleged that before their renewal bids were due, they were approached by representatives of Hungary's two leading political parties, offering to ensure their licenses would be extended if they agreed to the representatives' demands for a percentage of the company's equity and a say in editorial content. The two foreign companies refused, and the (Board) awarded the licenses to the two local bidders instead, who had submitted tenders that many outside experts have said are not commercially viable. The day following the award, the chairman of the (Board) resigned in protest . . . Numerous commentators have indicated that on the face of it, the (Board's) decision clearly appears to have been politically motivated and have ignored the economic feasibility of the two local bidders' tenders.”
Rep. Kucinich (D-OH), who chairs the House Hungarian-American Caucus, was among those leading the opposition to the resolution. He argued that the resolution broadly condemned Hungary “without regard to current legal proceedings that should receive more discussion” and that Members should “consider the consequence of this legislation before casting a vote.”
Kucinich noted that “the Hungarian Prime Minister has given statements questioning the award of the contract, that there is a (Hungarian) parliamentary committee looking into it, that courts are reviewing it, and that, in fact, there's a prosecutorial investigation in the offing.” He added that “the licenses awarded to two national radio stations by the Hungarian National Radio and Television Board are under judicial review . . . Now, if this doesn't indicate a responsiveness by the government to the award of the contract, I don't know what does.”
Kucinich also questioned having Congress consider the resolution “before any (House) committee meetings have been held to review the actual extent of the Hungarian Government's involvement or lack thereof (which) is really not consistent with our duties and due diligence on every piece of legislation.”
The resolution passed on a vote of 333-74. One hundred and eighty-two Democrats and one hundred and fifty-one Republicans voted “aye”. Fifty-five other Democrats, including a number of the most progressive Members, and nineteen Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the House passed a resolution encouraging Hungary to respect the rule of law, treat foreign investors fairly, and promote a free and independent press.