Congressman Edward Royce's amendment 195 on Eritrea received considerable support but was defeated in the House. Voting records shows that most democrats opposed the amendment while the majority of Republican supported it. 245 Members of the House (238 democrats and six republicans plus one independent) voted against the amendment while 183 Members (169 Republicans and 14 Democrats) voted in favor. Eleven Members (8 democrats and three republicans) did not vote!
Although Congress failed to pass the amendment Eritrea being considered for such designation is in itself a step forward. The tiny country is ruled by the one-man regime of President Isaias Afeworki. Eritrea today is the only country that does not have a constitution or a ruling party to speak off. There are no private media in the country and believers are persecuted daily.
The US interest in the horn of Africa region is undermined by President Isaias regime support for Al-Shabab and the US State dept has been contemplating designating Eritrea as a terrorist sponsoring state. The Bush administration warned Eritrea to cease its anti peace activities in Somalia and elsewhere in the region. The Obama administration has been trying to talk Eritrea to play constructive role and come out of its isolation. The current overwhelming rejection of the amendment by Democrats may have to do with the white house go slow approach.
The African Union (AU) and regional organizations like IGAD and Ethiopia have asked the the UN to sanction Eritrea for it destabilization act in Somalia. Ethiopia as well as the AU would have liked for the US congress to have passed the amendment. The UN has yet to consider the AU request.