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Status of U.S. Holocaust Assets Commission Act

H.R. 3662/S. 1900 P.L. 105-186, U.S. Holocaust Assets Commission Act of 1998

Summary. The 105th Congress enacted Public Law 105-186 to create and establish the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. The commission is required to study, and develop an historical record of, the disposition of specified assets of Holocaust victims, survivors, and heirs that are in the possession or control of the U.S. government.

Status. Introduced by Sen. D’Amato on April 1, 1998, and referred to the Banking Committee. On May 1, 1998, it passed the Senate, amended. On June 9, the House struck all after the enacting clause and inserted in lieu thereof the provisions of a similar measure, H.R.3662, which passed the House, amended. The following day, on June 10, the Senate agreed to the House amendments by unanimous consent. President Clinton signed the bill as Public Law 105-186 on June 23, 1998.

Analysis. As enacted, P.L. 105-186 creates the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States, to be composed of 21 members. Of this total, the President appoints eight members from the private sector, and four members, each representing the Departments of State, Justice, Treasury, and the U.S. Army. The Chairperson of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council is also a member of the commission. In addition, four congressional Members are to be appointed to the commission from the House and four congressional Members from the Senate.

The commission is mandated to “conduct a thorough study and develop a historical record” of any assets obtained from Holocaust victims that may be in the possession of the U.S. government. These assets could include gold bullion or money in the possession of a Federal Reserve bank, gems and jewelry, U.S. bank accounts, insurance policies, U.S. real estate, art works, manuscripts, and religious objects. In carrying out its statutory mandate, the commission is authorized to hold public hearings, obtain information from federal agencies, use franked mail, and accept gifts or donations of services or property. The commission is authorized to receive appropriations totaling $3.5 million for FY 1998 through 2000.

No later than December 31, 1999, the commission is required to submit a final report to the President with any final legislative or administrative recommendations as it deems appropriate. After receiving the final report, the President shall submit to Congress his recommendations for further legislative or administrative action to implement the commission’s final report. The commission terminates 90 days after submission of its final report.

In late 1999, Congress acted to extend the term of the Holocaust Assets Commission, and the date by which its final report is due, through December 31, 2000. H.R. 2401, the U.S. Holocaust Assets Commission Extension Act of 1999, was passed by the House on October 4, 1999 and by the Senate on November 19, 1999 and is expected to be signed into law by the president.

*Prepared by Stephanie Smith, Specialist in American National Government, Government and Finance Division.

Source: Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress for the U.S. House International Relations Committee.