GOP To Delay IMF Vote
The White House and House leaders do not see eye to eye on IMF funding
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 24) -- Top congressional Republicans are going to delay votes on President Clinton's request for aid to the International Monetary Fund and its Asian bailout effort, throwing the money's fate into question.
House and Senate GOP leaders made the decision Thursday in hopes of speeding to Clinton next week the billions he wants for states pummeled by last winter's storms and floods and for U.S. troops in Bosnia and the Persian Gulf. Those emergency funds are extremely popular, and Republicans want to avoid election-year accusations from Democrats that the money is bogged down in Congress.
The more controversial $17.9 billion for the IMF is opposed by some conservatives and labor-backed Democrats. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said a House vote on the IMF money would occur "this year."
Though the IMF funds were included in a Senate-approved
emergency measure last month, they were omitted by the House from its version. Conservatives there have vowed to block the IMF funds unless Clinton agrees to prohibit U.S. aid to groups that lobby for liberalized abortion laws overseas.
In the House's first test vote this year on IMF sentiment, the chamber voted 222-186 to kill non-binding language by Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., urging that the IMF money be put back into the emergency bill. The vote was mostly party line, even though many Republicans were under pressure to support the IMF funds from farm and business interests eager to see an Asian rebound.
Tough talk about the IMF
Gingrich told the House the IMF was "out of touch with
reality," urging nations in financial trouble to raise taxes at the wrong times.
He demanded to know why IMF employees "don't pay taxes in
the U.S.," and said Washington could not trust in its policy
recommendations. Gingrich said many economists believed the IMF was in part to blame for the financial crisis gripping Asia.
"Could it be possible that their bureaucrats don't have a
clue about how the modern, instantaneous, real-time, worldwide money-markets work?" Gingrich said.
Gingrich criticized lawmakers who
support the IMF, but had opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and so-called fast-track trade negotiation authority for President Clinton.
"I have people who come to this floor, who claim they
represent the workers, who say they are for an international
bank institution that is totally secret, that is run by a
bureaucrat whose major policy is to raise taxes on workers in
the Third World to pay off New York banks," Gingrich said.
"Now that doesn't sound like populism to me."
"A blind race horse running the wrong way and dragging
taxpayers with them," is how House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, described the IMF. He said the international lending agency gives funds to countries that practice "the worst kinds of failed crony capitalism."
"We all may be sorry if this bill doesn't contain the money the IMF needs," warned House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. "This is an important moment. Nobody will like a world in free-fall."
GOP leaders seek compromise
The House has approved $2.9 billion for U.S. troops in Bosnia
and the Persian Gulf and for recovery efforts from floods, ice damage and other damage caused by this winter's El Nino weather. The Senate version had a disaster and military price tag exceeding $5 billion, plus the IMF funds.
Last year, Clinton inflicted political damage on Republicans by accusing them of delaying a relief bill for Midwestern flood victims by putting unrelated provisions into it.
GOP leaders are eager to avoid a repeat of that. They want
House-Senate bargainers to craft a compromise bill -- without the IMF funds -- and move it through Congress by next Friday, when Defense Department officials say they will have to start drawing money from other parts of their budget.
In another compromise, GOP House-Senate leaders agreed that only the disaster portion of the final bill would be paid for with cuts in other programs. The Senate measure included no spending cuts and would have been paid for by the expected budget surplus; the House version had cuts paying for the disaster and military spending.
Last month, administration officials and congressional Democrats hinted that Clinton would veto the measure if it included spending cuts.