WHY YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS ALERT: Congress has reconvened following the August recess to wrap up its work for the 106th Congress. The remainder of the second session will last at most 4 to 6 weeks -- to enable members to get home for the election campaign. We need your support for one final Jubilee Year push to get Congress to approve full funding for poor country debt relief.
BACKGROUND: In our most recent (July 2000) Action Alert, we advised that the House of Representatives had passed by a vote of 216-211 an amendment to the FY2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations (ForOps) bill increasing funding for poor country debt relief by more than 300% --from $69 million to $225 million! This major, unexpected victory was achieved when 26 Republicans crossed over to provide crucial support for the amendment offered by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).
We also advised that there is much still to be accomplished. The Senate has approved only $75 million, and no action has been taken so far to reconcile differences between the two chambers. Moreover, even if Congress decides to accept the $225 million approved by the House, it would fall far short of the $435 million necessary to fulfill the United States commitment through next year to the debt relief program approved in 1999 by the major creditor nations at the economic summit in Cologne, Germany. The President has already indicated that he is likely to veto the ForOps bill and to cite inadequate debt relief funding as one of the principal reasons.
As of this writing, we do not know exactly how Congress will proceed. The ForOps bill may be sent to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences, or, to save time in the face of a likely Presidential veto, this step may be by-passed by incorporating the bill into an omnibus bill covering all unfinished appropriations matters. Either way, the final contents of the ForOps bill, including the debt relief appropriation, will likely be decided in end-of-session negotiations between the President and the Congressional leadership.
A major concern is that there is a host of issues which the Congress and Administration will be working to resolve quickly in this short session. Full funding for debt relief could get buried under the weight of issues considered more important politically. We must do our best to make sure this does not happen!
If you have not already contacted your Congressional representatives in August in response to our most recent Action Alert, we ask you to:
ACTION: Contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support appropriation of $435 million for poor country debt relief in the FY 2001 budget.
While it would be helpful if as many members as possible were contacted, to show the strength of the support for debt relief funding, it is particularly important to contact the following target list of the Congressional leadership and others who may be involved in the final decision-making process:
(A Senator shown as "supporter" is known to support substantial debt relief funding although has not committed to $435 million in FY2001. These Senators and the Representatives listed as "voted for Waters amend." should first be thanked for their support for relieving the crushing debt burden on millions of the world's poor and then urged to push for full funding of $435 million.)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Connie Mack (R-FL) (supporter)
Phil Gramm (R-TX)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Richard Lugar (R-IN) (supporter)
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) (supporter)
Chuck Hagel (R-NE) (supporter)
Rod Grams (R-MN) (supporter)
Thomas Daschle (D-SD) (supporter)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (supporter)
Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) (supporter)
Joseph Biden (D-DE) (supporter)
Christopher Dodd (D-CT) (supporter)
Dennis Hastert (R-IL)
Richard Armey (R-TX)
Tom DeLay (R-TX)
Sonny Callahan (R-AL)
Spencer Bachus (R-AL) (voted for Waters amend.)
John Kasich (R-OH) (voted for Waters amend.)
James Leach (R-IA) (voted for Waters amend.)
Richard Gephardt (D-MO) (voted for Waters amend.)
David Bonior (D-MI) (voted for Waters amend.)
David Obey (D-WI) (voted for Waters amend.)
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (voted for Waters amend.)
The following is a sample letter you may wish to send to (or use in substance if you are telephoning) your representatives in Congress:
Dear (Senator or Representative) ___________________ ,
(Thank them for their past support, as applicable)
In the next few weeks, Congress will decide whether the United States will do its fair share to relieve the crushing debt burden of many of the world's poorest countries. It is the millions of poor children in these countries who suffer the most when excessive debt payments drain resources from essential investments in education, medical care and other basic services.
Last year, the United States joined with other industrial nations in a commitment to relieve the debt of many poor countries. It will take just $435 million to fulfill our obligation for the next two years. While this sounds like a lot to the average person, it is just three-hundredths of 1% of the federal budget. And it will make a huge difference for the most desperate children and families around the world.
As Congress and the Administration complete the FY 2001 appropriations process, I urge you to support appropriation of $435 million for poor country debt relief.
Thank you for all you do to represent our district/state. I would be very interested in learning about your position on this issue and ask that you send me a response explaining your position. I will look forward to hearing from you.
For more information, contact: Gerry Flood or Joan Rosenhauer, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, (202) 541-3199 or Kathy Brown, Catholic Relief Services, (410) 625-2220.