WHY YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS ALERT: We need your support for one final Jubilee Year push to get Congress to approve full funding for poor country debt relief. (This is an update of the Action Alert dated September 11, 2000.)
BACKGROUND: The House 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).
There is much still to be accomplished, however. 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, however, because Congress is anxious to adjourn by mid-October (the session could last longer), it is likely that the normal processes will be curtailed, with the final contents of the ForOps bill, including the debt relief appropriation, decided in end-of-session negotiations between the Administration and the Congressional leadership.
In addition to appropriating money for debt relief, a major issue that will come up in these negotiations is the Administration's proposal to authorize the International Monetary Fund to use some of its income to finance debt relief. (This is income earned on the investment of profits from gold sales authorized by the Congress last year.) A few key members of Congress believe that such authorization should only be given if certain changes are made in the way the IMF does business (such as shortening the repayment period of IMF loans). This authorization requires no appropriation of funds because it is the IMF's own money; authorization is essential to avoid major delays in IMF debt relief. Moreover, agreement on the requested $435 million appropriation may be held hostage to resolution of the IMF issue. We must do our best to make sure this does not happen!
If you have not already contacted your Congressional representatives in the last month in response to our most recent Action Alerts, 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,
- authorization of the IMF to use all earnings from the investment of profits of previously authorized off-market gold sales for debt relief, and
- delinking the IMF authorization and the appropriation of $435 million, from IMF reforms.
(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)
Congress will shortly 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 many of 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.
I urge you also to support authorizing the IMF to use for debt relief all its earnings from the investment of profits from previously authorized off-market gold sales.
I understand that some key members of Congress wish to make the IMF authorization and possibly also the appropriation of $435 million subject to Administration commitments to seek certain changes in IMF policies. I urge that the issue of IMF reforms be delinked from debt relief funding. It would be tragic if the effort to resolve complex issues about the policies of the IMF became a cause for delay in the granting of debt relief for the poorest of the poor.
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.
More information: Gerry Flood or Joan Rosenhauer, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, (202) 541-3199, www.USCCB.org/sdwp/international, or Kathy Brown, Catholic Relief Services, (410) 625-2220