Legislating International Organization: The US Congress, the IMF, and the World Bank

By Kathryn C. Lavelle | Go to book overview

1
Congressional Advocacy Toward International
Organizations

He [McNamara] did not like people who made speeches that were
going to cause trouble with Congress, because getting either
replenishments or what have you through Congress was a continual
topic. From the day that I arrived in the Bank until the day I left,
there was never a period while Congress was in session without some
Bank legislation in committee, on the floor, et cetera. We were always
living under the scrutiny of Congress.

—William Clark, Vice President for External Relations,
The World Bank1

The American Congress is a domestic political institution. Yet the checks and balances among the branches of the United States government ensure that it plays a role in world politics, both as an actor that provides funds and as a forum where a range of interests assemble, deliberate, and influence policy across a range of global issues. The international role of Congress is not always apparent. In classic accounts of the history of multilateralism, its geographic orientation and nationalist politics have appeared to pose obstacles to multilateral cooperation, particularly when members disagree with various aspects of the operations of international organizations (IOs). Yet despite problems in the relationship between the legislature and IOs, individual members of Congress have also championed multilateralism. Moreover, the legislature has eventually provided the bulk of the material resources necessary to finance executive branch commitments for multilateral activities.

The field of international relations understands the multilateral form to coordinate behaviors among three or more states on the basis of generalized principles of conduct, rather than exclusively through private banks or bilateral treaties.2 The creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank at Bretton Woods was thus a watershed for the multilateral form in the area of money and credit, because these IOs form the core formal structure for international economic relations in the postwar world system. The multilateral form, however, sits awkwardly among the three branches of

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