Hill Deal to Provide Debt Relief Overseas
Hill, Patrice, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
White House and congressional negotiators yesterday agreed to provide a big down payment toward forgiving some $90 billion of the debts of the world's poorest countries.
Proponents of the debt relief say House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to provide the full $435 million requested by the Clinton administration to fund the United States' share of the debt relief. The money is included in a foreign aid bill pending in Congress.
The reported agreement is twice as much as the House originally budgeted for debt relief, and nearly six times more than the Senate appropriated. Proponents say momentum for the funding picked up noticeably in Congress after Texas Gov. George W. Bush strongly endorsed the idea of debt relief in a debate last week.
The Republican presidential nominee, who said debt relief is one of the best ways to provide aid to foreign countries, "got the Republican leadership's attention," said Thomas Hart, lobbyist for the Episcopal Church and a member of the ecumenical Jubilee 2000 movement that has been pushing for the debt relief.
The debt-relief measure is backed by a broad and eclectic group of religious, social and political figures, from the pope to the Rev. Pat Robertson. They argue that the forgiveness is needed to give poor countries in Africa and Latin America a fresh start at the beginning of the new millennium.
The debt relief measure has attracted a diverse following in Congress, from staunch conservatives like Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, to die-hard liberals like Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat.
"Having Governor Bush endorse this gives it all the political momentum it needs," said Mr. Hart.
The funding measure cleared one final obstacle yesterday when negotiators agreed to a demand by Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Gramm that countries receiving the debt relief disclose where the money is spent.
The Texas Republican wanted several other stringent conditions on the debt relief as well, in exchange for Congress providing authorization to the International Monetary Fund to use its gold reserves to pay for the IMF's share of the debt relief. …