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Robert Naiman

Robert Naiman

Posted: June 12, 2009 08:28 PM

Jane Hamsher's Call to Action Against the War/IMF Supplemental


Can Jane Hamsher's internet army teach Rahm Emmanuel and Timothy Geithner a lesson about accepting the input of progressive Democrats? That would be change I could believe in. Here she makes the case against progressive Democrats caving in to leadership pressure that they vote for the War/IMF Supplemental:

Here's the lesson I want Rahm Emmanuel and Timothy Geithner to learn. To paraphrase another President from Illinois: you can piss on all of the progressive Democrats some of the time, and some of the progressive Democrats all of the time, but you cannot piss on all of the progressive Democrats, all of the time.

What makes the present situation particularly outrageous is this: the White House and the House leadership now want progressive Democrats in the House to abandon their constituents, their commitments, and their principles and vote for the War/IMF supplemental. But when progressive Democrats tried to have input into the process earlier, they were locked out by the leadership, on orders from the White House and Treasury.

Representative Jim McGovern tried to introduce an amendment on the war supplemental requiring the Pentagon to submit to Congress an exit strategy from Afghanistan. But McGovern's amendment was not even allowed to be considered. As a freestanding bill [H.R.2404], McGovern's amendment has 85 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.

Representative Maxine Waters and forty other Democrats presented a package of commonsense reforms to U.S. policy at the International Monetary Fund. But they were not allowed by the House leadership to offer any amendments - that was the whole point of sneaking $108 billion for the IMF into the Senate version of the supplemental - to evade normal legislative process in the House.

On Thursday, House-Senate conferees made their deal on the war supplemental. They agreed to include Treasury's request for $108 billion dollars for the International Monetary Fund, the bulk of which will almost certainly be used for full bail-outs of European banks from their risky bets in Eastern Europe.

But in the conference report, the House-Senate conferees did not agree to any of the four demands for IMF reform put forward by 41 House Democrats, led by Representative Maxine Waters.

On June 3, 40 other Democrats joined Waters in sending a letter to the House appropriators, asking for IMF reform language to be included in any IMF appropriation.

Specifically, the 41 Democrats asked for:

- language to ensure that the funds allocated by Congress for global stimulus are used for stimulatory, and not contractionary, purposes. [That is, the money should not be used as leverage to demand austerity policies such as government budget cuts and high interest rates.]
- language requiring the U.S. Executive Director to the IMF to ensure that some of the revenue from the planned gold sales and/or other sources of income will be used to provide at least $5 billion in non-debt-creating assistance to the world's poorest countries - either via debt relief or grants.
- language requiring the U.S. Executive Director to the IMF to ensure parliamentary approval of all IMF loans. [So that IMF agreements can't be used to undermine democratic process in recipient countries.]
- language to ensure greater transparency and public availability of documents within a reasonable time period. [So that people can see what government officials - from developed as well as developing countries - are doing in IMF board meetings and in negotiating agreements mandating changes to government policy in recipient countries.]

A summary of the conference report is here. The full conference report is here.

Here's what the summary says about the IMF:

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

1. To enable the IMF to respond to grave threats to the stability of the international monetary system, particularly in developing countries severely impacted by the financial crisis, the bill provides an increase in the U.S. quota in the IMF of roughly 5 billion in Special Drawing Rights valued at about $8 billion. The bill also provides for loans to the IMF, as requested, to enable the U.S. to increase its share of the New Arrangements to Borrow, which establishes a set of credit lines extended to the IMF, from approximately $10 billion (6.6 billion in SDRs) to the equivalent of $100 billion.

2. The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to agree to the sale of nearly 13 million ounces of IMF gold which will finance an endowment the return on which will fund a portion of IMF administrative expenses and expand the IMF's investment authority. A portion of the sale of gold (at least $4 billion) would also be used to address the short-term financing needs of low-income countries.

As you can see, there is no mention in the summary of policy reforms on ensuring that IMF funds go for stimulus rather than economic contraction, no mention of transparency, no mention of parliamentary approval. [There's no mention of these issues in the full conference report either - the IMF part starts on page 142.] Regarding low-income countries, the summary refers to "short-term financing," implying loans that would add to poor country debt, rather than debt relief and grants, as 41 Democrats called for in their June 3 letter. Moreover, even this figure is $4 billion, 20% less than called for in the June 3 letter.

Thus, the demands 41 Democrats made on June 3 regarding the IMF appropriation have been ignored. If these Democrats want to be taken seriously by Treasury about IMF reform, they should vote no on the war supplemental with the IMF funding included. If they vote yes, they're communicating to the U.S. Treasury Department that they're not willing to fight for their demands. And that would validate Treasury's longstanding view that it can safely ignore progressive Democrats in Congress regarding U.S. policy at the IMF and the World Bank.

If progressive Democrats vote no, and the IMF funding is defeated, then Treasury will have to go through normal Congressional process to get the money. And that would mean that the criticisms of the 41 Democrats would get a full airing, and they would have an opportunity to try to amend the legislation.

Twenty-two of these 41 Democrats voted no on the war supplemental in May. Here's what we know about their positions now, thanks to FireDogLake:

Tammy Baldwin: expected to vote no again.
Yvette Clarke: expected to vote no again.
John Conyers: expected to vote no again.
Donna Edwards: expected to vote no again.
Keith Ellison: current position uncertain.
Sam Farr: expected to vote no again.
Bob Filner: certain to vote no again; signed a Dear Colleague letter with Dennis Kucinich against IMF funding in the supplemental.
Alan Grayson: expected to vote no again.
Raul Grijalva: expected to vote no again.
Luis Gutierrez: expected to vote no again.
Michael Honda: current position uncertain.
Jay Inslee: expected to vote no again.
Dennis Kucinich: certain to vote no again; signed letters against war funding and IMF funding in the supplemental.
Barbara Lee: expected to vote no again.
John Lewis: expected to vote no again.
James McGovern: certain to vote no again; told the Wall Street Journal he was voting no.
Donald Payne: current position uncertain.
Jan Schakowsky: current position uncertain.
Maxine Waters: expected to vote no again.
Diane Watson: expected to vote no again.
Mel Watt: current position uncertain.
Lynn Woolsey: certain to vote no again; signed a letter with Kucinich against the war funding.

To summarize: Keith Ellison, Michael Honda, Donald Payne, Jan Schakowsky, and Mel Watt voted no on the war supplemental in May, and then signed a letter saying that money for the IMF should have IMF reforms attached. But with the House now scheduled to vote early next week on the same war supplemental with money for an unreformed IMF, they have yet to state that they will vote no. If you would like to ask them where they stand, you can use FDL's "Citizen Whip Tool."

Eighteen of the 41 Democrats who wrote against funding an unreformed IMF voted for the war supplemental in May (one of the 41 was a non-voting Member.) Here's what we know about their positions now:

Robert Brady: expected to vote yes.
Corinne Brown: current position uncertain.
Andre Carson: current position uncertain.
Danny Davis: current position uncertain.
Chaka Fattah: current position uncertain.
Marcia Fudge: expected to vote yes.
Charles Gonzalez: current position uncertain.
Al Green: current position uncertain.
Phil Hare: current position uncertain.
Alcee Hastings: expected to vote yes.
Maurice Hinchey: current position uncertain.
Jesse Jackson: expected to vote yes.
Sheila Jackson-Lee: expected to vote yes.
Carolyn Maloney: current position uncertain.
Gwen Moore: current position uncertain.
Charles Rangel: current position uncertain.
Laura Richardson: current position uncertain.
Robert Scott: current position uncertain.

Disturbingly, not one of this second group of Members, who wrote in opposition to IMF funding without reform, has yet to say that they will back up that position with their vote. If you want to ask them about it, you can do so here. If you'd like to write a letter to your local newspaper against the War/IMF Supplemental, you can do that here.