The House Appropriations Committee yesterday restored $237 million in supplemental funds for the World Bank and other multilateral development banks, reversing a subcommittee vote earlier this month that had blocked the appropriations.
The vote in the full committee was 42 to 4, with all 19 Republicans present voting to restore the funds. Of 27 Democrats present, 23 voted for, and 4 against.
Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) had precipitated an unusual legislative situation by offering an amendment in the subcommittee canceling the $237 million in supplementals requested by the Reagan administration for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank, arguing that the multilateral development banks (MDBs) were not doing enough to support the private sector in the borrowing countries.
Yesterday's turnaround vote was welcome news to the agencies involved -- especially to the IADB, whose operations threatened to be curtailed severely -- and to the Reagan administration, which had moved hard to recover from an unexpected defeat in the subcommittee.
When Republicans on the Democratically controlled subcommittee supported the Kemp amendment instead of the administration request, Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) allowed the Kemp amendment to pass, insisting that the Democrats would not back the legislation unless a majority of Republicans supported their own administration.
After the mark-up yesterday, Obey said: "It's nice to have bipartisan support for these banks for a change, and I expect to have the same thing on the floor."
Obey warned that the same conditions for Democratic support that he outlined last week to Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III still apply: a majority of Republican votes on the House floor. "The floor vote is the one that counts," Obey said in an interview. "We haven't had a Republican majority on the House floor for more than 10 years on any regular foreign aid appropriation."
Baker had promised Obey a "full-court press" to get Republican support, but warned that he couldn't assure a majority of Republican votes. As it turned out, the administration did much better than that in the full committee. Cautiously, the Democrats at first passed to see how the Republicans would vote on the motion put by Rep. Silvio Conte (R-Mass.). When they all voted "aye," most of the Democrats joined them.
Kemp and other Republicans reversed their subcommittee position after Baker assured them that the administration will press the International Monetary Fund as well as the MDBs to give "special attention" to "private-sector-oriented growth."
A memorandum from Assistant Treasury Secretary David C. Mulford also revealed that the Reagan administration is working on a policy statement that will spell out how the United States intends to work within these lending organizations "to encourage privatization in member borrowing countries."
Republicans who have seen drafts of this statement think that, when published, it will help build conservative support for the $1.3 billion the administration has requested for the same institutions for fiscal 1986. This includes $750 million for the World Bank's International Development Association, which makes 50-year grants to the poorest countries.