The Clinton administration is warning that Congress' failure to help replenish the International Monetary Fund only will add to the world's financial jitters.
"We cannot lead without resources," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said.Despite her last-minute appeal, the House on Thursday snubbed President Clinton's request for an $18 billion line of credit to help the IMF make new loans after its accounts were badly strained by the economic crises in Asia and Russia.
Instead, the House earmarked only about $3.5 billion in new credit for the IMF as part of a major foreign aid bill it then passed late Thursday 255-161.
Because the measure also contains anti-abortion language and cuts other cherished administration international programs, it already had faced a veto threat - one Albright renewed.
Clinton's last and only hope of getting the full $18 billion for the IMF lies with a House-Senate conference committee that will craft a final version of the foreign aid bill. The Senate-passed version includes the full amount.
House GOP leaders left open that possibility but said they would insist that the money be tempered by conditions designed to overhaul IMF lending practices.
"There is not going to be any money appropriated by this House until serious reforms have passed," said Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Ala., chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.
Despite a Democratic outcry, the Republican leadership did not even permit a House vote on the full amount.
"We cannot wait any longer" on giving the IMF the funds it needs to try to stabilize collapsing currencies, said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. "Our position in the world economy is going to become a lot shakier than it is today."
Albright had similar words.
With the nation looking to Washington to calm "a jittery world economy, it is, frankly, hard for me to understand why the leadership of the House of Representatives - the people's house - would fail to support IMF funding to the utmost," she said in a speech to a foreign policy organization.