WASHINGTON - International development bank funding may be in jeopardy because of the new GOP majority in Congress, warn two key members - a Republican and a Democrat - of the House Banking Committee.
Speaking before the annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., warned that the current atmosphere of budget cutting on Capitol Hill could target appropriations to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
"I don't remember a lot of mention of international banking or monetary policy involved in (the GOP 'Contract with America')," said Rep. Castle, who chairs the House Banking subcommittee on domestic and international monetary policy.
He added that if the subject was mentioned, "I can guarantee that it was part of the budget reductions that Republicans are talking about in the course of this next year."
From the other side of the aisle, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said that though contributions to lawmakers may be helping to raise awareness of international finance issues, crucial constituent support for multilateral development banks is dismal.
"There will come a point when support in this country as a whole will be so low for these things that no parliamentary master worker will be able to overcome it," the Massachusetts Democrat said.
Rep. Frank also admonished audience members for voting to place Republicans in the majority, since Democrats have traditionally taken the lead on international finance issues.
"The Democratic members, who are now in the minority, are not on the whole open to the argument that it is our responsibility to rescue people who voted for the Republicans from the consequences of the Republicans' actions," Rep. Frank said.
International finance funding may be in danger simply because the complexity of the issues involved make it unpopular among lawmakers, noted Rep. Castle.
"The bottom line is that this is a (sub)committee that people do not exactly want to serve on," Rep. Castle said the panel he chairs. He said that he was tapped to chair the panel "as a matter of seniority. Nobody else wanted it, it came down to this subcommittee, and I became the one who became the head of it.
"That's essentially what you're dealing with in the Congress of the United States," he said.
The Bretton Woods Committee is a nonprofit organization consisting of principals of various corporations involved in international development issues. It is named for the conference in Bretton Woods, N.H., at which the World Bank and the IMF were created.