- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2009

The Senate blocked a Republican bid to strip a $100 billion contribution to the International Monetary Fund from President Obama’s emergency war-spending bill, as the legislation moved toward passage late Thursday evening.

The amendment to axe the IMF donation - pledged by Mr. Obama at last month’s Group of 20 summit in London to help poor countries weather the global economic slowdown - failed in a 30-64 vote. Eleven Republicans joined 52 Democrats and one independent in opposing the amendment, while two Democrats and one independent sided with Republicans in support.

The House version of the bill, primarily intended to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not contain the IMF money.

The survival of the IMF funds provided a win for the White House after repeated setbacks to Mr. Obama’s push in the war bill for funds to close the terrorist detention camp at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Senate on Wednesday rejected $80 million requested in the $91.3 billion bill to shutter the facility, joining the House in demanding the administration present a plan for relocating about 240 detainees from the island before approving the funds.

The House last week passed its $97 billion version of the spending bill, also leaving out the money to shutter the detention camp. A final bill cannot go to the president until lawmakers reconcile the two versions of the legislation after they return from next week’s Memorial Day break.

The $100 billion line of credit for the IMF loan fund and the existing U.S. commitment of $8 billion for the fund included in the bill were scored by the Congressional Budget Office as a $5 billion item. The reduced expense is calculated based on interest-bearing assets being given by the fund to the U.S. government in exchange for the allocation.

But Republican critics fought to strip out the IMF money - requested by the Obama administration just last week - entirely.

“Enough is enough,” said Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the sponsor of the amendment. “This … is more than we spend on education every year, more than we spend on veterans’ benefits, more than we spend on transportation.”

He called it “reckless spending” and said the program, while well-intentioned, was run by an IMF board that includes hostile governments such as Iran.

The amendment was beat back by members of both parties, including Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, ranking Republican on the Budget Committee.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Gregg argued that the U.S. has never lost money on an IMF loan and that the cost would likely be less than the budget office’s $5 billion estimate.

“The fact is that if those emerging markets start to fade, not only do we lose the economic upside of those markets but we also run the risk that governments fail,” Mr. Kerry said.

The spending bill largely mirrored Mr. Obama’s funding request and was expected to pass easily, reflecting bipartisan support for the administration’s war strategy that includes sending 20,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

The bill cleared a procedural hurdle by a lopsided 94-1 vote, with antiwar Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin casting the lone vote against wrapping up debate and moving to a final vote.

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