Clinton Calls Mexico-Rescue Plan Critical to U.S.
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton tried to stem the growing criticism of his proposed financial rescue package for Mexico Wednesday, calling the $40 billion in loan guarantees critical not only to Mexico but to prosperity in the United States.
The president challenged critics who have labeled the guarantees a huge bailout for a foreign country at the expense of American taxpayers.
``These guarantees, it is important to note, are not foreign aid. They are not a bailout. They are not a gift,″ Clinton told business executives assembled at the Treasury Department.
``This is the equivalent of cosigning a note,″ the president said. He asserted that the crisis in Mexico was ``plainly a danger to the economic future″ of the United States because Mexico and other developing nations have become important markets for American exports.
The president’s remarks were meant to counteract a growing chorus of criticism and questions about the rescue package, which was put together a week ago in an effort to halt a disastrous slide in the value of the peso.
John Boidock, a vice president at Texas Instruments, said following Clinton’s remarks that ``the business community will be lobbying for passage.″
The administration had hoped for quick congressional action to reassure jittery financial markets. To that end, it lined up the support last week of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole.
Despite that backing, the White House has found itself on the defensive. Liberal Democrats have demanded conditions on the loan guarantees in the form of greater worker rights in Mexico, while conservatives have called for the package to be defeated as an unnecessary bailout for wealthy investors who gambled and lost when the peso was suddenly devalued.
The administration dispatched a battery of officials to Capitol Hill for a third day Wednesday. Vice President Al Gore, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who has played a highly visible role in promoting the package, all briefed the House Democratic caucus.
Gore expressed confidence the administration would wind up with enough bipartisan support to get the loan guarantees through Congress but other Democrats said that there had been a number of members in the meeting expressing reservations.
``Right now it seems to be weak,″ Rep. Kika de la Garza of Texas said of Democratic support.
``I detect some erosion on our side,″ said Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., who said the opposition was coming from the same groups that nearly defeated the North American Free Trade Agreement in the House 14 months ago.
Republicans have made clear in recent days they’ll demand full Democratic partnership to get the rescue package through Congress.
House Majority Leader Richard Armey told reporters he wanted to see 103 Democrats vote yes on the proposal _ a majority of their ranks. ``It’s their president,″ he said.
Several conservative Republicans, however, began a drive Wednesday in the opposite direction, circulating a letter asking Gingrich to drop his support. ``Our constituents are angry that this Clinton bailout of Mexico is nothing more than business as usual,″ the petition said. ``Bailing out a sovereign government is not a good idea.″
The petition started with 13 signers including Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who said many of his fellow first-termers believed the Mexican bailout was counter to the populist wave that swept them into office.
``This is not a part of the `Contract with America.′ This is an interference with the contract,″ Wamp said.
Other conservatives said that at the very least conditions should be placed on Mexico, including severing Mexico’s ties to Cuba’s communist government.
In the Senate, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he wanted assurances that the Mexican government will cooperate in stemming the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States _ as well as guarantees of collateral.
One option being explored by the administration would require customers of Mexico’s government-run oil company to make payments into a special account at the New York Federal Reserve to serve as collateral for the loan guarantees.