A small group of Republican House members complained Wednesday that President Clinton overstepped his authority in offering a $20 billion package of loans and loan guarantees to Mexico without first gaining congressional approval. But House leaders, including senior Republicans, could not be happier to be rid of the politically nettlesome issue.
Clinton, upbeat after first watching Congress tear apart the original proposal he eventually was forced to abandon, said he was encouraged by the initial response - the criticism notwithstanding.
“It was good for our country, it was good for our jobs, good for the stability of the region,” he said.
Clinton unveiled the revised program Tuesday. He cut in half the U.S. contribution, substituting a program the administration insists he can initiate on his own authority. He also gained international contributions that will bring the total package, intended to stabilize the devalued Mexican peso and put the Mexican economy on a sounder footing, to $49.8 billion.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich offered unusual praise for the president, saluting him for making “a very sobering, very hard decision.”
Referring to the reluctance of members of the House and Senate to go on record as favoring the original plan - while saying privately they recognized the need to take such action - Gingrich said: “I did not exactly see lots of members jumping up and down eager to vote yes and begging … to bring it up here.”
Gingrich, speaking with reporters, called for the creation of a commission, made up of border-state governors and others, to study the overall U.S.-Mexican relationship, including economic, diplomatic and immigration issues.
Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, meanwhile, said the U.S. action should not be seen as a precedent for the way the nation would approach similar circumstances in other emerging markets.
Mexico is unique, he said in a speech, in that it shares a 2,000-mile border with the United States, a huge trade relationship, and immigration problems. In addition, he said, “the spillover potential” stemming from a potential economic failure there “is unique to Mexico,” and would not necessarily be duplicated in other countries that might seek U.S. assistance.
Rubin and Secretary of State Warren Christopher canceled an appearance before the House International Relations Committee, angering committee members.
“They chose not to come up here because they didn’t want to face the heat,” said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.