Benn Steil and Dinah Walker have a baffling post up on the Council on Foreign Relations website, calling out Treasury Secretary Lew for making the factual statement that congressional passage of IMF quota reform “would support the fund’s capacity to lend additional resources to Ukraine.”
Steil and Walker make a leap from this quote to suggest that Lew is raising doubts about the IMF’s basic ability to support Ukraine. They seem to be reacting to statements or assertions other than the one they actually quote in their piece.
Even more baffling is this statement from the authors: “We wholeheartedly back the IMF reform the administration seeks, but it is neither necessary nor desirable for Lew to ratchet up this fight with Congress now.”
The IMF quota agreement was struck in 2010. Yet, according to Steil and Walker, March 2014 is too soon for the administration to press Congress for action.
With supporters like these, who needs detractors?
Entirely missing from the CFR blog post is any acknowledgment of the costs of congressional inaction. The full quote from Secretary Lew actually reads: “We are working with Congress to approve the 2010 IMF quota legislation, which would support the IMF's capacity to lend additional resources to Ukraine, while also helping to preserve continued U.S. leadership within this important institution.”
I emphasize the last phrase because it’s the basis for my recent post in The Hill, where I suggest that failure to pass quota reform is actively hurting the ability of the United States to lead within the IMF on Ukraine. It’s not just about the money. There are critical issues of content and timing when it comes to the fund’s Ukraine program. Congress no doubt expects the administration to play an aggressive role on these very issues. If so, then Congress should act now to restore the United States’ leadership position in the IMF.