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Obama seeks authority for IMF voting reforms

The Obama administration has asked Congress for authority to implement historic voting reforms in the International Monetary Fund that boost the influence of emerging economies like China in the global financial institution, sources said on Tuesday.

But the plan faces an uphill battle for passage in a tense US budget environment marked by the launch of USD 85 billion in automatic spending cuts on Friday that hit both the US military and domestic programs hard.

The Treasury Department submitted the request as a provision to be inserted into pending legislation to keep the US government funded through September 30 this year, congressional aides said. The Treasury sought authority to shift USD 65 billion in US funding from an IMF crisis fund into US quotas, which determine voting power in the Fund.

The United States is the IMF’s largest member country and has veto power over decisions. The vote reforms were approved by the IMF in 2010, making China the third-largest voting member in the Fund and revamping the IMF’s board to reduce Western Europe’s dominance.

The US request would not require any new funds to be appropriated by Congress because it simply shifts money from one IMF account within the US budget to another, a Senate Democratic aide said.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already rejected the request to include it in legislation scheduled for a vote on Tuesday that would avoid a March 27 government shutdown. A House Republican aide said House Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers chose to limit such so-called “anomalies” for targeted adjustments to the funding extension bill.

No decision has been made yet by Democrats, who control the Senate, on whether to include the IMF request in the Senate version of the funding bill, expected to be introduced later this month. Approval by the Senate would give it a good chance to be included into the final bill after the two chambers work out differences.

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