In interviews, Republicans and Democrats alike, so often at odds over foreign and domestic issues, were of one accord, saying poor nations had no chance of moving forward without debt relief.
Where there was criticism, it focused on international lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which made some of the loans, for failing to make sure that the debtor nations could repay them or that they used the money properly.
"I've been skeptical of debt relief for a long time," said Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.). "That's because I refuse to dignify the actions of corrupt dictators who steal from their people. However, nations faced with terrible famine and disaster and nations enacting reforms and making progress need help."
Rep. H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) said the debts should be written off, but only with existing funds of international lending agencies, not additional money from the U.S. government.
"The debt owed by poor nations to international financial institutions can and should be written off immediately," Saxton said. "The IMF and other international lending entities should simply cancel 100 percent of the worthless debt owed by poor countries. Their loans are based on mistaken policies that now have been discredited."
The Live 8 concerts are aimed at pressuring leaders of the G-8, eight of the world's leading industrialized nations, to cancel $40 billion in debt owed by poor countries. But well before the first note is played, organizers will have made strides toward their goal. Last week, finance ministers of the G-8 nations meeting in London agreed to cancel $40 billion in debt of 18 of the world's poorest countries, most of them in Africa.
Leaders of those G-8 nations, including President Bush, are expected to act on that recommendation when they meet next month in Gleneagles, Scotland.
Beginning in the 1990s, developed nations have canceled tens of billions of dollars in bad debt from developing countries. Some loans were made in the 1980s based on prices for commodities such as coffee and sugar that later collapsed, severely hampering the debtor nations' ability to repay them.
The sense among many political leaders is that the loans were ill-advised and hamper efforts by many nations to advance. Some lawmakers want to go further than the debt-relief agreement.
Reps. Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.) and Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) said that governments of the world's wealthiest nation's should also boost aid, an idea that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been pushing.
"I support the Blair initiative on aid," Fattah said. "There is more that needs to be done than debt relief."
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), while supporting the debt-relief decision, said the Bush administration must substantially increase aid to African countries.
"I am hopeful that President Bush will catch on to the growing international sentiment that the richest nations in the world need to respond to the crisis in Africa," Lautenberg said.
The Bush administration has tripled official U.S. development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa in the last four years, to about $3.2 billion last year, and the President has said that it will do more, including funds pledged for AIDS relief.
The debt-relief agreement will help poor countries improve health care and education and develop badly needed water systems, said Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
"These massive debt burdens prevent governments from meeting critical public needs," Schwartz said.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) said aid to Africa should go beyond debt relief to include health programs and efforts to head off fratricidal conflicts that result in the slaughter of millions.
"There really needs to be a comprehensive program on Africa on basic issues beyond economic development," he said.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) said he favored not only the debt-relief package agreed to by the United States and other G-8 nations but also a boost in aid to African countries.
Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) said Africa's problems were bearing directly on the United States' national security interests. "The problems of Africa - instability, HIV/AIDS and famine - affect the national security, economy and health of the United States as well as our allies," he said.
Said Sen. Jon Corzine (D., N.J.): "Prime Minister Blair is right - the world's richest nations can afford to bring Africa out of poverty."
Contact staff writer Chris Mondics at 202-383-6024 or firstname.lastname@example.org.