The House Intelligence Committee, meeting in closed session, Thursday rejected President Reagan's latest request for $28 million in aid to Nicaraguan rebels in fiscal 1986.
Even as the committee acted, House Republicans pursued other legislative routes to try to circumvent the Democratic leadership's opposition to the controversial aid. House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) spent the day individually wooing moderate Democrats he hopes will vote for another measure, soon to be offered, that would provide more than $40 million to the contras in fiscal 1985 and 1986.
The Democratic-controlled intelligence panel voted 10 to 6 along party lines in defeating an Administration proposal to provide $28 million in humanitarian aid to the rebels, according to Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), who attended the session. The proposal was offered by Rep. Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.).
2 Amendments Rejected
By the same margin, Hyde said, the committee rejected a similar proposal by Rep. Bob Stump (R-Ariz.) to provide direct military aid to the contras . Both the Cheney and Stump proposals were offered as amendments to a measure authorizing funds for U.S. intelligence agencies in fiscal 1986.
In addition, the committee rejected an attempt by Hyde to eliminate in fiscal 1986 the current statutory ban on the expenditure of U.S. funds for military or paramilitary purposes in Nicaragua. Hyde said he argued in the committee that it was "unwise, imprudent and stupid" for Congress to tie the President's hands with this provision.
The Intelligence Committee bill states in language similar to the current statute that "no entity of the U.S. government involved in intelligence" can spend money "which would have the effect of support, directly or indirectly, for military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization, movement or individual."
Just Another Skirmish
The committee's action was not viewed by Republicans as a decisive setback, although it represented the first legislative skirmish on the contra aid issue since the full House two weeks ago rejected Reagan's request for $14 million in aid in the current fiscal year.
Leaders on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that sentiment has shifted in the House during the last two weeks, and many moderate Democrats who voted against the aid then have said they are more willing to back it now.
Meanwhile, Michel was involved in what one aide described as "marathon" one-on-one meetings with moderate Democrats who have expressed interest in his proposal to supply humanitarian aid to the contras over two fiscal years. Michel was said to be willing to fashion his measure to suit these Democrats.
In exchange for their support, Michel has offered to include in his bill a prohibition against the use of contra aid for military purposes. Sources said it is not yet decided whether the bill would funnel the money through the CIA--as the President has requested--or some other government agency.