Senate Democrats abandoned attempts today to pass a symbolic resolution that would have suspended military aid to the Nicaraguan contra rebels after they failed for the third time to kill a filibuster by pro-contra Republicans.
The Senate voted 54 to 46 to curb the filibuster, giving anti-contra forces a thin majority but leaving them six votes short of the 60 needed to bring up the resolution for action.
The resolution, approved by the House, would have suspended military aid to the contras until the Administration gave a "full accounting" of the money sent so far to the rebel forces in Nicaragua.
"Obviously, we are not going to get cloture," Senate Democratic leader Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia said, "so I don't think there's any point staying on this any longer."
"We've done our best . . . so we'll move on to other things," he said.
Byrd blamed the Administration, saying, "It's clear the Republicans are not going to let us get an accurate accounting of the money. . . . There needs to be an accounting. There is no accounting."
Byrd had pressed for the third vote so opponents of contra aid could muster a majority and send a signal to President Reagan that his proposal for $105 million in additional aid lacks support in the Senate and House.
The first two attempts to stop the filibuster failed 46 to 45 and 50 to 50.
Byrd and other opponents of contra aid want Reagan to pursue diplomacy to resolve the conflict with Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. But Reagan argues that no democratic reforms will result unless the Soviet-armed regime is under military pressure from the U.S.-backed rebels.
Byrd said he knew contra opponents had had no chance to enact the resolution to suspend assistance to the rebels for six months while the Administration accounted for all previous aid they have received--including any diverted from the covert sales of U.S. arms to Iran.
But as with another futile resolution last week--to repeal the final $40-million installment of $100 million that Congress approved for the contras last year--Byrd used the debate to reflect congressional divisions and doubts about Reagan's policy on Central America.
The rebels Reagan calls "freedom fighters" are expected to run out of money late this summer--and a veto won't even come into play if either the Senate or House musters a simple majority against Reagan's $105-million request for fiscal 1988.