WASHINGTON — House Republican leader Robert H. Michel warned President Reagan today that his request for renewed aid to Nicaraguan rebels is "dead in the water" without a change in U.S. policy.
Speaking to reporters after a 45-minute meeting between Reagan and GOP congressional leaders, Michel said he had spoken to some Democrats and sensed "a little adjustment in their thinking" on the issue of aid to the rebel contras.
When asked what Reagan could do to assure passage of the controversial aid request, Michel replied: "I'm not exactly sure what. I want to see something fly and we can't put our fingers yet on what exactly that might be."
Reagan is planning a new bid to persuade Congress to lift a ban on further aid to the rebels, who have received millions of dollars in secret assistance from the United States over the last several years.
However, the President faces formidable opposition in both houses and the White House has not yet set a timetable for his drive to provide the contras with a requested $14 million for the remainder of the fiscal year.
"I wanted the Administration to clearly understand that without any change in formulation of policy there, we're dead in the water for the moment in the House and we've got to have some flex and a little bit of movement there to get us what we'd eventually like to get," Michel said.
Some key members of Congress have suggested Reagan could improve chances for his policy of aid to the contras if the aid was provided overtly, rather than covertly through the CIA.
However, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the notion of overt aid had been "pretty well ruled out." In the past, Administration officials have said Reagan is limited by law in how openly the United States can support the rebels.