WASHINGTON — The House gave final congressional approval Friday to legislation imposing economic sanctions on South Africa, and leaders of both parties pledged that Congress would override a threatened veto by President Reagan.
By a vote of 308 to 77, the Democratic-controlled chamber approved the identical bill that the GOP-led Senate had passed, 84 to 14, on Aug. 15. It was a rare display of bipartisanship, and the margin of victory in both chambers far exceeded the two-thirds necessary to override a presidential veto.
At the same time, House members voted 292 to 92 to express their disagreement with Senate Republicans who contend that the measure, if enacted, would supersede all state and local anti-apartheid laws such as California's landmark divestiture law. The dispute is expected to be settled in the courts.
Sent Directly to President
After passage in the House, the sanctions bill was sent directly to the White House, where spokesman Larry Speakes reiterated the President's long-held opposition to punitive sanctions against South Africa.
"Our position on this legislation has not changed," he said. "The measures it calls for would impede rather than advance the goal of promoting change in South Africa. If the President vetoes it, which I'm confident he will, then we will work to see that the President's veto is sustained."
Reagan has 10 days to act.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and usually a Reagan loyalist, said he would lead the effort to override a presidential veto and predicted that it would succeed. At the same time, he pleaded with Reagan to sign the bill instead.
"I can't stress how important it is for the President to show leadership on this," he said.
"I hope he has enough sense not to veto it," added House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), emphasizing that the bill had passed with a veto-proof majority.
The measure, authored by Lugar in response to much more stringent divestiture legislation approved by the House last June 18, would prohibit all new U.S. business investment in South Africa, ban imports from South Africa of coal, textiles, uranium, iron, steel, arms and agricultural products, and ban U.S. exports to South Africa of petroleum products, and of computers to agencies administering apartheid. The law would also terminate landing rights for South African airliners in the United States.
The sanctions would end if the South African government took at least four of five steps outlined in the measure--releasing Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress leader, from prison; repealing the current state of emergency; legalizing militant anti-apartheid organizations now banned; repealing laws regulating where blacks can live and work, and entering into negotiations with black leaders to end apartheid.
Although many House Democrats expressed regret that the bill did not go as far as the earlier House-passed measure, which would have imposed a virtual trade embargo on South Africa, they agreed to support the legislation because it has broad enough support to survive a presidential veto.
They also feared that if they took time to resolve differences between the House and Senate bills, they would be giving Reagan an opportunity to pocket-veto the sanctions after Congress adjourns in October--which would deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto.
Curbs Called Modest
Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.) characterized the sanctions measure as a modest one that goes no further than legislation originally proposed five years ago by the House's black caucus. "It is not designed to knock down the economy of South Africa," he said. "It is designed to knock some sense into the . . . government" of President Pieter W. Botha.
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) called the legislation necessary to replace the Administration policy toward South Africa known as "constructive engagement," which has sought to bring about reforms in South Africa's apartheid system through diplomatic persuasion, rather than confrontation.
"The policy of offering America's support to the government of Pretoria has been a failure," O'Neill said. "It is time to abolish that policy. President Reagan has an opportunity in the next few days to be the champion of freedom."
Sanctions against South Africa have gained so much popularity in this election year that even some of the most conservative Republicans such as Rep. Robert S. Walker (Pa.) voted for the bill. Walker is among a number of younger GOP conservatives who wrote to the President last year, suggesting that his opposition to sanctions was creating a bad image for the party.
Sen. Cranston Present
The political dimension of the issue was evident when Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), a longtime advocate of sanctions, showed up on the House floor as the votes were being cast. Cranston's challenger for reelection, Rep. Ed Zschau (R-Los Altos), voted for the measure.