WASHINGTON — The House voted 215 to 200 Wednesday to ban the Reagan Administration from seeking military aid from other nations for the U.S.-backed rebels fighting Nicaragua's leftist government.
The Democrat-controlled chamber generally split along party lines as it banned so-called third-party aid to the Contras, after a debate during which both sides used the Iran-Contra scandal to bolster their arguments.
During last summer's Iran-Contra hearings, there was testimony that money to aid the Contras had been sought from foreign nations at a time when formal U.S. military help had been blocked by Congress. Among the nations from which help was sought were Brunei and Saudi Arabia.
Bill Yet to Be Passed
The vote Wednesday came as the chamber worked through a bill authorizing $11.5 billion for a variety of foreign-aid programs for the current fiscal year. When the bill is passed by the House, it will have to go to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate version.
The ban on third-party aid was added to the bill by the Foreign Affairs Committee, and opponents of the ban failed Wednesday in their effort to strip it from the measure. The 215-200 vote was the tally rejecting an amendment to strike the ban from the proposed legislation.
Opponents of the ban said the Iran-Contra hearings showed that other nations wanted to aid the Contras and support the U.S. government, whereas supporters of the ban contended that the third-party support came only because those nations feared criticism from the United States.
Rep. Gerald B. H. Solomon (R-N.Y.), an opponent of the ban, said that "this restriction is so ludicrous, so full of constitutional problems that I don't know whether to ridicule it or oppose it."
'Not Supported at Home'
But Rep. David E. Bonior (D-Mich.) told his colleagues that "if there is one lesson that we have learned from the Iran-Contra scandals, it is that a policy conducted in secrecy is a policy doomed to failure. The United States should not be going abroad to win support for policies that are not supported at home."
Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) ridiculed the restriction. "We cannot tell the President he can't enter into understandings with other nations," he said. "This is shoutingly, seismically unconstitutional."