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Democrats Bar Arms to Contras : But Caucus Leaves Door Open to Non-Lethal Aid

December 17, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House Democrats overwhelmingly voted in a closed-door party caucus today to reject further delivery of military aid to Nicaragua's Contra rebels but left the door open to additional non-lethal aid.

The party's leadership said the vote to reject a Senate-passed position giving more than $9 million in new aid to the rebels, along with continued CIA authority to deliver weapons as well, will strengthen their hand in House-Senate negotiations on the issue.

Rep. David E. Bonior (D-Mich.), chairman of a party task force on Nicaraguan policy, said the 150-25 vote meant that most House Democrats oppose further Contra aid. But he added, "We're stuck with the reality" that some form of aid must be in the final package to garner a Senate majority and win President Reagan's signature.

Bonior and other House leaders have been seeking to win support for a compromise $6-million aid package but have run into strong opposition from both liberals and conservatives on the highly polarized issue.

In a round of meetings, the leaders tried to piece together the backing that will be needed to pass enough aid for the rebels to satisfy President Reagan and avoid a veto.

As outlined by House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) and others, the plan would keep up current levels of "humanitarian" Contra aid until sometime in February. The current spending rate is about $90,000 a day, which would make the additional aid total roughly $6 million.

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