WASHINGTON — President Reagan, his bid for $36.2 million in new aid to the Nicaraguan Contras rejected by the House, said today that he intends to continue helping the rebels battling the leftist Sandinista government.
The President, leaving the National Prayer Breakfast, was asked what he intends to do for the Contras in the light of the House vote.
"Help 'em," Reagan responded without elaboration.
Later, Reagan's spokesman said the President is "deeply disappointed" by the House's refusal to approve the new Contra aid and is warning Nicaragua not to backslide on its promises of democratization.
"The Communist regime in Managua should not interpret the House's action as a signal permitting a reversal in steps taken toward fulfillment of the commitments made" under the regional peace accord, spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said.
Offering the White House's first formal response to Wednesday's 219-211 defeat in the House (Story, Page 10), Fitzwater said Reagan believes that the vote "was won by those who advance the proposition that . . . peace and democracy in Nicaragua are best served by removing military pressure from the Sandinista regime."
"We have a fundamental difference of opinion," Fitzwater said, reading a statement.
Of the $36.2 million sought by Reagan, $3.6 million was specifically for lethal military aid--mostly ammunition--which would have been held in escrow until March 31 pending cease-fire negotiations between the Sandinistas and the Contras.
"The President is deeply disappointed by the House of Representatives' vote against the Administration's request for additional assistance to those fighting for freedom and democracy in Nicaragua," Fitzwater said.
The spokesman said Reagan believes that the rejection of his policy "undercuts the efforts of those brave men and women at a critical juncture in the Central American peace process."
Despite the negative vote, Reagan looks forward to "consulting closely with the Congress to determine whether the Sandinistas are making measurable and timely progress toward obtainment of democratic reforms," Fitzwater said.
Fitzwater gave no indication of what might happen if Congress said the Sandinistas were not making such progress.
Nicaraguan 'Freedom Bonds'
Supporters of the Nicaraguan rebels today announced plans to arm the Contras by selling long-term bonds in the United States.
L. Francis Bouchey, president of the private Council for Inter-American Security, said at a news conference in Washington, interrupted briefly by anti-Contra demonstrators, that the "zero coupon Nicaraguan freedom bonds" could raise millions of dollars needed to assist the rebels.
"We are prepared to help organize a high-level committee of prominent U.S. citizens to assist in the marketing and sale of these securities," Bouchey said at the National Press Club.
He said that if the idea is approved by the Contra leaders, the bonds will be marketed privately and redeemed in 10 or 15 years with interest--provided the rebels defeat the Marxist-led Sandinista regime.
Bouchey said that under federal law it would be legal to raise such funds if any weapons they purchase are bought outside the United States.
The news conference was interrupted by a small group of anti-Contra demonstrators who shouted: "No more blood money! No more money for Contras!"
One woman, in a blouse stained with what appeared to be blood, threw a bottle containing a red liquid onto the floor.