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Republicans Unlikely to Give Clinton Free Rein to Make Foreign Policy

November 20, 1994|DOYLE McMANUS and NORMAN KEMPSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — If Bill Clinton had any thought of spending the next two years as a foreign policy President, some of Congress' new Republican leaders are warning that he'd better think again.

Like Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the incoming majority leader, who says he wants U.S. troops in Haiti home by Thanksgiving--not next March, as Clinton plans.

Or Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the next chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who calls foreign aid a "rat hole" and says the U.S. effort to broker peace between Israel and Syria is a bad idea.

Or Sen. Frank H. Murkowski of Alaska, probable chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who wants to block funds to carry out Clinton's nuclear deal with North Korea.

The Republicans who are set to take over Capitol Hill in January have a foreign policy agenda that clashes with Clinton's in almost every particular: less money for foreign aid, more reluctance to use U.S. troops in peacekeeping operations and deep skepticism about the United Nations.

And those policy differences are fueled by the imperatives of partisan politics. The Republicans, looking ahead to the 1996 presidential election, are determined to deny Clinton the high ground of foreign policy leadership.

"He won't get any kind of free ride," warned Margaret Tutwiler, a political aide to then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III during the George Bush Administration. "Republicans are going to be asking all kinds of hard questions about foreign policy, just as Democrats used to when there was a Republican in the White House."

In the aftermath of the Nov. 8 GOP landslide, some White House aides said Clinton might spend more time on international affairs, where he would have more leeway to act independently of Congress than on domestic issues. But Dole, Helms and other Republicans have warned that they won't let Clinton get away so easily.

"I think we ought to take a look at foreign policy," Dole said in a television interview five days after the election. "We ought to get the troops out of Haiti by Thanksgiving. . . . We ought to lift the arms embargo in Bosnia. We ought to investigate whether or not we got a good deal in North Korea."

Clinton acknowledges that conflict is inevitable between a President from one party and a Congress controlled by the other. But he told a news conference during his post-election trip to Asia, "I do think on the really pivotal matters we'll be able to achieve the kind of bipartisan . . . consensus to do what's right for the country."

But since Nov. 8, Republican foreign policy aides say they have spent most of their time charting ways to press their bosses' disagreements with Clinton:

HAITI: Most Republicans opposed Clinton's decision to send U.S. troops to reinstall Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president of Haiti. Now that the GOP controls Congress, they plan to make the continued deployment as painful as possible.

"Our mission's complete," Dole said. "We are going to bring back 6,000 troops. My view is we ought to hurry up and bring back the other 9,000 troops. It doesn't serve any purpose if there's no problem there."

Administration officials say that withdrawing all U.S. troops too early could lead to a collapse of civil order in Haiti.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) has asserted that the Haiti operation will cost as much as $3 billion over the first six months, far more than the Administration's initial estimate of about $500 million. GOP aides have suggested holding a major debate over a supplemental appropriation for the larger amount to bring home to voters how much the operation is costing.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Dole and others have demanded that the United States break openly with its European allies and abandon the U.N. arms embargo on Bosnia-Herzegovina. "We're finally putting a little pressure on our allies in Bosnia, but my view is we ought to lift the arms embargo, give the Bosnians a chance to defend themselves," Dole said.

Clinton, who initially favored lifting the arms embargo, has shied away from taking the step unilaterally because it would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution and touch off a crisis with the allies.

The Administration has finessed the point through a series of awkward compromises, drawing up plans for arms sales to Bosnia, formally conferring with Congress and submitting doomed resolutions to the Security Council. But Dole appears bent on using the Republican majority to try to force Administration action.

NORTH KOREA: Last month, Republican leaders denounced Clinton's deal with North Korea to halt the Communist regime's nuclear weapons program in exchange for energy aid from the United States, Japan and South Korea. Now they plan to make sure no substantial U.S. money goes to carry out the pact.

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