An effort to increase former President Ford's federal allocation for staff payroll from $96,000 to $150,000 a year failed in the House on Tuesday, a victim of the Panama Canal treaties debate.
The measure was quietly introduced with the blessings of the leadership at the behest of Ford under a special parliamentary rule designed to permit speedy passage.
It drew a majority vote of $211-to-203 but failed to pass because the House rule under which it was introduced requires a two-thirds majority for passage.
The defeat, according to one House leadership aide, stemmed from the feeling by some opponents of the Panama Canal treaties that the bill was a payoff to Ford for engaging in protreaty "propaganda."
Ford, along with his former Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger, endorsed the canal treaties in testimony to Congress.
Another objection, according to leadership sources, was that the bill carried a cost-of-living increase for all former Presidents' staffs - thereby providing a $6,800 staff salary bonus to former President Nixon.
Rep. Morris Udall (D-Ariz.), in proposing the increase, said Ford "has received and will respond to tens of thousands of letters on the issue of the Panama Canal alone."
Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.), who led the opposition, said he wondered whether it was appropriate use of public funds "if the taxpayers are in fact to be asked to finance Mr. Ford's propaganda in favor of this treaty."
Ford had contacted House speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill (D-Mass.) and Minority Leader John J. Rhodes (R-Ariz.) about the need for additional staff funds earlier this month. The bill is expected to be reintroduced within a few days, shorn of funds for the Nixon staff.