The Carter administration warned Congress yesterday against making further cuts in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] foreign aid appropriations bill or attempting to restrict where or how the aid money can be spent.
The aid bill, already cut from $8.4 billion to $7.3 billion by the House Appropriations Committee, was discussed at a Cabinet meeting at the White House yesterday. Administration officials later appeared before reporters to emphasize further President Carter's concern over the measure.
Assistant Treasury Secretary G. Fred Bergsten said the administration considers the $7.3 billion now in the bill "the absolute minimum" required for foreign aid in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Bergsten also said the administration will strongly fight any attempt to impose restrictions on the use of U.S. money provided to international lending institutions such as the World Bank. The international institution, heavily dependent on U.S. funds for the loans they make to developing countries, cannot legally accept restrictions, on the aid they receive, he said.
A House vote on the foreign aid bill, scheduled for tomorrow, was postponed until next week because of scheduling problems brought on by the death of Rep. Clifford R. Allen (D-Tenn.).
Yesterday's comments came in the wake of recent complaints by Carter about congressional "restrictions" on his ability to conduct foreign policy and warnings to Congress to show restraint on appropriations bills that might be inflationary.
Last year, the House approval a provision in the foreign aid bill banning "direct or indirect" U.S. assistance to seven communist or communist-aligned countries or for the production for export of three commodities - palm oil, citrus or sugar. The ban on "indirect assistance" would have affected U.S. funds going to the international lending institutions.
The restrictions were eventually dropped in a conference committee after Carter pledged to instruct U.S. representatives to the international institutions to vote against any loans to the seven countries or involving the three commodities. But White House officials have cited the House action last year as an example of congressional attempts to limit Carter's freedom in conducting foreign policy.
This year the Appropriations Committee approved a provision, instructing U.S. representatives to the international lending institutions to oppose loans for the production for export of commodities that are in surplus on world markets and when additional exports would cause "substantial injury" to U.S. producers. An administration official said the language gives the president "considerable leeway" and that the administration "can live with it."
The official, however, was less optimistic about avoiding further cuts in the foreign aid bill, predicting that the House will approve an across-the-board reduction in the $7.3 billion, possibly as much as the 8 percent proposed by Rep. Clarence E. Miller (R-Ohio).
In another example of Carter's concern over the congressional role in foreign policy, White House officials announced that the president will be host for a three-hour discussion on foreign policy issues tonight for about 80 members of Congress. The discussion, which will follow a buffet dinner, will include talks by Carter, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, Defense Secretary Harold Brown and national security affairs adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
In another development yesterday, the president announced a plan to consolidate the federal government's civil defense and disaster relief agencies and programs into a single new agency to be known as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The proposal, which is subject to congressional veto, would consolidate the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, the Federal Insurance Administration and the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration. The new agency would also absorb several other disaster prevention and relief functions of other government agencies.
The reorganization plan automatically will go into effect unless vetoed by either the House or the Senate in 60 legislative days.