The Senate yesterday passed a bill sponsors didn't like very much in an effort to get the stalled aid to Nicaragua moving forward.
The administration's request for $75 million to help restore Nicaragua's economy after its civil war has been stuck in the House since February. It was passed then by a margin of five votes, but another vote was needed to send it to a House-Senate conference to settle differences, and the bill seemed to be losing support as the new Nicaraguan government held talks and made agreements with the Soviet Union and Cuba. House leaders have refused to take that second vote, for fear it would lose.
So yesterday the Senate voted, 44 to 35, to accept the House bill, though sponsors of the assistance aren't too keen about it because opponents had succeeded in loading the measure with provisions for cutting off the aid if the Nicaraguan government doesn't meet various specifications.
Passage of the bill avoids a conference and thus sends the bill to the president to be signed. But that isn't the end of the issue. This bill only authorizes the aid. It must work its way through Congress again as an appropriation bill. That means another vote in the House.
But sponsors of the legislation said this was the only hope of resolving the issue. If the Senate had failed to accept the House bill, the issue would have been dead because the House won't act, said Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who helped manage the bill yesterday. "This was our only shot," he said after the vote. Moving it into the appropriation process may mean easier going in the House next time, he said.