The stopgap spending resolution that passed the House yesterday could prove a major disappointment for the Reagan administration in the field of foreign aid, in that it fails to provide funds for new military commitments in the Middle East.
The continuing resolution appropriates only $9.7 billion for foreign aid, about $1.4 billion less than a regular foreign aid bill which Reagan embraces and which could supersede it, but which faces an uncertain fate on the House floor today.
The major loss from the White House standpoint was about $300 million in new direct military credits to countries such as Egypt and the Sudan which the administration is attempting to shore up militarily.
That money has been at the core of a dispute running for several weeks over the spending resolution. Reagan and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. have appealed several times to Congress to keep those funds available to meet new U.S. commitments.
Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.), who managed the resolution yesterday, conceded later that about $400 million in foreign aid had to be stripped away to gain votes for the stopgap bill needed to keep the government running after Dec. 15.
He and House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) both said they hope to recoup the administration's losses by passing the foreign aid appropriations bill that emerged on the House floor last night. That $11.1 billion measure contains most of what the administration wants.
But its future is considered uncertain and Michel told reporters that passing it "won't be any cakewalk." If the appropriations bill is passed and reconciled with a Senate bill that is a half-billion dollars greater, it would govern foreign aid spending this fiscal year instead of the continuing resolution.
As the House prepared to wade into that bill last night, it was caught in a crossfire between some Republicans who dislike foreign economic assistance and liberal Democrats who are not happy with the administration's emphasis on military aid.
Several Republicans planned to support an amendment which would sharply reduce the administration's request for $850 million in funds for the International Development Administration, which makes loans to underdeveloped countries.
Multilateral aid of that sort is strongly opposed by conservative Republicans because the U.S. has less control over which countries receive the funds.
If the Republicans are successful in trimming IDA funds, however, a group of liberal Democrats will announce today they will urge colleagues to vote against the entire bill because of its emphasis on military aid. Their defection possibly would kill the measure.