Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee stalled off a vote on a controversial nuclear arms freeze resolution yesterday after contending that its passage would help perpetuate a Soviet advantage in nuclear weapons.
Their delaying tactic underscored the close party-line division in the committee and the full House over the measure, which is the main legislative goal of the national anti-nuclear movement this year.
Both sides in the debate agreed that the House committee vote will be close and generally along party lines. If it passes, it will produce a major confrontation in the full House where it has 176 sponsors. It already has been rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sponsors attribute the freeze resolution's popularity in the House to a national campaign of anti-nuclear groups which has made it a focal point of elections in many districts this fall.
The resolution introduced by Rep. Jonathan B. Bingham (D-N.Y.) calls for a "mutual and verifiable" freeze by the U.S. and the Soviet Union on the production and deployment of nuclear weapons. The Reagan administration strongly opposes it on grounds it would interfere with strategic arms talks scheduled to begin next week.
Bingham disagreed with the administration's call for an eventual reduction of nuclear missiles on both sides, claiming that it would provide time for a major new U.S. deployment, including the MX missile.
"If an express train is roaring down the tracks you can't get it going the other way without stopping it first," he said in defense of the freeze concept.
Republicans contended the Soviet Union would never agree to on-site inspections to monitor a freeze. Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Calif.) claimed the idea would also prevent the U.S. from eliminating what he said are "inequalities" in current nuclear forces that benefit the Soviet Union.
The debate was halted after Rep. Edward J. Derwinski (R-Ill.) invoked a rarely used rule that prohibits committees from meeting while the full House is in session under its five-minute rule for speaking. That rule usually is waived by common consent of committee members. Chairman Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.) rescheduled the hearing for this morning.
Earlier, the committee passed a resolution expressing approval of the SALT II treaty negotiated with the Soviet Union but never ratified. Zablocki's original resolution called for ratifying SALT II, but other members claimed it would be useless because the administration would not submit it for Senate approval and, in any event, the Senate would reject ratification.