The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a $251 million economic aid and military loan guarantee package for Lebanon yesterday, but added a provision requiring that Congress approve the use of U.S. troops in any future permanent peace-keeping force there.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was considering even stronger language to restrict any increase or redeployment of the U.S. troops in the temporary multinational force already in Lebanon without specific congressional authorization, a move opposed by the Reagan administration.
About 1,200 U.S. Marines are among the 4,500 troops now serving in the multinational force in Lebanon. The Lebanese government has asked the United States, France, and Italy to double the size of the force.
But Congress has been nervous about committing more troops without authorizing legislation. The 1973 War Powers Resolution gives Congress the right to reverse presidential decisions to send troops into hostile situations, but Congress has chosen so far not to apply the resolution to Lebanon.
Lawrence S. Eagleburger, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said yesterday the administration was opposed to restrictions on its ability to determine U.S. troop levels and deployment in Lebanon while it continues trying to negotiate the withdrawal of occupying Israeli, Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization forces there.
However, in an effort to fend off more severe restrictions, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) proposed an amendment to the supplemental aid package that any agreement altering the status or number of U.S. forces in Lebanon would be submitted to Congress for approval by a joint resolution. If Congress did not act on the resolution within 60 days, it would take effect automatically.
A committee staff member said the Percy amendment would allow the president to increase the number of troops now in Lebanon without prior congressional approval.
But Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) proposed another amendment requiring prior congressional approval, and Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) proposed that any increase in U.S. troops in Lebanon come under the War Powers Resolution.
After two inconclusive meetings yesterday, the Senate committee adjourned until this morning.
The amendment adopted yesterday by the House committee requires that "the president shall obtain statutory authorization from the Congress with respect to the introduction of U.S. armed forces into Lebanon in conjunction with agreements providing for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon and for the creation of a new, more permanent multinational peace-keeping force."
Members of both House and Senate committees and Reagan administration spokesmen said discussion of the troop issue was unrelated to Monday's bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon. Percy, who had warned the administration in December that Congress would act if the Marines appeared to be in danger, said yesterday that "the possibility of imminent hostilities is there. This is a war-torn country."
The $251 million package approved by the House committee includes $150 million for projects such as rehabilitation of water and sewer works, telecommunications and health services, as well as $100 million in loan guarantees for weapons sales.
In a related development, administration officials said yesterday no decision has been made yet about whether Secretary of State George P. Shultz should visit the Middle East. They added that Nicholas A. Veliotes, assistant secretary for Middle East affairs, probably will go to Beirut soon to assess the damage to the embassy and to oversee arrangements for the return of the bodies of U.S. citizens killed in the attack.