The normally contentious and divided House united yesterday in strongly condemning the Soviet Union for shooting down a Korean jetliner that carried one of its own members, Rep. Larry McDonald (D-Ga.), to his death.
The vote was 416 to 0, with George W. Crockett Jr. (D-Mich.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) voting present.
In more than 50 speeches, liberals as well as conservatives joined in supporting the bipartisan resolution of condemnation, though some on the right urged specific sanctions against the Soviets and some on the left warned against retaliating by buying more expensive weapons or by curtailing arms control efforts.
The resolution, which was introduced by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.) and cosponsored by Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.) and Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), condemned the Soviet action as a "cold-blooded barbarous attack that is one of the most infamous and reprehensible in history."
It urged an inquiry by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as well as multinational action to force the Soviets to apologize, compensate the victims' families and "agree to abide by internationally recognized and established procedures . . . to prevent the occurrence of such tragedies."
It also found that "this tragic incident, and the Soviet government's refusal to acknowledge responsibility for its wanton conduct, will make it more difficult for the United States and other nations to accept the Soviet Union as a responsible member of the international community."
Several speakers, including Zablocki, described the resolution as "the least" that Congress could do to express its outrage. Others suggested it wasn't enough. "As they used to say in my old neighborhood, it's all windup and no pitch," complained Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.).
Several Republicans, including Michel, said that speedy final passage by the House of the 1984 defense authorization bill, which the Senate approved on Tuesday, would be a proper additional response.
Other suggestions ranged from re-imposition of the grain sales embargo to a ban on all U.S. travel (including congressional junkets) to the Soviet Union, elimination of Soviet athletes from the Los Angeles Olympics and expulsion of 269 Soviet officials in symmetrical retaliation for the 269 deaths on Korean Air Lines Flight 007 two weeks ago.
Some members, mindful of constituents, suggested this would be an appropriate time to clamp down on Soviet imports that compete with American goods. Ohio Reps. Mary Rose Oakar (D) and Clarence E. Miller (R) suggested banning import of ferroalloys, which provide many jobs in Ohio.
Still other members poignantly recalled constituents who were on the ill-fated flight; Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) spoke movingly of Dr. Michael Truppin, her physician for 23 years.
Aides to Crockett and Conyers said they abstained by voting present because of concern over the tone of the resolution. An aide said Conyers feared the language would only further isolate the Soviets and exacerbate the Cold War.
The House measure does not go as far as an otherwise similar Senate resolution, which calls for international development of "additional sanctions" against the Soviets until they make amends.
But even this language has not satisfied some conservative Senate Republicans, who plan to propose specific sanctions when the resolution comes up for a vote, probably today. A vote had been planned for yesterday but was put off because of other business.
Meanwhile, President Reagan dispatched a delegation headed by Federal Aviation Administrator J. Lynn Helms and Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole to an ICAO emergency meeting called by South Korea in Montreal, where the United States will seek condemnation of the Soviets and demand an international inquiry.
Helms predicted a majority of the 33 members of the ICAO will agree to an investigation but declined to speculation on whether they will reprimand the Soviet Union, which is a member.