President Reagan accused Congress yesterday of interfering with his efforts to support rebels fighting Nicaragua's Sandinista government as several proposals to provide such aid took shape on Capitol Hill and Republicans predicted that they will prevail on the issue in the next few weeks.
"We've got to get where we can run a foreign policy without a committee of 535 telling us what to do," Reagan told Republican congressional leaders at a White House meeting during which he pounded the table for emphasis, according to spokesman Larry Speakes.
"The president is very frustrated," Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) said. "He felt very strongly about the way Congress is horsing around on Nicaragua, when the issues are very clear."
Even as Reagan expressed frustration, several proposals were being formulated on Capitol Hill to resume aid to the rebels. These would combine money from the current fiscal year and next into a single piece of legislation.
Reagan's effort to restart aid to the rebels was thwarted last month by the House after Congress had halted such aid last year.
Dole said a Senate vote is expected today on Nicaragua amendments to the defense authorization bill. An amendment sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) would provide $14 million for this year and $18 million for next year in humanitarian aid.
The administration had requested $14 million this year and $28 million next year.
Under the Senate proposal, the aid would be controlled by the White House National Security Council and be channeled through the Central Intelligence Agency.
This proposal would also urge Reagan to resume bilateral negotiations with Nicaragua and states that economic sanctions would be lifted and military maneuvers halted if the Sandinistas agree to a cease-fire, begin negotiating with the rebels and suspend the state of emergency in Nicaragua.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said he plans to offer an amendment providing $14 million to end the program of aid to the rebels, resettling and relocating them.
In the House, Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) said Republicans are also seeking to combine money from this year and next into a proposal to provide $42 million in nonlethal rebel aid.
This proposal, officials said, will probably bar the CIA from distributing the money, but it has not been decided what agency to specify. A vote is expected early next month.
Members of both parties have said the House will not vote to aid the rebels if the CIA were involved.
Michel said there is "considerably different sentiment" among Democrats since Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega visited Moscow recently, and added that 20 to 30 Democrats "want to get off that hook."
The House Democratic leadership is hoping to defeat the GOP proposal with its own alternative that parallels one it pushed unsuccessfully last month.
The new proposal would provide $14 million for refugee aid and peace-keeping assistance. It would also stipulate that direct aid to the rebels could be reconsidered by Congress if the Organization of American States votes that Nicaragua is threatening regional security and asks for renewal of aid.
The Democratic proposal would also include a statement criticizing the administration's conduct of Central America policy.