Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) warned the Reagan administration yesterday that it will be inviting "catastrophe" for the entire foreign aid program if it seeks across-the-board aid increases for fiscal 1987.
Lugar's warning to William Schneider Jr., undersecretary of state for security assistance, came in the wake of published reports that the administration is planning to request a substantial increase in foreign aid for the next fiscal year despite spending cuts required under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget-balancing legislation.
A "draft" request circulating on Capitol Hill calls for a foreign aid spending increase of more than $1 billion above the $12.5 billion authorized by Congress for fiscal 1987, according to committee aides. It anticipates spending of about $2 billion above appropriations for the current year as modified by initial Gramm-Rudman-Hollings cutbacks, the aides said.
Among the most controversial items is a proposed near-doubling of military aid to the Philippines, from $54 million to $103 million, despite mounting administration and congressional unease over the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. The new figure would amount to restoration of the administration's full request of last year, which Congress cut.
Lugar was joined in his warning by several Democratic senators, including Claiborne Pell (R.I.), ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, and later by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.).
A substantial foreign aid increase "is going to have rough sledding. It's going to be impossible to consider it," Fascell told a reporter. "It circumvents the process of Gramm-Rudman; it circumvents the whole process of deficit reduction."
Lugar's warning to Schneider came during a closed-door committee session in which senators also complained that the administration was reshuffling fiscal 1986 funds in contravention of congressional priorities as it adjusted foreign aid accounts to comply with initial Gramm-Rudman-Hollings cutbacks.
The complaints over this year's allocations, coupled with strong opposition to proposed increases for next year, underscored expectations of continual stress between Congress and the White House over compliance with the budget-balancing legislation.
Committee sources said Schneider declined to discuss details of the fiscal 1987 proposal, except to say it would not be as big as some reports indicate. Members "asked what it was for, but got no answers," one aide said.
Lugar told reporters after the meeting that the administration would be better off making requests "on a case-by-case basis" rather than submitting a lump-sum proposal, which he said would "not be politically doable."
In an apparent reference to the strife anticipated over compliance with Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, the chairman added: "It is not an opportune moment to re introduce everything that didn't happen last year."
In the private session, Lugar reportedly said the administration would be "courting catastrophe . . . that could destroy the foreign aid program" if it forced Congress to consider foreign aid spending requests while other programs were being slashed by law.
Asked to comment on reports of a new foreign aid request, State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said no official request has been sent to Congress. He said the request will be included in President Reagan's fiscal 1987 budget, scheduled for submission to Congress next week. It will be "consistent with current deficit-reduction guidelines," Kalb added.