The House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday voted to slash $2.3 billion from President Reagan's foreign aid request for fiscal 1987, a cut of 13.5 percent that committee leaders said reflects the requirements of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget control act.
The vote also reflected political reality, since congressional criticism of Reagan's proposed budget request earlier this month focused on the fact that he outlined sharp cuts in every area except defense and foreign aid.
The committee acted with unaccustomed haste to reduce the administration's $17.3 billion request, knowing that "we can let the Budget Committee decide which programs are going to be cut and how, or we can do it ourselves," Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) told the committee.
The action, which came on a voice vote, would authorize $15 billion for foreign aid and State Department operations in fiscal 1987, a reduction of $476 million -- or 3 percent -- from the amount appropriated in fiscal 1986.
Fascell said the totals represented "tough decisions," but the committee left until later the more difficult decision of how to distribute the cuts among military and economic aid programs and State Department operating funds, and then how to allocate the money among individual nations.
In addition, the committee figures assume that the administration's request for $1.4 billion to begin a five-year program of security improvements to U.S. facilities abroad will be dealt with separately.
Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) said he was "concerned" that the committee remain blameless for its budget decisions in the event of a terrorist attack on some U.S. facility abroad. Rep. Daniel A. Mica (D-Fla.), head of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on international operations that handles the State Department authorization, assured him that there had been "no decision to accept any less" than Reagan's recommendation for the security program.
At a later hearing on the security plan, Mica said it enjoys broad House support. "The House is concerned about security and is moving this fund as quickly as it can," he said, adding it could be reported to the House floor in three to four weeks.
He warned State Department witnesses that he wanted to see "not one penny in this request for anything other than security, for what's needed to counter the threat." If critics find any frills, he said, "first I would blame myself . . . and then I would blame you for not having told us.