The House, led by rebellious Agriculture Committee members, temporarily blocked consideration yesterday of a $1.7 billion supplemental appropriations bill caught in various parliamentary snarls for two weeks.
The unexpected action came on a 220-to-187 vote to reject ground rules for debating the measure. The bill will be returned to the Rules Committee for adoption of new ground rules and is not expected back on the House floor until next week at the earliest.
President Reagan has expressed strong objections to several provisions of the supplemental spending measure for the current fiscal year, and White House aides have said he will veto the bill if enacted in its present form.
Yesterday's House action appeared to have less to do with the legislation's substance than with procedural and jurisdictional disputes among lawmakers.
Sixty Democrats joined 160 Republicans in rejecting the ground rules, which must be approved before most bills can be considered by the House. One-third of the 60 Democrats were Agriculture Committee members, including Chairman E (Kika) de la Garza (D-Tex.).
House Majority Whip Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said Agriculture Committee members met earlier in the day and decided to oppose the ground rules because they would have prohibited floor objections to provisions of the appropriations bill that would change farm policy.
Some committee members apparently objected to some of the proposed farm-policy changes as well as the ground rules that would prohibit objections on these issues, said Foley, one of only six Democrats on the committee who voted for the rules.
Last week, the supplemental appropriations bill was caught in another rules dispute when the House Democratic leadership adopted it as the vehicle for a showdown on Reagan's proposed $100 million aid package for Nicaraguan rebels.
Those debate ground rules were adopted, but the dispute over Central America policy was later sidetracked until at least next month. The Rules Committee then adopted a second set of ground rules, rejected yesterday because of the differences over farm policy and other proposed legislative changes in the spending bill.
House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), charging that the appropriations bill is loaded with unnecessary items of special interest to various lawmakers, has described it as "a great, rancid barrel of pork."
However, the bill also includes several items sought by the administration, including $702 million to bolster security at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide.
House Republicans and the administration also strongly object to a provision that would suspend the president's ability to defer for policy reasons spending items appropriated by Congress.
Foley said he expects that this provision and other controversial sections of the bill will be part of the legislation when it is returned to the House floor under new ground rules.
Acknowledging that yesterday's vote surprised the Democratic leadership, Foley said, "Obviously, there is a significant problem that has to be resolved."