Secretary of State George P. Shultz had a stiff exchange yesterday with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee over his drive for additional foreign aid funding.
Shultz prolonged a scheduled photo session before a closed meeting to repeat for the cameras his assertion that recent votes by the House Budget Committee and the Senate are $7 billion to $7.8 billion short of the amount needed to meet U.S. commitments abroad. Last week Shultz said he would "drop everything" to concentrate on getting more funds for foreign aid.
Led by Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), committee members "told him he was preaching to the choir," according to a staff member who was present. The aide said Shultz replied: "I just want you to sing louder."
"We said we were willing to help, but that the president had left us with few options because of Gramm-Rudman the balanced budget law and his refusal to support new revenues," said Rep. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), a committee member. "Our view was that there was a failure of presidential leadership and that Shultz was in no position to complain to us."
He said Shultz was "speaking out of frustration, and we responded in frustration."
Shultz has asked for $22 billion for foreign aid, State Department operations and diplomatic security improvements in fiscal 1987, but the House Budget Committee has allocated $17 billion and the Senate budget resolution called for $17.8 billion.
Fascell reminded Shultz that his committee had warned the State Department in February that budget restrictions would hurt foreign aid, "but we didn't get much help" in calling President Reagan's attention to the problem.
Rep. Daniel A. Mica (D-Fla.) reminded Shultz that the House committee had authorized "every penny" he had asked for, even though citizens' meetings in Mica's district indicated more concern about cuts in Medicare than in foreign aid. The House Budget Committee and the Republican-controlled Senate cut the measure, Mica noted.
Shultz did not indicate whether he would relay the members' points to Reagan, Torricelli said.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) led the move last week to halve Shultz's request for funds to improve the security of diplomatic buildings abroad. He called that action an attempt to preserve the central parts of the plan from a Senate floor fight in which foreign assistance has few friends. He also met with Shultz and Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) in an effort to get additional funds for foreign aid.
Lugar aide Mark Helmke said the senator thinks that Shultz was "leading with his chin" in continuing to push for the full amount he requested. "The problem now is that many members are using foreign aid either to get a tax increase or to get Defense Department decreases," he said. "It's become a bargaining chip."