The search for a compromise on President Reagan's request for $100 million to aid Nicaraguan rebels is focusing on proposals from key House moderates that the United States guarantee a larger economic-aid package for the region, according to White House and congressional sources.
After a recent trip to the region by 13 House members, Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.), a leader of the moderate group, discussed with House Republican leaders a package of economic aid that would accompany Reagan's proposed military and economic aid to the rebels, known as contras or counterrevolutionaries.
"There's going to be a lot of emphasis on a regional approach" as Congress and Reagan seek a compromise before the scheduled House vote during the week beginning June 22, a senior White House official said.
One proposal privately circulated by McCurdy, officials said, suggests a $500 million package that would include aid to the rebels and Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. This would apparently be in addition to the $1.1 billion that Reagan has proposed be spent in aid to these countries in fiscal 1987.
Officials cautioned that no compromise has been reached. The White House official said that, while McCurdy's approach is attractive, "I don't see how the money could be found" in a period of tight budgets and when other foreign aid programs are certain to be cut.
The official described the $500 million idea as "impossible" but said the White House would be receptive to the approach, which follows that recommended by the Kissinger commission in January 1984.
The official also cautioned that other points of contention have yet to be worked out, including timing of the aid and a possible second vote by Congress, which the administration has opposed.
A second White House official familiar with the talks said the regional-aid approach is "worth discussing" and would likely be a central part of any compromise.
Reagan's proposal for $70 million in military aid and $30 million in economic assistance to the contras fell short in the House in May, and the outcome appears to hinge on a group of moderates in both parties.
McCurdy has been talking with House Republican leaders recently in an effort to fashion a compromise. White House aides have been monitoring the talks.
An aide to McCurdy said, "There is a desire among the moderates to see any contra aid package include regional assistance to the democratic countries in the region. We are not sure if the White House is willing or not. They seem interested but we can't get a commitment . . . we have never really met directly with them on it."
Also yesterday, responding to questions from reporters outside Washington, Reagan blamed Congress for any misuse of the $27 million in humanitarian aid approved for the rebels this year because he said Congress had laid down "strict rules" for use of the money.
He was asked about a General Accounting Office report suggesting that some of the $27 million was traced to banks outside the United States, obscure corporations and the Honduran armed forces.
"Well, I don't see why their investigation has not revealed as yet that they were so concerned that the agencies of the executive branch might not be trustworthy in the handling of this money that in passing of the $27 million, they laid down the strict rules as to exactly how that money must be delivered and spent," he said. "And we followed those rules.
"I think they ought to give us back control over that because they didn't do too well," he said.
Reagan also defended the contras against charges of atrocities and drug-running. He said they had been targets of "a disinformation campaign tending to discredit them."
Meanwhile, Secretary of State George P. Shultz said yesterday that any regional peace agreement must contain "specific procedures for ensuring democracy and verifiable military arms reductions" to win U.S. support.
His remarks in a speech to the American Conference of Young Political Leaders marked the first time that the administration has insisted on more than a listing of goals that Nicaragua would pledge to achieve.