WASHINGTON (Jan. 26)
The House of Representatives today adopted an amendment to curtail further shipment of surplus foods to Egypt, despite appeals by the Administration for continuation of assistance to the Nasser regime. The Johnson Administration lost its first legislative test on the question of American policy toward Egypt when Republicans and many Democrats combined in support of the anti-Nasser amendment.
The amendment, offered by Rep. Robert H. Michel, Illinois Republican, was first defeated on a vote by division, but was adopted when a roll call was demanded. The final vote was 204 to 177. The measure amended an agriculture appropriation bill increasing funds for the Commodity Credit Corporation fund. This corporation provides the surplus commodities to Egypt under Public Law 480.
Frantic appeals by the White House and State Department failed to stem the anti-Nasser revolt by House members. Speaker of the House John McCormack, Massachusetts Democrat, appealed in vain for defeat of the amendment. He said the amendment would hamper the President in conducting foreign relations and tie his hands in dealing with Egypt.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where a number of Senators of both parties are already on record against further aid to the Nasser regime. If the amendment is retained by the Senate, President Johnson would be forced to veto his entire agricultural appropriations bill to kill it. The State Department was described by informed sources as “furious” over the House vote and is said to have voiced apprehension lost the House alone “drive Nasser into a real frenzy of anti-American actions.”
DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS OPPOSE PARTY, JOINING REPUBLICANS ON ISSUE
Chairman George H. Mahon, of the House Appropriations Committee, opposed the amendment, asking Congress not to be influenced by Egyptian-Israeli differences. Rep. Seymour Halpern. New York Republican, replied that the issue was much broader, and involved support by the American taxpayer of “the Castro of the Nile.” He compared Nasser with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, citing Nasser’s anti-American expressions and actions, his support of Communist policies, backing of pro Communist Congolese rebels, and “gangster-like tactics.” He said Nasser “made a mockery of our aid program” which only subsidized Egyptian arms acquisitions from Russia and policies of subversion and intrigue undermining the peace of the Near East and Africa.
Rep. Leonard Farbstein, New York Democrat, and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee differed with his own Administration by backing the amendment. He said that Nasser has disregarded previous expressions by the Congress, and that nothing less than mandatory action severing aid would at this point uphold the dignity of the United States. Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal, New York Democrat, who has joined the Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed with Rep. Farbstein and indicated that the true interests of the United States were not consistent with further assistance to Egypt.
Rep. Gerald Ford, Michigan Republican and minority leader for his party, called for a stand against Egypt, and rallied support for the amendment. Rep. Silvio Conte, Massachusetts Republican, cited the burning of the U. S. library in Cairo and Nasser’s backing of Communist causes on the world scene.
Another Democrat who differed with his party’s position was Rep. William Fitts Ryan, of New York. He had offered a parallel amendment, but the one proposed by Rev. Michel, member of the Appropriations Committee, was called up first. Rep. Ryan stated that the lessons of recent history taught that leaving the matter to the discretion of the Executive Department was useless, and that the time for severing aid to Egypt was past due.