WASHINGTON (Feb. 4)
President Lyndon B. Johnson urged Congress today to give him “freedom of action” to send surplus food to Egypt. The President’s plea was made at the start of a hastily-summoned news conference at the White House this morning.
The President urged Congress to adopt the Senate version of the aid-to-Egypt amendment which was adopted last night by a close 44-38 vote. The Senate softened a House-imposed ban, which would absolutely prohibit further shipments of agricultural commodities to Egypt. The Senate version allows aid to move if the President determines such action is in the national interest.
At his news conference today the President said it was of the highest importance that he have the flexibility to deal with such foreign policy problems. His remarks clearly were directed at the House which is scheduled to consider the Senate modification Monday. Rep. Robert Michel, Republican of Illinois, who authored the House ban, indicated that he will insist on its retention.
Rep. Michel said he will move to instruct the House conferees, who meet with the Senators on Monday to iron out differences in the legislation, to hold out for the absolute prohibition of aid to Egypt. His office expressed optimism that his position would be approved by the House, especially in view of the close Senate vote last night.
Senator Wayne Morse, Oregon Democrat, led the fight last night against softening the House language. The Senator asserted that the United States allows Nasser to “finance aggression.” He called U. S. aid to Egypt part of “a shameful program of appeasement to dictators.”
Senator Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, joined in urging the Senate to adopt the House position. He said “this cry of indignation from the House of Representatives, if sustained in the Senate, may reach into Egypt and make the people of Egypt feel how very deeply we are offended by what has occurred in their country with respect to us.”
Senator Javits also declared that President Johnson had remained silent despite appeals by various Senators that he give his views on Nasser’s activities. Thus, he stressed, the Senate has no alternative except to back the position of the House. “If the President won’t act, then the Congress must,” he told his colleagues.
Senators John Tower, Texas Republican, and J. Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina, also spoke in favor of the House position.