The House approved 214-211 yesterday a slimmed-down, $12.7 billion foreign aid bill after Republican leaders spent days corralling votes.
Republicans said the decision to cut $2 billion from last year's spending levels was necessary to meet their pledge to create a budget surplus without using any of the Social Security trust fund. Democrats called the plan a dangerous abandonment of foreign policy.
"The headlines might read `Callahan votes to reduce foreign aid,' " Rep. Sonny Callahan, Alabama Republican, said in closing debate on the bill. "I don't have to go back to Alabama to apologize. . . . They like that," said the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that controls the bill.
Rep. Nita M. Lowey, explaining why she voted for the measure when it first passed the House but against the final version negotiated between the House and Senate, singled out the decision not to fund the U.S. share in implementing the Wye River peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"That should be addressed immediately. Now is not the time to turn our back on the Middle East," the New York Democrat said.
Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican, called the argument misleading.
"No one really thinks that Congress will not fund Wye River," Mr. Gilman said, noting that the bill includes the regular foreign aid to "Israel and its allies for peace."
Only two Democrats voted for the bill. Six Republicans opposed it, some arguing that money being sent to some of the nation's wealthiest allies could be better used domestically.
Other Republicans opposing the bill were pro-life members who were annoyed that for yet another year appropriators had dropped language prohibiting the use of foreign aid money to perform or lobby for abortions. …