(Democrats win major change before passage) (670)

By Wendy S. Ross

USIA Congressional Affairs Writer

Washington -- After two days of partisan debate, the House of

Representatives February 16, by a vote of 241-181, approved the National

Security Revitalization Act, the part of the Republican Contract with

America dealing with defense and foreign policy.

The legislation includes provisions to limit contributions to United Nations

peacekeeping operations, restrict placing U.S. troops under U.N. command,

and promote membership in NATO for four Central European Nations -- Poland,

Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

It stipulates that incremental costs incurred by the Defense Department for

peacekeeping missions that are not reimbursed by the United Nations be

deducted from the annual U.S. peacekeeping assessment.

"However, costs of certain operations can be waived if the president

certifies they are so important to U.S. national interests that the U.S.

would have acted even without a U.N. Security Council resolution," House

International Relations Committee chair Benjamin Gilman explained.

Gilman said the bill forces the administration to "establish priorities and

1hink things through before committing the U.S. to a major U.N.

peacekeeping operation.  In essence, it creates a framework for prior

consultation and analysis with Congress that heretofore has been woefully


The legislation was drafted by Republicans in three House committees --

International Relations, National Security and Intelligence -- and reflects

 concern over what they perceive as an inadequate national security

strategy by the administration.

But the part of the legislation that called for setting up "at the earliest

practical date" a system to protect the United States against ballistic

missile attack was changed on the House floor, to the surprise of the

Republican leadership.

The amendment was offered by Democratic Representative John Spratt of South

Carolina, a member of the National Security Committee and an expert on

ballistic missile defenses.

Twenty-four Republicans joined Democrats in the House to approve the

amendment by a vote of 218-212.  Republicans voting for it included John

Kasich of Ohio, the House Budget Committee chairman.

The Spratt amendment says the first priority for national security is to

ensure operational readiness of U.S. troops and modernization of existing

weapons systems; the second priority is funding for more effective theater

missile defense systems as a way to protect U.S. troops deployed abroad or

American allies; and the third priority, subject to the availability of

funds, is a ground-based national defense system and not a space-based one.

Passage of the Spratt amendment "was the first major blow to Newt Gingrich

and the Contract with America," said Chuck Fant, press secretary to Spratt.

 "It was the first time in the new Republican-controlled Congress we had a

Republican defection of this importance," he said.

Fant said the amendment "re-prioritized our defense needs.  The Republican

bill said the first priority should be Star Wars.  We said the first

priority for defense dollars should be the readiness of the troops, the

care for their families, and making sure they have the most modern


Prior to final passage of the bill, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt

urged the House to reject the legislation.  "When you politicize NATO, who

should be in, or be out," he said, and when Congress starts to dictate

foreign and defense policy "then you put at risk all of the progress, all

of the achievement" that the executive and legislative branches of the

United States government have made in the foreign policy process over the


The administration has actively opposed much of the legislation and the

secretaries of state and defense have recommended that Clinton veto it if

it reaches his desk.

The Senate has no companion measure before it, although Senate Majority

leader Bob Dole has introduced a bill to limit the president's authority to

place U.S. peacekeeping forces under foreign operational control.  A

similar provision is part of the bill the House just passed.