72. Memorandum of Conversation1
- President Ford
- Vice President Rockefeller
- Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President
- Republican Congressional Leadership (list attached)2
- Leslie A. Janka3 (note taker)
- Security Assistance
(The President opened the meeting with the discussion of the federal election commission legislation. At 8:40 he turned the discussion to the subject of security assistance legislation.)
The President: The other subject I want to discuss this morning is the security assistance legislation4 which I understand comes up in the House today. (to Congressman Broomfield) Bill, can you give us a rundown on where we stand in the House?[Page 294]
Congressman Broomfield: We have a very bad bill, Mr. President, and I’m not sure that we can even hold where we are now in light of a number of additional amendments being proposed. For example, we had a good compromise agreement on lifting the embargo to Turkey. It was something we could have lived with. Now Brademas and Sarbanes5 have agreed to a technical amendment that would put the embargo back on in FY 77. That would mean just another slap at the Turks. It’s a concession to the Greeks.
I am also concerned about the many policy provisions in the bill for congressional intervention (Broomfield listed a number of bad points of the bill).
The bill is really a bad one and there is considerable opposition to it. Even Chairman Mahon told me this morning that he will most likely vote against it. Some of the objectionable provisions could be made even worse if we cannot hold off other amendments. I want to say, Mr. President, that your staffer, Les Janka, and Sam Goldberg6 in the State Department have been doing a superb job in helping us manage this bill. We will be watching very carefully developments and will do the best we can.
Congressman Rhodes: I think the bill will be passed because the Democrats will strongly support it on account of the restrictions it puts on the President and the appeal of the Israeli funding. Nevertheless, it is a terribly malicious piece of legislation.
Congressman Broomfield: We will have to watch out for amendments that would cut funds for Egypt and Jordan and thereby destroy the balance of the Middle East package. However, I think there is a limit of what people will support for Israel.
The President: The vote has always been close on this legislation.
Congressman Rhodes: I think the bill will get final approval regardless of its flaws.
The President: What figures did you finally put in for Israel?
Congressman Broomfield: (He listed the amounts for each country covered in the Middle East package.) And although I know you oppose this, we also provided for transition quarter funding for one-quarter the full year authorization level.
Congressman Edwards: But the Appropriations Committee did not give you any dollars for the transition quarter.
The President: When will the appropriations bill come up?[Page 295]
Congressman Edwards: Tomorrow if we finish the authorization bill. I know that Congressman Obey7 will offer an amendment to cut back on Israel.
The President: I also understand there will be efforts to add an additional $500 million for Israel.
What’s happening on the Senate side?
Senator Case: We have passed the authorization bill. I think our dollar levels are just about the same as those in the House.
Congressman Broomfield: Mr. President, the Senate bill also contains many objectionable provisions and I think you will have to seriously consider vetoing it.
Senator Tower: I agree. I think we passed a very bad bill.
Senator Case: John Tower made a great effort to clean up our bill, but frankly there’s a great difference of philosophy on these programs. I don’t think the bill is too bad with respect to its antidiscrimination provisions and the legislative initiatives to control arms sales.
Lynn: Can we have an appropriation without an authorization?
Congressman Rhodes: It has been done in the past.
The President: From my reading of the House version, we will have many serious problems with this legislation, and I hope we can work to clean it up somehow.
Congressman Broomfield: Our strategy is to hold the line in the floor debate because any attempt to improve it by amendments would only result in the bill’s becoming worse. We would rather work through the conference process.
The President: What does the Senate bill provide on Turkish aid?
Senator Case: There is no grant aid or FMS credit. It provides cash sales only. This is about the best we could get from the Senate. In fact, even Eagleton8 accepted this provision.
The President: Doing something for Turkey will be very important. We are starting to get some movement in the negotiations and, as you know, Caramanlis and Caglayangil9 are coming here soon. With regard to Turkey, we will put great pressure on them despite the severe domestic problem the Turkish coalition government faces. The situation in Greece is not good either. The sooner we can get Cyprus off the agenda, the better it will be for all of us.[Page 296]
Brent Scowcroft: Mr. President, the Senate bill allows only cash sales to Turkey. The House bill is better in that it allows FMS credit but it is still only marginally acceptable to the Turks. We must stand firm with the House language. As you know, the Turkish Foreign Minister cancelled his planned visit to Washington as a result of the Senate’s action.
The President: We certainly cannot tolerate any more “technical amendments” on the floor if we are to avoid a blow up with the Turks.
If the bill gets worse on the floor, should it just be defeated?
Congressman Broomfield: No, we should try to pass it so we can clean it up in conference. The big crunch today will be the Turkey amendment.
Senator Scott: There must be some opening towards credit sales if we are going to make progress with the Turks.
Senator Tower: What is going on in Congress is a very callous subordination of the national interest to domestic politics. Congress simply wants to tie your hands. I just returned from Europe and it is very clear to me that the world sees the United States Government as very weak. However, they see you, Mr. President, as a strong leader. You cannot let the Congress tie your hands because the world is looking to you for leadership. The people abroad are very concerned about what is going on in this country.
The President: John, every report we see from our Ambassadors abroad tell us the same thing.
(At 9:00 a.m. the discussion changed to a brief discussion of the Florida campaign before the meeting adjourned.)
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 283, Memoranda of Conversations, Presidential File, March 1976. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the White House Cabinet Room.↩
- According to the list—attached, but not printed—attendees included: Representatives Anderson, Broomfield, Conable, Devine, Edwards, Frenzel, Frey, Michel, Moore, Rhodes, Quillen, Vander Jagt, and Wiggins; Senators Case, Griffin, Hatfield, Scott, Stevens, and Tower; and numerous Ford administration members, Lynn among them.↩
- Member of the NSC Staff, August 1974–April 1976.↩
- S 2662, the FY 1976 security assistance bill passed by Congress in April, contained provisions granting Congress new authority over government and commercial arms sales, authority opposed by the Ford administration. The White House opposed the bill’s other features, including a $9 billion-a-year ceiling on total arms sales and a provision enabling Congress by concurrent resolution to terminate aid to nations found in violation of human rights standards. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, pp. 874–876)↩
- Democratic Representatives John Brademas (Indiana) and Paul Spyros Sarbanes (Maryland).↩
- Samuel H. Goldberg, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Congressional Relations, Department of State.↩
- Representative David Ross Obey (D–Wisconsin).↩
- Senator Thomas Francis Eagleton (D–Missouri).↩
- Greek Prime Minister Constantine Caramanlis and Turkish Foreign Minister Ihsan Caglayangil. Ford met with Caglayangil on March 24.↩