81. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • President’s Meeting with the Republican Leadership

President: I want to discuss two items which involve possible vetoes. First, foreign aid. I have been a constant supporter of foreign [Page 336]aid. I ran first for Congress against an isolationist.2 Also, no one has been more supportive of Israel. While I did not put money in a Transition Quarter, I requested $4 billion over 1976–77. The ’76 Authorization Bill contains some serious restrictions on Presidential authority.3 There were some cuts in MAP in the Appropriations Bill. There is little flexibility since both Houses used almost identical figures, but I think we need about 100 more in MAP. So, if the two bills come down here like they are now, I may have to veto. With this background, I’d be happy to hear your comments.

Case: There is a possibility of a supplemental. There isn’t much trouble working out the money; it is the authorization which is the problem.

President: Here are some of the restrictive provisions. [Reads]4

Broomfield: I would agree that the Bill should be vetoed and let us start all over again.

Scott: I agree. I would veto. You can’t run a program country by country by committees of the Congress.

Case: We are not trying to do that, just to have the right to terminate.

Scott: We are giving aid to Israel up to about half the Treasury. I am more worried about Korea and the chance that this Bill will be used as a vehicle to punish Korea.

President: I think the first time a country was mentioned specifically was Franco Spain by Rooney.5 If this is passed, you would have lobbying by each of the 20 countries. It would make the other lobbying look like child’s play.

Curtis: I think you should veto. You would be supported by the country because it is an improper infringement of your authority. If this passes, aid will be administered by politics, not the national interest.

President: Is there any way to send the Bills back, rather than veto?

Michel: I think you should handle the restrictions first rather than dealing with the money.

Case: I agree. I don’t think Transition Quarter money should be mixed in this.

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Broomfield: I think it is too difficult parliamentarily. The clearest way is to veto. There is just too much politics involved. This is a matter of principle—who is going to run foreign policy, you or the Congress? I think the people will support you.

Griffin: You can certainly be sustained in a veto. The question is what kind of a bill will you then get. The fact that Israel needs money might help there.

President: Now that that has been brought up, I have asked for over $4 billion, so there is no doubt where I am on Israel, but under CRA, they only get $600 million.

Quillen: Isn’t it a possibility to get a rule and skip the authorization bill? But I recommend a veto, because it really does tie your hands.

President: Based on the observations here, plus my own feelings and those of my staff, there is a strong chance of a veto. Then we can figure out how to go.

Edwards: Shouldn’t we still try to recommit the bill first?

Broomfield: It wouldn’t work, but it is not a bad tactic. Shouldn’t we list all these heavy infringements on your authority?

President: I think a straight motion to recommit is best. Then you don’t get people reacting on the basis of narrow concerns they might have and offset each other. Anyway, I think you can anticipate a veto. That should slow up the appropriations bill so we can see where to go from here.6

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 19, April 27, 1976—Ford, Republican Congressional Leadership. Confidential. The meeting was held in the White House Cabinet Room. Other attendees included: Senators Scott, Griffin, Stafford, Stevens, and Packwood; Representatives Devine, Edwards, Conable, Frey, Wiggins, and Frenzel; and administration members Simon, Cheney, Scowcroft, Marsh, Hartmann, and Franco. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Reference is to Congressman Bartel Jonkman (R–Michigan). Ford defeated Jonkman for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1948 election.
  3. See Document 78 for a detailed description of the FY 1976 security assistance bill (S 2662).
  4. Brackets in the original.
  5. The comments made by Representative Frederick Bernard Rooney (D–Pennsyl-vania) are not further identified.
  6. On April 28, the House and Senate approved S.2662. On May 7, Ford vetoed the bill, stating that it would seriously obstruct his “constitutional responsibilities for the conduct of foreign affairs” and would raise “fundamental constitutional problems.” Ford singled out the bill’s imposition of an “arbitrary arms sale ceiling,” its termination of most grant military assistance and MAAGs after FY 1977, and its removal of presidential restrictions on trade with North and South Vietnam. He also took issue with its human rights requirements. Finally, he objected to the fact that, under the bill, a simple majority of Congress could, by passing a concurrent resolution, later review, restrict, or even terminate aid. (Public Papers: Ford, 1976, Vol. II, pp. 1481–1485)