US gets tough against Soviet aggression
Beneath the congressional applause that greeted President Carter's State of the Union address runs a deep current of support on Capitol Hill for his foreign-policy proposals.
Congress is expected soon to begin translating the acclaim into affirmative action. Indeed, it already is racing forward on at least two of his recommendations.
Here's a rundown:
* Olympics boycott. The President's call for an American boycott of the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow unless Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan is headed toward imminent congressional endorsement by something approaching acclamation.
A nonbinding resolution of support was passed, 386-12, by the House of Representatives Jan. 24 after it swept through the Foreign Affairs Committee in one day with just one dissenting vote. Senate passage was expected within days.
"There is substantially no opposition," says one leading House proponent.
* Draft registration. Resuming registration of 18-to-26-year-olds for possible military conscription, after six years without a draft, is hardly so popular on Capitol Hill. But congressional leaders -- watching all-volunteer military recruitment steadily fall and opinion-poll sentiment for a return to draft registration steadily rise -- predict Congress will go along. It is being asked for $10 million to "revitalize" the mothballed Selective Service System.
Favorable response comes even from prominent opponents of the heavily draftee- fought Vietnam war such as House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. (D) of Massachusetts and Senate majority whip Alan D. Cranston (D) of California.
* Aid to Pakistan. The President's request to help Pakistan "in resisting any outside aggression" is believed likely to win quick approval from lawmakers.
Old restrictions on American aid to the country, imposed in 1978 because of its refusal to rule out developing its own nuclear weapons, are expected to fall before newer concerns over Soviet military threats.
Led by endorsements from some of the very congressmen who once most vigorously opposed aid to Pakistan, committees in both houses appear ready to promptly recommend dropping the two-year-old curbs.
Some restrictions, however, still may be affixed by Congress on the type of American aid -- barring, for example, weapons that Pakistan might turn against longtime foe India or its own separatist minorities.
The administration's proposed aid package already is under closed-door discussion by Capitol Hill committees.
* Persian Gulf commitment. This Congress, whose mood is described by Senate majority leader Robert C. Byrd (D) of West Virginia as "security-minded," is expected to provide the military hardware to back up Mr. Carter's extension of the American security umbrella to the Gulf region.
With the area now designated by the President as one involving "the vital interests of the United States," and with higher defense spending once again politically popular, lawmakers are believed prepared to underwrite a buildup in cargo planes, assault ships, and other gear for long-distance military readiness.
* Unshackled CIA.Mr. Carter may have to settle for the least help from Capitol Hill on his call to remove what he termed "unwarranted restraints" on American intelligence- gathering abroad.
Congress is rated as unready either to enact a comprehensive new charter for US intelligence agencies, or repeal the 1974 law curbing the covert operations that produced past abuses.
But lawmakers may agree to the more modest step of reducing the number of congressional committees now informed of secret intelligence activities -- from eight to perhaps two.