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Floridians lead debate on cutting aid to Haiti

The House engaged in an angry debate late Wednesday over a provision to prohibit aid to any government in Haiti that is not elected according to the country's 1987 constitution.

The measure, proposed by Rep. Porter Goss, a Sanibel Republican, was a proposed amendment to a $12-billion foreign aid bill.

A stream of Democrats led by Rep. Carrie Meek of Miami criticized Goss' amendment and attempted to block a vote on it, questioning his devotion to Haitian democracy and arguing the restric-tion would impose a unique standard on Haiti.

The House rejected, 231-188, an effort by Meek to give the president the option of extending aid if he determines Haiti is making progress toward elections.

"We'd be telling Haiti we are going to withhold your funds if you don't do this election the way we want it," Meek said of Goss' wording. Haiti held an election Sunday and has scheduled a runoff for local and legislative offices July 23.

The foreign aid bill has been whittled down by Republicans. So far the bill would reduce aid 11 percent below this year and 19 percent below President Clinton's $14.8-billion request.

In addition to aid cuts affecting nearly all countries except Israel and Egypt _ they would be maintained at current levels of $3-billion and $2.1-billion respectively _ the bill cuts 40 percent from support of the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

After final passage, which was expected by today, the bill would go to the Senate.

In votes on other proposed amendments to the bill, the House:

Approved cutting aid to any country that supports completion of a nuclear power plant in Cuba. An earlier amendment cut $15-million from aid to Russia for its role.

Cut off aid to organizations involved with legal or illegal abortions abroad or with lobbying to change other countries' abortion laws. Opponents said the restriction would end U.S. support for family planning around the world.