Washington — President, Congress battle over Central America
President Reagan, unable to get lawmakers' approval for emergency military aid for El Salvador, bypassed Congress Friday and decided to take a big chunk of the money out of the Pentagon budget.
Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives indicated they would propose $32 million in emergency aid for El Salvador, a third of what Mr. Reagan requested, when Congress returns from its Easter recess April 24.
Although aides said Reagan hoped to work with Congress on the matter, the White House said that essential military supplies would run out in El Salvador before then. They said Reagan's action was intended ''to prevent unnecessary loss of life'' prior to presidential runoff elections there on May 6.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts sharply condemned the move, saying: ''There is no evidence of any emergency in El Salvador that could justify this sudden unilateral decision to escalate the war and circumvent the proper role of Congress.''
Many in Congress, fearing victory by right-wing candidate Roberto d'Aubuisson , want to wait until after the Salvadorean election before committing more funds to El Salvador.
In San Salvador Friday, a coalition of three right-wing parties, including Mr. d'Aubuisson's National Republican Alliance (ARENA), voted to eliminate voter registration lists for the presidential runoff. Voters would only have to present their identity cards in order to cast a ballot in the runoff.
The president of the Central Elections Council warned Saturday that his group would resign en masse unless President Alvaro Magana vetoes the change. Salvadorean officials and politicians said the change would allow for massive fraud in the poll.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill has said the House would refuse to go along with the $21 million provided by the Senate for the Nicaraguan rebels.
The House Thursday night passed a nonbinding resolution demanding that the Reagan administration halt US involvement in the mining of Nicaraguan ports. This, coupled with a similar Senate resolution passed Tuesday, represented the harshest repudiation yet by Congress of President Reagan's policies in Central America.