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WASHINGTON--The House yesterday passed and sent to President Carter a bill providing for a U.S.-controlled commission that will operate the Panama Canal until Panama assumes control of it on Dec. 31, 1999.
The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday.
House members rejected a similar measure last week. However, they approved the new bill 232 to 188 after treaty supporters argued that defeat of the bill might cause problems in Panama.
Carter and Panamanian leaders had previously signed the treaties, which the Senate subsequently ratified.
The U.S. will turn most of the Panama Canal Zone over to Panama at midnight on Monday, when the treaties take effect. The U.S. will give the Zone to Panama in stages, concluding with the transfer of the canal itself.
In debate before yesterday's final vote, House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill (D-Mass.) said Latin Americans believe the canal is "the apple of American imperialism," and he said he favors passage of the bill.
"We'll keep our word," O'Neill said, adding "I think it's going to be a friendlier Western Hemisphere."
The bill's floor manager, John M. Murphy (D-N.Y.), said yesterday rejection of the bill could spark violence in Panama. "A time bomb is ticking away," he said. "We have one week before we might face chaos in Panama."
But Rep. Floyd Spence (R-S.C.) opposed the bill. "We're trying to appease our enemies," he said, adding, "We have given in and we have pushed around and we invite more of the same."
Rep. George Hansen (R-Idaho) also favored defeat of the measure. "With Soviet combat troops in the Caribbean, do we dare give away the Panama Canal? Those Russian troops are training Marxist terrorists all over the Caribbean," Hansen said.
Vice President Walter F. Mondale and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance will fly to Panama Monday to participate in ceremonies marking the end of full U.S. possession of the canal.
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