During the early years of the Reagan administration, a civil war raged in Nicaragua, pitting the elected pro-Marxist Sandinista leaders of the Nicaraguan government against CIA-financed Contra rebels. When the CIA carried out a series of acts of sabotage without congressional intelligence committees giving consent, or even being made aware beforehand, the Republican-controlled Senate became enraged, leading to the passage of the Boland Amendment and subsequent cutting off of funding for the Contras.
The Boland Amendment prohibited the federal government from providing military support "for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of Nicaragua." Aimed to prevent CIA funding of rebels opposed to the then Marxist elected government of Nicaragua, the Boland Amendment sought to block Reagan administration support for the Contra rebels. The amendment, however, was narrowly interpreted by the Reagan administration only to apply to U. S. intelligence agencies, allowing the National Security Agency, not so labeled, to channel funds to the Contra rebels.
In spite of the Boland Amendment, Vice Admiral John M. Poindexter and his deputy, Colonel Oliver North, possibly without informing the president, secretly diverted to the Nicaraguan contras millions of dollars in funds received from another secret deal which had had explicit presidential approval -- the secret sales of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Iran in spite of Reagan's public pledge not to deal with "terrorist" nations. In November, 1986, a pro-Syrian newspaper in Lebanon revealed the secret deal to the world. This came as Democrats won back control of Congress in the 1986 elections. In public hearings, angry Democrats sought to prosecute Col. Oliver North for his role. Hearings blamed Reagan's passive style of leadership for allowing the conduct of foreign policy without involvement of any elected official. However, a later Congress repealed the Boland Amendment and resumed funding. Elections in Nicaragua subsequently ousted the Marxists from power.
House Amendment 461 to HR 2968 is summarized by the Thomas Bill Summary & Status (under Amendments) as: