The House yesterday narrowly approved its version of a binding 1978 budget with a deficit swelled nearly $1.1 billion by a series of floor amendments providing for projects that are unlikely to be enacted into law.
Robert N. Giaimo (D-Conn.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, criticized the amendments as "window dressings" from persons who cannot get their pet projects "processed through legislative committees."
Even though the funds the three amendments provide for will not likely be spent, they must be added to the projected deficit and will show up as money budgeted but not spent at the end of fiscal 1978 (which runs from Oct. 1, 1977, to Sept. 30, 1978).
Giamimo said that the tendency for legislators to use the budget debate as a platform to get a "quick headline" in their home newspapers as if they "had accomplished something" is damaging to the credibility of the process.
The House yesterday approved an amendment to add $700 million to the outlay ceilings for veterans' spending to providing for higher pensions for World War I benefits and $200 million to the outlay ceilings for agriculture spending to providing for higher farm price supports.
The Body also approved a motion by Rep. Lawrence Coughlin (R-Pa.) to decrease expected revenues by $175 million to provide for a tax credit for college tuition.
Rep Glenn Anderson (D-Calif.) proposed higher pension benefits, while Rep. Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, backed the higher farm price supports.
The House approved a 1978 budget on a vote of 199 to 188, which called for spending $459.6 billion, revenues of $397.9 billion and a deficit of nearly $61.7 billion.
Earlier, the House voted 202 to 199 to take $1.4 billion for five B1 Bombers from a defense appropriation bill, bringing defense spending in line with the level proposed by the House Budget Committee and President Carter, who last spring decided to stop production of the controversial bomber.
Research into the B1 continues, however.
The Senate yesterday raised the spending ceiling to accomodate $700 million in crop price supports for fiscal 1978, bringing agriculture spending to $6.3 billion, the same level approved by the House yesterday.
The Senate is expected to complete work on its version of the 1978 budget today, and House and Senate conferences plan to iron out the differences between the two budgets Monday. COngress must have a 1978 budget in place by Sept. 15.
Although President Carter proposes a budget, Congress, under a procedure begun two years ago, formulates the actual federal spending agenda and sets outlay ceilings that Congress cannot exceed without taking a special vote.
Giaimo ssid that the series of floor amendments merely boosted those ceilings without making any real provisions for the programs they endorsed.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, he said that the Veterans Affairs Committee has resisted special pension provisions and Ways and Means has not endorsed college tuition credits. He also predicted that the provision for crop supports will prove too high.
But, he noed, the programs are likely "motherhood" and never are seriously opposed on the floor, especially because most members know they will not enacted into law.