Another congressional hearing was held yesterday on the District of Columbia's controversial plan for a $110-million convention center, and it lasted less than two minutes.
The brevity of the hearing before Rep. William H. Natcher's D.C. Appropriations subcommittee could foreshadow another encounter with the Senate over the project, proposed for Mount Vernon Square.
Natcher (D-Ky.) supports the project, while his Senate counterpart, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), opposes it. Deliberations over a formal D.C. budget for the current 1978 fiscal year developed into a still unresolved deadlock over the city's request for $27 million to buy land for the project.
The city budget for fiscal 1979, the subject of yesterday's hearing, contains a request for $49 million, chiefly to start building the center.
Ben W. Gilbert, D.C. municipal planning director, was in the witness chair when the item came up.
"This is the item under contention?" asked Rep. Clair W. Burgener (R-Calif.).
"Yes - right." replied Natcher.
"We would like to have the $27 million (involved in the current year's deadlock) released," Gilbert said. "We're prepared to move ahead immediately."
That was all that was said. The subcommittee went on to the next item.
On Monday, when testimony by Mayor Walter E. Washington opened the series of hearings on the city's $1.4-billion budget, Natcher voiced explicit support for the center.
"I think you're entitled to it," Natcher told the mayor. "I hope that sometime in the very near future the Senate will approve the civic (convention) center so we can move on . . ."
An aide to Leahy said the senator had not changed his opposition to the center proposal.