After easily beating back an attempt to slash the federal payment to the District of Columbia by $5 million more, the House voted 215 to 32 yesterday to approve a $1.3 billion city budget for the 1979 fiscal year.
It approved a federal payment of $264 million, which is $12 million less than the 1978 payment and $53 million less than $317 million requested by President Carter.
Despite pleas from the city government, no attempt was made to push the figure upward, the payment is designed chiefly to compensate the city for taxes it cannot collect on property owned by the government and foreign embassies.
The House rejected, 50 to 21, a proposal by Rep. Clarence E. Miller (R-Ohio) to cut the payment by 2 percent, to $259 million as an economy measure. Miller has successfully sponsored 2 percent cuts in 10 bills appropriating funds for federal agencies.
Citing the city's pending proposal to cut real estate taxes, Miller told the House "I think it is time . . . to give relief to other taxpayers as well, and that is our taxpayers back in our congressional districts."
Reps. William H. Natcher (D-Ky.), chairman of the House D.C. Appropriations Subcommittee, and Clair W. Burgener (R-Calif.), the ranking minority member, urged the defeat of Miller's proposal.
"This is an austere and very fiscally responsible budget," said Burgener. "It meets all the needs of the citizens of the District of Columbia."
Although city officials have contended otherwise, nobody challenged Burgener. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) was momentarily off the House floor, and when he returned he did not speak.
"While the budget is inadequate, I think that we will have the opportunities in both the Senate and the (Senate-House) conference committee . . . to make up the losses," Fauntroy told a reporter.
As approved by the House, the measure was unchanged from the version approved earlier by the appropriations subcommittee and committee. It provides for continuing all current city programs, but does not add any new ones.
The committee had cut $10 million from the fund for making pension payments under the city's disability retirement program for police and firefighters, which has come under recent sharp criticism in Congress.
"We want to force much-needed reforms to occur, sooner rather than later," Burgener said.
However, he added, Congress will be urged to restore some of the $10 million if the money is needed to assure payments to all current retirees.
Before voting to pass the bill, the House approved two amendments.
One, by Rep. Paul Findley (R-Ill.) requires the D.C. City Council to end all secrecy on its payroll.
The other, by Rep. George Hansen (R-Idaho), prohibits the city from spending any money to pursue its boycott of states that have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Since the only action the city is taking is not spending money to send employes to conventions in those states, it is unlikely to have any effect.