The Senate Appropriations Committee turned back an attempt yesterday to put an abortion ban into its own version of the District of Columbia budget bill, putting the Senate onto a collision course with the House of Representatives over the emotional abortion issue.
After rejecting the proposal, which the House-approved budget bill contains, the Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a city operating budget of nearly $1.4 billion and a federal payment of $249 million for the 1980 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
If the full Senate ultimately upholds yesterday's committee action, the issue must be resolved by a joint Senate-House conference committee. If the House conferees take an expected hard line, it could lead to a provision opposed by the city administration or a delay in final adoption of the budget.
Almost all of yesterday's committee discussion dealt with the abortion issue, not with details of the budget.
Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) chairman of the D.C. Appropriations subcommittee, and Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), its ranking minority member, proposed a bill that omitted the House provision.
Leahy, who personally opposes abortions, said the proposed restriction against the city spending its own tax-raised funds on abortions would be "really violative of home rules."
Congress has told all 50 states and the District of Columbia that they cannot spend federal Medic-aid funds for abortions, Leahy said. But, unlike the ban proposed for D.C., it has not told any of the states that they cannot use their own locally raised tax money for that purpose, he said.
Sen. John A. Durkin (D-N.H.) rejected Leahy's argument, saying Congress should adopt a ban whenever it has legislative authority.His proposal lost, 14 to 7. Among those supporting him was Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mon.), who as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee that handles D. C. legislation was one of the chief advocates of home rule.
Both Durkin and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) said they might try to tie the abortion ban onto the bill when it reaches the Senate floor, later this week or next week.
Leahy, in describing the overall bill, said it finances most health, welfare, police, fire and prison programs at or near the levels sought by the city. It cut $7 million from the school board budget request of $243 million in an effort to force retrenchment because of declining enrollments.
In addition to just under $1.4 billion in operating funds, the measure provides $165 million for capital outlay (chiefly construction) projects, for a total budget of $1.56 billion. The operating budget is supported by city taxes and the federal payment, and capital projects are financed by loans from the U.S. Treasury.
The U.S. payment recommended yesterday is just $900,000 less than the $250 million appropriated by Congress for the curreyn 1979 fiscal year. With President Carter's support, the city had requested $317 million for fiscal 1980.
The budget will have no immediate effect upon D.C. taxpayers. But the fact that Congress is holding the line on the amount of the federal payment could force the city government to raise taxes to support the budget - already being prepared by Mayor Marion Barry's aides - for the fiscal year starting 15 months from now.
By law, the city must submit a proposed balanced budget to Congress.
One of the beneficiaries of the Senate action yesterday would be the D.C. City Council. The House voted to provide 87 staff members instead of the 153 that the council had requested. The Senate commitee voted to add 30 to the House figure, for a total of 117.
The formal report that accompanies the budget bill, drafted by Leahy's staff, told the city government to tighten its procedures in reprogramming (shifting) money from one function to another. All future shifts proposed by the mayor must be approved by the City Council, the report said, and those above $100,000 must be approved by Congress as well.