A rebellious Senate passed President Carter's $4 billion public works bill yesterday, 74 to 11, but defied the President on his plan to cut off federal funds for 19 water development projects.
With Democrats taking the lead, the Senate handed Carter his major legislative defeat by voting 65 to 24 to bar the President from holding up any of the funds budgeted for the water projects in the current fiscal year, 1977. The amendment was tacked onto the jobs bill by Sen. J. Bennet Johnston Jr. (D-La.). The language also declares that if Congress votes funds for the projects in 1978 and Carter tries to rescind or defer the money, Congress will vote against that, too.
Johnston, Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine) and other senators said that the language involving by the House in conference on the jobs bill. The White House said it would not comment on the legal impact until the language had been studied by the counsel's office.
In a second important vote on the jobs bill, Carter won. By a vote of 56 to 32, the Senate rejected an amendment by H. John Heinz (R-Pa.) that would have installed an administration-opposed formula for distributing the $4 billion in public works jobs money.
Approval of the Johnston amendment on the water funds had the backing of 35 Democrats and 30 Republicans. It reflects a long-simmering dispute between Carter and Congress over the projects, which include the massive Central Arizona Project on the Colorado River, the Dickey-Lincoln Project in Maine and 17 others, mainly in the West.
The President announced Feb. 22 that for a variety of reasons having to do with economics and project impacts, he wanted to cut off funds for the projects in fiscal 1978, unless further study showed them justified. He didn't indicate any plans to cut off funds already appropriated for 1977.
His decision set off angry complainst in Congress. Yesterday, a large group of senators and House members visited the White House for a discussion with Carter, Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus, office of Management and Budget Director Bert Lance and other officials.
Willaim D. Hathaway (D-Maine), Russell B. Long (D-La.) and others who were present said Carter made no commitments to restore the projects.
White House press secretary Jody Powell quoted the President as saying at the meeting that he "stands by" his decision to eliminate the 19 water projects and will reverse the dicision only if he received "compelling evidence" that the projects are justified.
According to some senators, Carter also inidicated he believes he will have popular support for efforts to reduce federal spending by eliminating unjustified projects.
When the group returned to the Hill, Johnston drafted a surprise amendment to the jobs bill. Muskie told the Senate the project in his state had been marked for abandonment bt Carter aides on "the fllmsiest kind of evidence" and "distortion" in reports given the President.
Long said the water projects create far more jobs than many of the projects section of the bill, and are better for the economy than the President's proposed $50 tax rebate, which he said many people would use "for trivial things like whisky, cigarettes and maybe even marijuana."
Johnston said the amendment would make sure that President Carter would not start cutting off money already appropriated for fiscal 1977 for the projects.
I would also send Carter a "message" on the feelings of Congress about fiscal 1978 cutoffs, Johnston said.
The White House press office said Carter had no present plant to cut off fiscal 1977 money already appropriated, but Johnston said he had the impression such plans were under way.
In addition to the $4 billion for job-creating local public works projects (streets, roads, bridges, public buildings and the like), which is expected to put about 300,000 people in the construction industries to work, the bill authorizes $10.6 billion for construction of sewage treatment plants and other water-pollution projects.
The water-pollution funds aren't included in the House version of the jobs bill. The administration wants the new pollution authorizations, Senate aides said, and has provided for them in the Carter budget.
Under the Heinz amendment, each state would get a basic $30 million minimum allotment and the rest would be distributed on the basis of the total number of unemployed persons in the state. The administration said this would channel too much of the tmoney to states where the percentage of unemployed in the population was low or in the middle range.
Instead, the administration backed a compromise amendment by John Durkin (D-NH) granting a basic $30 million allotment to each state but channeling 35 per cent of the remaining funds to states with unemployment in excess of 6.5 per cent. The other 65 per cent would be distributed on the basis of total numbers of unemployed in the state.
The vote was a flat-out economic battle, with senators from states that would lose money under Heinz -New York, California, Connecticut - leading the fight against the Pennsylvania. About 23 states were unaffected, getting the same under either formula, and the President got a majority of their votes. Virginia would have received $27.4 million more and Maryland $20.8 million more under the Heinz formula.
A battle over the formula is expected in the House-Senate conference, since the House adopted the formula proposed by Heinz, 229 to 158, before passing the $4 billion public works jobs program Feb. 24.