Major elements of President Carter's economic stimulus package were stranded on Capitol Hill by a recess-bound Congress yesterday as the President himself sought to placate the leadership of the AFL-CIO on the other economic issues.
The House, which began an 11-day Easter recess last night, left a $4 billion public works authorization bill, a key part of the stimulus package, dangling in a dispute with the Senate over water pollution policy.
The Senate will begin its own 10-day recess today without having acted on another central part of the package - Carter's plan for a $50 tax rebate to spur consumer spending.
At the White House, meanwhile, Carter met yesterday with AFL-CIO President George Meany and other labor leaders who, in the words of a White House aide, were "candid and firm in expressing their displeasure" with recent administration economic decisions.
The labor leaders are particularly upset with the President's refusal to impose tariff quotas on imported shoes and with what they consider a less than adequate proposed increase in the minimum wage.
When Carter unveiled the economic stimulus package last January in Plains, Ga., he said he hoped for quicj congressional approval to provide a jolt to the economy early in his administration. But with the delays on Capitol Hill and the growing unhappiness of the labor leaders, that goal appeared to be in jeopardy.
Moreover, a new round of controversy over administration economic policy is likely to result after the President unveils his anti-inflation proposals next week. Carter had orginally set today as the deadline for his anti-inflation package, but that goal will nto be met.
Yesterday's meeting with the labor leaders, although arranged a week ago, came the day after Lane Kirkland, the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, delivered the labor movement's harshest criticism to date of the administration.
In a speech to a union conference on trade and jobs, Kirkland accused the President of failing to keep his campaign promises to the "working people."
Kirkland and Meany were among more than a dozen labor leaders who had lunch with Carter at the White House yesterday following an earlier meeting on trade policy.And although Kirkland's speech was not mentioned during the lunch, according to one administration official, the labor officials did not conceal their unhappiness.
Calling the discussion "candid and firm but not belligerent" the official said the President responded to the complaints by laying out his reasons for the shoe tariff and minimum wage decisions. Carter was neither asked nor offered concessions to the labor chiefs, he said.
The officials also said he believes the administration maintains a "working relationship" with the AFL-CIO, even if strained for now. "I don't think there really is a breach," he said. "It's probably no worse a beating than the beating we got from the women" over appointments to administration jobs.
The problems that the administration's economic stimulus package have encountered in Congress are partly a result of congressional unhappiness over other issues - particularly the President's announced intention to kill 30 water projects, many of which are supported by indluential members of Congress.
Senate vote counters said that as of yesterday there were 41 or 42 votes against the $50 tax-rebate plan and "in the high 30s" for it, with the rest uncertain or uncommitted.
Several senators believe the adminstration in the end will get the rebate after a tough fight but that the prospects for passage of the rebate would improve considerably if Carter would soften on the water projects.
That subject was discussed at the White House Tuesday by the President and Democratic congressional leaders. According to a White House aide, the President gave no indication he is willing to back down on some of the water projects in order to smooth the way for the rebate.
However, several Senators said that while Carter indicated he would make no straight trade of water project approvals for tax rebate votes they have the feeling that at least some of the water projects will "somehow" be restored on April 15, when final decisions on the projects are to be revealed.
In the House, the administration's $4 billion public works measure is stalled because of a congressional dispute over water pollution policy. The Senate added $9 billion in sewage treatment plant construction grants to the bill and is locked in a dispute with the House, which watns to make substantive changes in the lagging water pollution program.
Washington Post staff writers Ricahrd L. Lyons and Spencer Rich contributed to this article.