Without much debate and with little public notice, the House today is expected approve a $29 billion appropriations bill that has something for almost everyone.
Among other things, the 72-page measure will provide taxpayer funds to purchase $17 million worth of arms for Portugal, continue the controversial military medical school in Bethesda, pay fuel bills of $200 million for some of America's needy, create an expense allowance of $30,000 for Vice President Mondale, and gear up a $1.1 million federal fight in Texas and Florida against the citrus blackfly.
The measure, officially called the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1977, is the fourth largest money bill that Congress will handle for fiscal 1977.
It ranks behaind only the bills that provide the original appropriations for the mammoth departments of Defense, Health, Education and Welfare, and Housing and Urban Development.
Supplemental bills orginally were designed to provide funds in those areas where initial budget estimates fell sort.
Much as the "Christmas tree" approach has grown up around tax reform measures, the supplemental appropriations bills over the past few years have become a popular backdoor mean for a legislator to get his favorite porgram funded.
This year's measure will be the largest supplemental since World War II, according to a staff member of the House Appropriations Committee.
A version of the supplemental has already passed both the House and Senate. Today the Hou se will vote on the compromise measure approved by a House-Senate conference committee.
The largest chunk of the bill, some $13 billion, comes from an effort by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris to reverse a Ford administration decision to limit starts in the government-subsidized housing program.
A month after taking office, Harris pressed for funds to start construction and support 134,200 new units of subsidized housing. Congress had authorized a costly 400,000 unit program but the Ford administration had not asked for money to finance it completely.
Another $1.8 billion in te supplemental is to make up for accumulated losses from sailes of foreclosed properties by the Federal Housing Administration. Ironically, a small part of these losses, according to Capitol Hill sides, came from the housing subsidy program that is to be expanded.
One of the most controversial parts of the supplemental is a new $200 million program to assist elderly low-in-come families pay heating, bills resulting from last winter's extreme cold.
Proposed by Rep. David R. Obey (D-l family where it could be shown income was not enough to meet outstanding fuel bills. The money, under the Obey proposal, would go to governors of states who would disburse it directly to fuel or utility suppliers. That way there would be no chance recipients could use the money for anything other than fuel bill payments.
Although the Obey plan was termed a one-shot appropriation, opponents said it was the beginning of a "fuel stamp program." Chairman George H. Mahon (D-Tex.) of the House Appropriations Committee called it an "undefined program" that had no presidential recommendation, no congressional authorization but with "very wide-ranging implications."
"If we keep moving in this direction," Mahon said sarcastically during the March 16 House floor debate, "we will soon have a program to pay air conditioning build in the summer for people when they are confronted with long hot spells.
Despite the opposition, the Obey plan passed the House 233 to 170.
The Senate accepted the Obey plan, and in its own supplemental, approved a $20 million disaster assistance program to help states and local governments pay for snow removal costs, but the House refused to accept that in conference.
Among other items in the bill:
17 million to provide the first increment of $30 million in military assistance to the new government of Portugal. The money will buy a C-130 military transport and oufit a brigade including 65 armored personnel carriers, 493 light antitank weapons and 16 TOW antitank missile launchers with 100 missilee.
$30 million for an Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation that would promote and support joint projects of a non-defense nature.
$9.5 million to continue operation of the Uniformed Service University of Health Science in Bethesda through fiscal 1978. This step flies in the face of the Carter administration request that fiscal 1978 funding of the university be halted.
$1.1 million to fight the citrus blackfly which in 1976 turned up in Florida for the first time in 40 years.
An official $30,000 entertainment allowance for Vice President Mondale, not just for food but also for serving equipment to cut down on the need for outside caterers.
Before there was an official Vice President's residence, the White House handled his entertainment expenses.
$25 million for regional veterinary schools to be constructed at Tufts in Boston, the University of Pennsylvania and Washington State University.
$4.9 million for the Justice Department to pay private legal counsel fees for present or former government officials who are sued for damages for allegedly carrying out illegal intelligence or law enforcement activities. Another $1 million would pay for a substantial number of suits expected from the swine flu program.