The House had one of those days yesterday that many politicians dream about. Within two hours members got a chance to vote against both homosexuals and Vietnam war deserters.
And before the week is out they'll probably get a chance to go on record against abortion and school busing, too.
The votes are all coming through an old, familiar legislative device - so-called riders on appropriations bills. Yesterday's were on a $70.2 billion bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and 16 other federal agencies. Today's will be on the Health, Education and Welfare legislation.
As part of the HUD bill Rep. Robin Beard (R-Tenn.) succeeded by 273 to 136 in denying Veterans Administration funds for benefits to deserters and any others who might have dishonorable military discharges upgraded to honorable under President Carter's [WORD ILLEGIBLE] discharge review.
In an emotional [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Beard said [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] 4,000 deserters [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] upgraded by Carter [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] and to allow [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] would be a "shame [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] who did serve [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] honorably."
Rep. Don Edward [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] argued it was not [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] upgrading, but was [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] "case by case," and [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] the funds would [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] undermine" President Carter's plan.
Rep. Frank Evans [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] said sorrowfully that [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] the wounds of [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] more quickly after [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] War than now. "How many years has it been since we concluded the Vietnam war, and yet, a subject like this still tears our guts," he remarked.
On the supercharged issue of gay rights the House passed quickly and quietly by voice vote an amendment to nullify a HUD regulation that would change the definition of a family in such a way that homosexuals and unmarried couples living together would qualify for public housing.
A HUD regulation that became effective May 9 changed the definition of family from a group tied by marriage, blood or common law, to any group living together in a "stable family relationship."
Rep. Tom Hagedorn (R-Minn.) had planned to fight the issue to a roll call vote if necessary but HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Edward Boland (D-Mass.) avoided putting colleagues on the spot by offering the amendment wiping out the regulation himself and passing it by voice vote in five minutes while Hagedorn was off the floor.
Actually, Boland said, HUD wanted to "re-examine" the regulation anyway. "The issue of homosexual rights is too emotional and sensitive in thrust for local authorities to have to deal with," he said.
In the HEW bill, to be voted on today, there are already prohibitions, passed repeatedly in other years, against using medicaid funds for abortions and against using education funds for busing children beyond their nearest school unless there is a "Curriculum" reason to do so.
Pro-abortion forces hope to strike the prohibition they say discriminates against the poor who must have government help to pay for abortions. But they acknowledge the amendment Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) will offer probably will not pass, and they will have to rely on the Supreme Court, expected to rule soon on the matter, to resolve the issue.
The Carter administration thinks it may have found a way around the antibusing amendment as presently worded, so that HEW could require what it called the pairing of schools, a desegregation technique that often requires busing. But Rep. Dale Mitford (D-Tex.) plans to offer additional language to prevent HEW from forcing pairing.
There may also be a rider offered on this year's legislative appropriation bill to roll back the pay raise Congress recently allowed itself, from $44,600 to $57,500 a year.
But that is one rider House leaders are scheming to block, by a parliamentary step under which members could not knock out their own pay raise without doing the same for other federal workers in the executive branch. That's one thing they don't think members will vote for, because so many have federal employees among their constituents.