The Senate refused yesterday to strip the Department of Health, Education and Welfare of its power to enforce "affirmative action" hiring and admissions policies at institutions receiving government funding. The vote was 64 to 31. At the same time, the Senate refused to make more than token slices in the $60.6 billion-Labor-HEW funding bill despite hints President Carter will veto it without sunstantial cuts. The Senate reduced the total only by $98.5 million, although the President has indicated the Senate version is over $800 million more than he wants.

On a third key issue, the Senate voted 51 to 42 block HEW from forcing the busing of students for desegregation purposes, including desegregation "pairing" and "clustering" plans. HEW wanted to experiment with "pairing" plans, in which one school offers only a few grades (for example, kindergarten to fourth) while a second nearby one offers the rest (5 to 8), thus forcing the student bodies to intermingle. But both House and Senate have now voted against imposing it if it requires busing.

S.I. Hayakawa (R-Calif.) and Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) sponsored the move against "affirmative action." Their amendment forbade HEW from setting any numerical ratios, targets or deadlines for hiring and admission of minorities at schools, colleges, hospitals and others receiving HEW aid funds. Hayakawa and Helms said "affirmative action" is forcing colleges to set up quota systems, turning away ordinary applicants even if better qualified in order to make places for minority-group students and teachers.

But Hayakawa said only special minority groups such as blacks benefit: if your name is "Pulaski or Schlechter or Horvath" or "O'Brien" you get no benefit.

Hayakawa called this a "curious form of biogtry" and said "there is no functional difference between quotas" and what HEW calls "goals," only the difference between a "gloved fist and a bare knuckle." Helms said HEW forces schools to engage in massive paperwork and "reverse discrimination" never contemplated by civil rights statutes.

However, Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), said HEW doesn't use quotas, which are absolute, but only sets targets to eradicate the effects of past discrimination, and doesn't punish the institution if a "good-faith effort has been made" to meet the targets. HEW strongly opposed the Helms-Hayakawa amendment, declaring that its ban on use of any "numerical requirement," "ratio," "timetable" or "goal" in hiring and admission practices would cripple affirmative action programs. The House has already passed an anti-affirmative action provision, in its version of the bill, and that language too was opposed by HEW.

The Carter administration had little success yesterday in slashing money from the bill. The bill's $60.6 billion total is approximately the same as Carter administration requests and actually under the $61.3 billion voted by the House.

But HEW spokesmen said the ostensible $60.6 billion Senate total is misleading because the Senate measure provides for about $1.5 billion less to pay off the costs of welfare programs than the House bill and this money may have to be voted later. If the $1.5 billion is added, the Senate total would be over $62 billion and well above the Carter target, with amounts for health and education above what Carter has recommended.

In a gesture to the President, floor manager Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.) agreed to cut $32.5 million for educational "impact aid" from the bill and this was approved, by voice vote. But when Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.) sponsored an administration-backed amendment to cut $615 million from Title I educational funds for communities with low-income children, senators like Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.) and Brooke balked, calling this a cut from the neediest children.

Magnuson then proposed to reduce the cut to $100 million but even that lost on a 50 to 41 vote.

Brooke and Eagleton then suggested $65 million and it was accepted without dispute - bringing the bill down to $60.6 billion from the $60.7 billion proposed by the Appropriations Committee.

After the vote HEW Secretary Joseph A Califano Jr. said he was "pleased with the action on impact aid and Title I - it is only the beginning but steps in the right direction."

Earlier, the Senate rejected, 62 to 32, an amendment by William Proxmire (D-Wis.) to cut $1.8 billion. Although HEW nominally supported this measure, it would have cut so deeply into education and health programs treasured by Democratic senators that it never had a chance and no major effort was made for its enactment. Attempts by Henry L. Bellmon (R-Okla) to cut several hundred millions in health funds also failed.