The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday supported President Carter's decision to halt production of the B-1 bomber.
By a 9 to 5 vote, the committee slashed from the defense appropriations bill $1.47 billion to build five of the supersonic airplanes and associated SRAM-V air-to-ground missiles.
Backers of the controversial plane are expected to fight to restore the funds when the bill reaches to Senate floor later this week.
The House approved funds for the bombers on June 28, two days before Carter's surprise announcement of his decision that "we should not continue with deployment of the B-1."
Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) and House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neil Jr. (D-Mass.) have said they will support the President's decision.
Following Senate action, the bill will be referred to a committee of members from both houses to reconcile differences. The resulting compromise will then go back to both the House and Senate for ratification. O'Neil predicted after the President's announcement that the House would reverse its decision on the B-1.
The cutback will be partially offset by Carter's decision to speed up production of cruise missiles and increase the capability of the subsonic B-52 bomber from which the missiles would be launched. The cruise missiles is essentially a small pilotless jet airplane that can deliver either nuclear or conventional warheads.
Pentagon sources said Secretary of Defense Harold Brown told Carter that B-52s with cruise missiles would be a more effective and less costly way to penetrate Soviet air defenses than a fleet of B-1s. Backers of the B-1 argue that the cruise is not sufficiently developed to subsititue for a manned bomber.
The committee said the action was taken by voice vote in a closed session and gave no record of how senators voted.