The Senate bowed to President Carter's wishes yesterday and cut all production funds for the B-1 strategic bomber from the multibillion dollar defense appropriation bill. The vote was 59 to 36.
A total of $1.4 billion for five production models of the intercontinental bomber, originally conceived as a replacement for the aging B-52, had been included in the House version of the appropriations measure and had been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. But the President on June 30 said he didn't want to go forward with productions, preferring to fit cruise missles on the B-52 to perform the same mission of threatening nuclear retaliation against the Soviet Union in case of attack.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John C. Stennis (D.-Miss.) offered the amendment to delete the $1.4 billion.
He told the Senate that the President's request for $449 million for the cruise missile and for refitting the B-52 to take the cruise would be considered rapidly in the Armed Services Committee, and an authorization bill could be on the floor no later than the resumption of Congress in September after its month-long August recess.
Moreover, Stennis said, the appropriations bill still carried $442 million for continued research and evaluation of the B-1. Stennis said the United States already has three test planes and is building a fourth - yesterday's vote only cuts off production of new ones.
Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) John G. Tower (R-Tex.), Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and other Senators said they believed the President was badly mistaken in cancelling production of the plane.
"We now have young men flying the B-52 whose fathers flew the B-52 - it's an old airplane," said Goldwater, continuing. "The thing that bothers me is his absolute reliance on the cruise missile when we are about 5 to 10 years away" from faving a good one. He contended complete modernization of the B-52 would cost as much as building the B-1 but do the military job worse.
John C. Culver (D-Iowa), one of the leading figures in the congressional fight against the plane, said it is an "enormously expensive" weapon at over $100 million a plane, "not cost-effective." He said expenditure of $50 billion to $100 billion in the end for a full fleet of B-1s would only add "marginally" ot U.S. capabilities.
Deletion of the $1.4 billion B-1 production money cut the Senate version of the bill to $109.6 million - or $4.2 billion below the President's earlier initial request.
In another vote, the Senate killed, 67 to 27, $3.9 million for construction of four prototypes of the Enforcer anti-tank plane, being built by Florida newspaper publisher David B. Lindsay Jr. and Piper Aircraft. Howard H. Cannon (D-Nev.) said the Enforcer was only a beefed-up version of the World War II P-51 and Goldwater called it far inferior to the A-10, which performs the same mission.Cannon called government funding a "boon-doggle" and "ripoff of the American taxpayer."
However, proponents of the plane, including Richard S. Schweiker (R-Pa.), said it has all new weapons and avionic systems and it's only relation to the P51 is its use of the same basic airframe.
Debate on the bill resumes today.