House conferences on the energy bill said President Carter assured them yesterday that he will make no deal with the Senate to weaken their tough version of the legislation without consulting them first.
The 17 House Democrats serving on the conference Committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate went to the White House yesterday morning for a meeting with Carter as they began what promises to be a long, grueling conference. The House approved most of Carter's bill to save energy. The Senate rejected most of it.
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chief sponsor of most non-tax parts of the package, said the President told House members he would "hang tough and make no compromise without consulting the House."
It appears inevitable that the president must make large concessions to get a bill through the Senate. Rep. Richard Bolling (D-Mo.) told Carter it would be better to have no bill than a bad bill.
One possible compromise would be for Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.), Sen. ate Finance Committee chairman and oil industry champion to help revive in conference the crude oil tax, which the administration calls the centerpiece of its conservation program, in return for giving part of the revenue to the oil industry to produce more Carter wants to rebate the tax to the public. He met with Long at the White House Monday evening and said they seemed to be not too far apart.
Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.), a second-term leader of House young Turks, said he told the President that 70 to 80 "House representatives were dragged kicking and screaming to vote for the House bill" because they saw every compromise along the route as a move away from consumers' interests. They think Carter's angry words against the oil industry "ring hollow" because he has done nothing about forcing divestiture by oil producers of refining, distribution and retail interests.
Moffett said he told Carter that if he is to hold the essential support of these House members he must stand firm against a plowback of the oil tax to the industry, against deregulation of natural gas prices and for revision of electric utility rate structures.
There is still bad feeling, Moffett said about the administration's "pulling the rug out from under" Sen. James Abourezk (D-S.D.) and others in smashing the Senate filibuster they conducted in an effort to prevent of vote on natural gas deregulation. Some members also recall casting a tough vote for Carter's $50 rebate last winter, only to have him give it up in the Senate.