After a spirited session punctuated by a brief rebellion against the leadership, the House yesterday narrowly beat back an effort to revive the B-1 bomber.
The vote on an amendment to add $1.4 billion for the supersonic aircraft to a $7 billion supplemental appropriations bill was 204 to 194 wider by seven votes than the razor - thin 202 to 199 margin by which the House defeated the B - 1 last month, but close enough to keep the plane's fate ub question until the final seconds had ticked off the voting clock.
Although Republicans are expected to reintroduce the amendment Tuesday, the vote dealt a sharp blow to the recently renewed hopes of B-1 supporters to resurred to the more than $100 million per copy supersonic plane.
President Carter rejected the B-1 in June on favor of pilotless cruisc missles lauched from a bomber.The Senate, which will take up the appropriations bill next week easily defea the B-1 last month.
For a few moments yesterday, it appeared that Carter might suffer his second straight setback at the hands of the House which on Wednesday defeated his cargo preference bill.
After about two hours of debate, B-1 supporters easily secured a vote to end the debate on the announcement offered by Reps. Bill Chappell (D-Fla) and Jack Edwards (R-Ala).
House leaders and B-1 opponents concerned that enough congressmen ahd left town to leave the vote in doubt, buddled for a short time. Then Appropriations Committee Chairman George Mahon (D-Tex) moved to postpone the vote to next week.
Mahon's motion was greeted by crimes of "No, No, No," from B-1 opponents. Moments later, it was defeated by 215 votes to 190.
That vote set the stage for extraordinary appeals by Mahon and Speaker Thomas P.(Tip) O'Neill.
"Doesn't everybody in this House know the primary weapon for the future will be the ICBM?" asked Mahon his voice rising. "Don't we know that the only purpose of the Bomber is to do the cleanup if a war comes. You could use an ox - cart.
O'Neill followed with the strongest appeal to party unity he has made on the floor since becoming Speaker. "I'm appealing to Democrats to stay with the decision of their President," he said.
"Discount any little thing in your head, that you may feel you haven't been treated right by the administration," pleaded O'Neill. "It's time to break the traditions of the past, of voting for these weapons systems to show poltical support for the Defense Department
In earlier debate, B - 1 supporters seemed to have gotten a shot in the arm from recent news reports of a U.S. proposal in the SALT arms limitation talks to limit the range of cruise missles.
Noting that Carter said the United States would rely on the cruise missles when he decided against producing the 244 B - 1's sought by the Air Force. Rep. Bill D. Burlison(D - Mo) said "It appears the administration has worked itself into a box" by offering to accept limits of 1,320 miles on air - lauched cruise missles.
Also figuring prominently in the debate was the confusion on the administration attitude toward the manned bomber produced by Defense Secretary Harold Brown's statement last month that the administration wants $20 million for studies of the FB - 111H, a cheaper bomber than the B - 1.
Carter attempted to clear up the confusion in a letter to Rep. Robert Carr(D - Mich) last week, but succeeded in raising more questions than he answered, according to several congressmen.
Supplemental appropriation, which contains money for the Clinch River breeder reactor Carter has often said he doesn't favor, is scheduled for a final vote next week.
On the B-1 amendment, all except of Maryland's representatives except Democrat Goodloc Bryon and Republicans Robert Bauman and Marjorie Holt voted against the plane.In Virginia, only Democrats Herbert Harris and Joseph Fisher voted against the B-1.