Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) said yesterday the Senate could endanger passage of a national energy program if its gets bogged down attempting to rewrite $40 million in industrial tax credits approved by its Finance Committee.
The tax credits, designed to promote conservation and energy production, are part of an energy tax bill expected to reach the Senate floor Tuesday.
The bill, the last of five parts of President Carter's energy program, contains none of his three proposed energy-saving taxes. It may face strong opposition from liberal senators who consider it a handout to the oil and gas industry.
Byrd said he agreed with a plan by Finance Committee Chairman Russell B. Long (D-La.) to whip a bill through the Senate this week and then bargain about energy taxes and production incentives in conference with the House. The House approved all three Carter taxes - on domestic crude oil, industrial use of oil and natural gas, and low-mileage cars.
"I would hope that we would not add amendments to the bill that would make it more difficult for the conferees to reach agreement," Byrd told his weekly news conference. "Undue delay in the Senate will unduly delay final action on the energy package."
Byrd said he has already warned Carter that the energy package that emerges from Congress may not be exactly what the President wants. He said he told Carter "it was better to get half or three-quarters a loaf and next year come back for more" than to endanger the whole package.
He will do everything he can to give Long bargaining room. Byrd said, "I favor a crude oil tax. But I would vote against such an amendment if I felt it would lead to a straitjacketing of the conferences and the demise of the energy package."
The Majority Leader attributed some of the energy bill's problems to "inadequate consultation with the Congress" before Carter submitted his energy program.
In other matters, Byrd criticized the South Korean government for not cooperating more with congressional and Justice Department investigations of influence buying by Korean businessman Tongsun Park.
The failure of Koean officials to offer "the kind of cooperation they should have" any endanger their U.S. relations and have "unfortunate" consequences for "the stability and security" of Korea, Byrd said.
He refused to elaborate. A House committee, ending the first phase of its hearings on Friday, asserted that it had proven beyond a doubt that the government of South Korea directed illegal efforts to influence members of Congress and other U.S. officials.