The effort to put the B-1 bomber into production over President Carter's objection was finally grounded yesterday - at least for the year and perhaps for good.
At midday, House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) had said he expected another legislative attempt in the House to put the $100 million plane into production. But B-1 backers subsequently decided they would not improve on their 10-vote losing margin of last Thursday by trying again yesterday.
The expected Republican motion to recommit the fiscal 1978 appropriations bill with instruction to add $1.4 billion to start producing the bomber was not offered. The House instead quickly passed the catchall $7.2 billion money bill, including $80 million for the Clinch River, Tenn., nuclear breeder reactor project Carter does not want, by a 313-to-98 vote.
Rep. Bill Chappell Jr. (D-Fla.), who last week sponsored the bomber production amendment, said last night that he and his allies will now focus on forcing Carter to build the six B-1 prototypes funded in the 1977 budget rather than the four the President has said will be enough for research.
Chairman John C. Stennis (D-Miss.) of the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to add language to the supplemental money bill the House passed yesterday to delete fiscal 1977 funds for building the fifth and sixth B-1 prototypes. The Carter administration has said the deletion would save $462 million.
If the Senate goes along with the deletion, which the House has opposed, the question of four vs. six prototypes will be decided in a conference.