Senate critics launched an effort yesterday to derail the Finance Committee's plan to rush its taxless energy tax bill to conference and make any deal it wants with the House.
Last week the committee voted out a bill containing $40 billion in tax incentives but none of the energy taxes requested by President Carter, in contrast to the House, which approved all three of them. The committee included in its bill a provision that would give it flexibility in a conference to make just about any deal its conferees wanted on what taxes to include and how the revenue should be spent.
Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.), Finance Committee chairman, has said he would try to conference to revive the crude oil equalization tax, which Carter calls the centerpiece of his conservation program, if the revenue, or part of it, is used to encourage more oil production. Carter wants to rebate the tax to the public.
Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.), offered an amendment, to be voted on this afternoon, to strike out Long's flexibility provision. That would limit Long's ability to bargain in conference and might prevent approval of payment to the oil industry and could amount to removing price controls.
Jackson called the provision a "blank check to the oil industry which should not be endorsed by the Senate."
Sen. Abraham A. Ribicoff (D-Conn.), who generally supports the administration, said the Senate should "trust" its conferees to write a good bill because "the President's bill is no good, the House bill is no good, and this bill is no good. I wouldn't vote for it if I thought it would become law."
Long has promised not to put his signature on a conference report that the President could not sign, and Long said the Senate should believe he would act in good faith.
Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) said he had never heard of a committee telling the Senate not to bother trying to improve a bill but to let a few of its members do it in a meeting with the House. Sen. William V. Roth (R-Del.), agreed that would be a dangerous precedent and that the nation would end up with a "major tax increase."
Meanwhile yesterday, conferees agreed on a $100 million program offering cut-rate financing of loans up to $8,000 for installing solar energy devices in homes.
However, House negotiators killed a "vanpool" ride-sharing program - one of the few parts of Carter's energy plan the full Senate supported - under which the government was to buy up to 6,000 vans for federal bureaucrats to share rides to and from work.
The conferees did approve a $75 million program to fit federal buildings with energy-saving equipment by 1990.
While the Senate talked about tax incentives, seven House Democrats met with Carter at the White House and handed him a letter signed by 67 House Democrats saying they would vote against a conference report that gave a plowback to the oil industry, gave a significant price increase to newly discovered natural gas or retreated from Carter's plan to revise electric utility rate structures to save energy. Their defection could kill the bill in the House. They came away from the meeting saying they were satisfied with Carter's response.
The Senate will vote today on an amendment by Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) that would add to the bill a modified version of Carter's proposed tax on industrial use of oil and natural gas to push them to use of coal.
The first Senate vote on the energy tax bill rejected, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to 31, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] by Sen. Jesse A. Helms (R-N.C.) to forbid busing students for racial integration as long as the United States imports more than 40 per cent of its oil. It now imports 48 per cent.