Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) said yesterday that the Humphrey-Hawkins jobs bill may have a better chance of becoming law in the emotionally charged atmosphere created by the death of one of the measure's chief sponsors, Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.).
"I think the time has come for passage of the revised Humphrey-Hawkins bill. And I think that in this atmosphere. . . the chances of passage will be enhanced. I don't doubt that," Byrd said on "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC) in remarks taped for release yesterday.
The Humphrey-Hawkins bill has been the subject of congressional debate and a major issue in political campaigning since its introduction in 1976. The original measure failed to win enactment, and a revised bill was submitted to Congress last year.
Besides the element of emotion, Byrd said, the rewritten legislation probably will pass on its merits.
"I believe that it will be given high priority in the forthcoming session" of Congress, Byrd said of the bill. "The legislation has been revised, and I think it is meaningful because it does say for the first time that the federal government recognizes that it has a unemployment," Byrd added.
The revised measure calls for the lowering of the national unemployment rate to 4 per cent by 1983, but contains no specific measures for job creation.
Both administration and congressional critics of the bill have said the per cent unemployment goal is unealistically low, and others have said that because it has no job-creation or enforcement provisions, the bill is too weak to have a significant effect on unemployment.
Byrd said yesterday that he believes both criticisms are unfounded.
"I don't think that the goal of 4 per cent unemployment is unattainable . . . That's an interim goal -- a goal to be attained by 1983. I think that's entirely possible. It means that we reduce the present unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent by one-third," Byrd said.
"As to its being a meaningless piece of legislation, I do not agree with that at all," he said. The revised measure will help President Carter "to coordinate and orchestrate" all of his economic policies -- something the original draft didn't do, Byrd said.
He said he talked to Carter "only last week" about the Humphrey-Hawkins bill. The President "supports it, the unions support it, and a good many business groups now support it," Byrd said.
On other matters, Byrd said:
The nation still needs Carter's proposed $25 billion tax cut, despite the dramatic drop in the unemployment rate in December to 6.4 per cent, a three-year low.
"We used it [the tax cut] to offset increases in Social Security taxes and the anticipated increase in energy taxes," Byrd said.
He is "cautiously optimistic" that the Panama Canal treaties will be approved after a "difficult battle" in the Senate.