The House rallied to the side of its Armed Services Committee yesterday and soundlytrounced insurgents who tried to rewrite the committee's defense bill on the floor.
Reps. Bob Carr (D-Mich.), Les Aspin (D-Wis.) and Thomas J. Downey (D-N.Y.) all lost in attacks that ranged from trying to throw out the whole bill to pushing for an oil-fueled aircraft carrier rather than a nuclear-powered one.
The 35-year-old Carr charged that his seniors on the Armed Services had written themselves "a Christmas tree" of a defense bill 'loaded with goodies" for defense contractors and the Air National Guard instead of setting priorities for national defense programs.
He urged the House to throw out the committee bill and start from scratch with the President Carter's original defense recommendations, which Carr put on the floor in the form of a substitute bill. "You've not only made a direct attack on the committee system," scolded Rep. Richard H. Ichord (D-Mo.), fourth-ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, "you've attacked the chairman of the committee."
Rep. W. C. (Dan) Daniel (D-Va.) warned members that if Carr and his allies were allowed to throw out a committee bill and start writing a new one of the floor, "the same attack may be made on some other committee of this house."
The Pentagon reinforced committee supporters by backing away from the Carr substitute even though it was its own defense program. Jack Stempler, the Pentagon congressional liaison chief, said the Defense Department decided "to work within the committee system" rather than back Carr in the floor fight. The White House Office of Management and Budget took a contrary view by backing Carr's substitute.
In conversations put on a not-for-attribution basis, Pentagon officials explained that they feared siding with Carr and fellow insurgents against leaders of the House Armed Services Committee would cost them too much politically.
"We have to work with them again next year," said one Defense official.
Rep. Melvin Price (D-III.), the 73-year-old chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, assured members from the well of the House that he did not consider Carr's substitute a personal attack on him.
However, Price stressed, the Carter administration had suddenly changed its mind about not needing to fund another carrier this year and notified him that it would go along with spending $1.5 billion for an oil-fueled one. Price said this made the administration and committee defense recommendations only $800 million apart.
Most of the House closed ranks behind Price and ultimately voted 319 to 67 to authorize the Pentagon to spend $37.9 billion on weapons and research in fiscal year 1979, which begins next Oct. 1. Before the final vote, the following major amendments were voted on by the House:
Carr substitute. It was rejected by a vote of 287 to 115.
Conventional carrier. It was voted down, 264 to 139, as Aspin attempted to substitute the $1.5 billion oil-fueled aircraft carrier the Carter administration preffered to the $2.4 billion nuclear carrier the committee authorized in its bill. The House also rejected, 293 to 106, an amendment by Carr to delete all aircraft carrier money from the bill.
Cruise missile carrier. The House refused to go along with the administration's request to authorize $29.2 million to test wide-bodied civilian jets as carriers for cruise missiles. The committee urged that a commercial jet stuffed with cruise missiles would be too vulnerable. An amendment by Downey to allow the Pentagon to test the concept was rejected, 246 to 145.
Korean troop withdrawal. Rep. Samuel S. Stratton (D-N.Y.) was rebuffed in two separate attempts to prevent the president from withdrawing combat troops from South Korea. First, language in the committee bill to that effect was deleted on a point of order as not being germane to the Pentagon money bill. A second attempt, in the form of an amendment, was rejected, 247 to 142.
Marine commandant jet. The House voted, 266 to 136, to delete $8.1 million that would have bought a Gulfstream executive jet for the Marine Corps commandant.
Specially metals. The House refused by voice vote to liberalize the prohibition in the committee bill against the Pentagon buying such special metals as stainless steel abroad for its weapons.
Panama Canal. The House voted 61 to 35, to deny funds to implement the Panama Canal treaties without the specific approval of Congress.
Winter Olympics. The House rejected by voice vote an amendment to limit the amount of work military people could do in Lake Placid, N.Y., for the 1980 Winter Olympics, a provision that Carr and his allies had earlier attacked as one of the "goodies" on the "Christmas tree" the House Armed Services Committee had erected in writing the bill.