The House takes up the first in a series of money bills that for the next three weeks will provide the focus for controversy between Congress and President Carter.
The first battle will occur today over the Labor-Health, Education and Welfare fiscal 1979 appropriations bill, which the White House says is too big.
Other issues that will emerge in coming days will be repeats from last year. They include the funding of water projects and the future of the Clinch River breeder reactor.
Another fight may occur in veterans health programs. The Appropriations Committe has approved substantial increases over Carter's budget recommendations.
White House aides last week talked to key Democrats about an amendments that would cut $900million from the $58 billion Labor-HEW bill approved by the Appropriations Committee. The amount chosen was the level by which the committe bill exceeded Carter's original budget proposal.
The amendment was in line with a June 1 letter from Carter to Appropriations Committee Chairman George Mahon (D-Tex.) that threatened to veto "any legislation which I do not believe the country can afford. . . ."
Recently, however, Carter aides approached Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), a key member of the committee, with an amendment to cut only $633 million from the bill.
According to Obey, the administration wanted to cut back National Institutes of Health funding by $300 million primary and secondary aid to education by $100 million and more than $210 million from the college-level Basic Education Opportunity Grant program (BEOG).
Obey refused to go along.
He said yesterday the Carter amendment "would erode what little support the president has among national Democrats."
He was particularly critical of the BEOG cut. The $233 million added to the president's budget by the committee was designed to pay for an alternative program tothe proposed tuition tax credit that Carter opposes.
"Cutting the $233 million," Obey said, "would be an absolute betrayal of every member who stuck with Carter on tuition credits."
As an aside, Obey added that "HEW understands the politics of this but the boy geniuses at OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] don't seem to."
With Obey out as a sponsor, the White House aides took their amendment to Chairman Mahon. He also turned them down.
By yesterday evening, the White House, according to an aide, had turned to Rep. Amdrew Jacobs Jr. (D-Ind.) to offer its amendment and the cut was down to $450 million. It consisted of the BEOG cut and the reduction of $100 million in the elementary and secondary education programs, with the remainder to come out of health professional manpower training. The NIH money was to be left alone.
The president is not the only one who wants to cut the Labor-HEW bill. House minority whip Robert H. Michel (R-III.), who regularly offers amendments, has a new twist this year.
He will move to cut $1 billion from the measure, citing a March 31, 1978, HEW inspector general report which concludes that fraud, abuse and waste total an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion in fiscal 1977.
Michel will argue that the $1 billion should be cut from various entitlement programs, such as college student aid and Medicaid andMedicare, which are subject to fraudulent practices.