The Senate will not act on a U.S.-Soviet strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) treaty this year, even if the four-year old negotiations produce an agreement before the end of the current term, Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said yesterday.
"The White House has known for some time that a treaty will not be taken up this year," Byrd said at his regular Saturday press conference.
The pace of the Senate's work this year has slowed by the lengthy debate over the Panama Canal treaties and by the current filibuster over a bill to revise labor laws by generally making it easier for workers to organize and win contracts.
As a result, there is a large backlog of legislation, in a year when Congress is anxious to adjourn early to give members an opportunity to go home and campaign for reelection.
As he has done before, Byrd said that although he thinks Soviet and Cuban activities in Africa ought not affect eventual Senate consideration of a SALT treaty, there is nevertheless a limited linkage between the two in the minds of some senators.
"I think it can be expected that some votes may be influenced by matters outside the four corners of the treaty," he said, seconding sentiments voiced by President Carter in his Annapolis speech Wednesday.
Byrd held out the possibility that the labor bill filibuster, which has tied up the Senate for 13 days, might be broken on Wednesday, in the second of two cloture votes scheduled for this week. Two attempts to get the 60 votes needed to shut off the filibuster failed last week.
He said amendments to the bill, which he offered last week, improve the measure enough that further debate "is not justified."
"Any further filibustering at this point becomes more and more a tactic to obstruct, and keep the Senate from working its will," Byrd said.
Byrd said he thinks the bill will eventually be approved. "I would not encourage those who will insist on a continued course of obstruction to believe that they will succeed," he said.
On other subjects, Byrd said there is "sentiment" in the Senate to extend long-term financial backing for New York City, as the House did last week.
He said the city has shown "responsibility and self-discipline" in the way it "tightened its fiscal belt," and added that the collapse of the city would be a tragedy of large proportion whose extent cannot now be predicted.
Byrd also cautioned elected officials to refrain from being "stampeded" by California voters' decision last week to cut property taxes by $7.4 million by rolling the tax back to 1 percent of assessed valuation.
"It should not be forgotten that big government results from big demands," he said. "Where do we cut? Do we cut health benefits? Education? Veterans benefit? National Defense? We've been hearing two messages for a long time" - that government should increase its services at the same time as it cuts taxes.