Influenced by California voters, the House yesterday voted to slash $800 million out of funds appropriated for the departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare.
The almost unprecedented cut, 2 percent of the controllable spending in the $57.9 billion Labor-HEW bill, passed 220 to 181 despite warnings by Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass) that California's Propositions.) 13 was "not a bugle call" to tear down health, education and welfare programs.
The nonspecified cuts would be left up to the administration, but no program could be cut by more than 5 percent. Mandatory spending, such as for Social Security, would not be affected.
The House also voted to deny federal funds for abortions except where the life of the woman is endangered, after rejecting a compromise offered by Democractic leaders. The vote was 212 to 198 against the compromise, which would have allowed abortions for the victims of rape or incest or where "severe and long-lasting physical health damage" would result if the fetus were carried to term.
The compromise language was the same as the House and the Senate agreed to last year after six months of debate and 28 votes on the abortion issue. Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.), who offered the compromise, pleaded with the House to save itself "the agony of prolonged debate and bitter discussion that will ultimately result in similar language."
Wright said that $60 million for federal pograms was delayed in reaching the public last year because of the controversy. "I don't know that a delay this year will come up with anything different than this," he said.
But Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), the original author of the stringent anti-abortion language, said that"regulations drawn up by HEW absolutely torpedo" any chance of compromise. He said HEW regulations interpreted last year's language in the widest possible sense and amounted to "abortion on demand."
"The House position was torpedoed by the people who really run this country-the regulators," he said.
An attempt by Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) to strike all the antiabortion language in the bill, removing all restrictions on federal funding of abortions, failed 287 to 122.
Stokes called it "unconscionable class legislation" and added, "Let's not pick out 25,000 poor women . . . and say you cannont have an abortion because you're poor." Abortions are federally funded primarily under the Medicare program.
Meanwhile Sen. Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass.) promised to fight the House version again this year. "There is no queston but that I will oppose this inhumane and unrealistic legislation as strongly as I did last year and I am confident the overwhelming majority of my colleagues in the Senate will join me in refusing to accept such discriminatory legislation, no matter how long it takes or how hard that might be," he said.
The cut of $800 million - which almost doubles the $441 million cut proposed by the administration - comes on top of a $1 billion cut in areas of fraud and abuse voted by the House last week.
That earlier cut, however, may have no practical effect, which even its supporters acknowledged. Yesterday's action would.
At the time of last week's vote, Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) said the House was in a "panic" to cut spending in the wake of California's Proposition 13, which slashes property taxes there.
Wright said yesterday he thought "panic" was an overstatement, but he made those remarks before the House slashed the HEW funds.
Rep. Clarence E. Miller (R-Ohio), who offered the cut, said he was aiming at the "alarming growth" of HEW, whose budget, he said, was more than the budget of the 50 states combined.
Conte said Miller was "attempting to lower the meat ax on programs affecting millions of Americans." He said Proposition 13 was "not a bugle call to tear down" programs but a message that "I believe means people want less government interference."
In other action, the House voted 232 to 177 to prevent any funds in the bill being used to force racial quotas in college hiring or admissions.
"Any quota, no matter what its purpose, is discriminatory," said Rep. Robert S. Walker (R.-Pa.), the author of the amendment.
The House passed the bill by 338 to 61.