The House yesterday took a swipe at Housing and Urban Development Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris - and at President Carter as well - as it voted 244 to 140 to give either house of Congress the right to veto future HUD regulations on housing and community development.
The House Banking Committee had already moved to rescind one set of regulations that Harris issued, one requiring communities to use most of their money for the benefit of low and moderate income families.
Yesterday, ignoring, housing subcommittee Chairman Thomas Ashley (D-Ohio), who said it was indulging in a "classic case of overkill," the House moved to restrict Harris further by demanding that all housing and the community development regulations be submitted to Congress, allowing either house of Congress 90 days to disapprove them.
The action came just a week after President Carter sent a message to Congress serving notice that he considers such legislative vetoes unconstitutional and that he doesn't feel legally bound to comply when Congress takes that route to overturn actions of his administration.
Carter, in his statement, stopped short of saying he would ignore such vetoes. He indicated he was trying to dissuade Congress from attaching them to future bills.
Yesterday's vote saw the House sending a message back to Carter that it does not intend to stop using the legislative veto and that it will be up to the Supreme Court to resolve the legislative-executive branch confrontation on the issue.
Harris made members of the House Banking Committee angry when in October HUD proposed regulations that 75 percent of a city's community development block grants be used principally to benefit low and moderate income persons. After the committee and interest groups, such as the National League of Cities, complained, HUD retreated, but still required that at least 51 percent of the funds be earmarked for projects benefiting low and middle income groups.
Harris had already announced that she intended to make projects for the low and moderate income people a minority of the $4 billion a year community development aid program and she did not apologize for the regulations "send a clear message to our constituents. HUD is targeting its funds more carefully to the needs of the poor."
But Rep. Garry Brown (R-Mich.) saw the regualtions as circumventing one of the key purposes of the community development block grants: the right of communities to determine how they will spend the funds.
Brown offered the amendment in committee to the $29 billion HUD authorization bill that effectively blocked the HUD community development block grant regulations.
But he did not consider that sufficient and yesterday offered the one-house, 90-day veto amendment on the floor, arguing that by regulation HUD was trying to change the meaning of a law and encroaching on Congress' right to legislate.
The executive branch is using regulations "not to flesh out the law but to undermine the law" and HUD "is one of the worse offenders," Brown said.
Ashley argued that the committee would be overburdened if it had to examine thousands of regulations, ranging from rent levels in 3,100 counties to standards for sprinkler systems in public housing. Ashley said Brown was "trying to take over the prerogatives of the executive branch."
The Senate Banking Committee is more inclined to agree with Harris' approach and has viewed community development grants chiefly as aid for the poor, but the House view has prevailed in House-Senate conference committees so far.
Brown said his legislative veto amendment would not apply to setting Federal Housing Administration interest rates.
The House did not complete work on the HUD authorization and is expected to take up again shortly after it returns from the July 4 recess on July 10.