The two senators who led the filibuster against removing natural gas price controls last year said yesterday they will try to kill the deregulate - by - 1985 compromise approved by the House-Senate energy conferees.
Sens. James Abourezk (D-S.D.) and Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) called a news conference to denounce the agreements as "total surrender" to the oil and gas industry and to serve notice that they'll be ready to do battle conference agreement later this week.
This time they are expected to be joined by some conservatives who oppose the agreement, because it doesn't deregulate quickly enough.
There are several ways to attack the agreement. One is to try to talk it to death. The Senate cannot vote on an tissue as long as a single senator is on his feet wishing to talk - unless 60 senators vote to cut off debate.Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said he plans to file a cloture petition after two days of talk, but conceded that he probably won't get the necessary 60 votes on the first try.
Last year Abourezk and Metzenbaum found a way to keep their fili-buster going even after cloture was voted by forcing votes on dozens of amendments they had introduced before debate was limited. They can't amend the conference report, but they could achieve the same effect by forcing votes on dozens of motions to re-commit the measure to conference with instructions to make certain changes.
If opponents don't have the votes to kill the natural gas agreement outright, they would try to use up so much time talking and with parliamentary maneuvers that Byrd would drop the bill in order to get essential work done before Oct. 7 adjournment target.
Metzenbaum expressed special opposition to the action of the conferees in failing to provide the president any authority to allocate intrastate gas in times of shortage. He said this meant that when states such as Ohio are forced to close schools and factories because of a gas shortage in a hard winter there would be no way to tap 40 percent of the nation's natural gas, consumed within the state where produced, often in low-priority uses.
Abourezk criticized President Carter for not fighting for continued regulation, which was a key part of the energy program he sent Congress last year, an issue he termed the "moral equivalent of war."