Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) said yesterday he will support cloture to limit debate and bar amendments on measures to give the District of Columbia voting rights in Congress, to abolish the Electoral College and to extend the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Byrd told the reporters he would do so to prevent the proposals from becoming "lightning rods for every kind of (Constitutional) amendment," ranging from mandating a balanced budget to banning abortions and school busing.
Filibuster have been threatened to hold up Senate action on the constitutional amendment to give D.C. full congressional representation and on a resolution to extend time for ERA ratification, which will run out next March without further congressional action.
In addition, some conservative senators have proposed to tack onto the D.C. measure a variety of other provisions amending the Constitution to ban busing for desegregation purposes, limit presidential terms, make all abortions illegal, flrbid budget deflcits and permit prayers in public schools.
With this additional constitutional baggage, the amendment would "collapse of its own weight," said Byrd. The amendment has been approved by the House, and supporters say they have the two-thirds vote necessary to win Senate passage.
In regard to the ERA extension, Byrd said he has some "unresolved questions" about the extension resolution but he believes the Senate should have a chance to vote on it after the House acts. The House Judiciary Committee approved a 3-year, 3-month extension last month.
Bryd said he will support cloture for the Electoral College amendment because it, too, could become a vehicle for unrelated amendments.
On other matters, Byrd said he is "disappointed" with what he called "inflexibility" by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on peace negotiations with Israel.
While he did not sign a statement of protest by 14 senators who backed the sale of F15 jets to Saudi Arabia, Byrd said he shares their concern that the Saudis are not encouraging Sadat to be flexible.
"All of us who supported the arms sale have a right to be disappointed," said Byrd, although he emphasized that he still believes the sale was in the best interests of the United States as well as peace in the Middle East.
Byrd said Senate Energy Committee Chairman Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) told him he hopes to have signatures on the elusive natural gas pricing compromise in time for floor action early this week but that plans are still uncertain. He said he remains "confident" that Congress will pass an energy package this session.
As for cost overruns on the Senate's own new office building, Byrd said the Senate was correct, though tardy, in putting a ceiling on the costs ($135 million). The space is needed, he said, but he frills should be eliminated.