Undeterred by presidential veto threats, an election-year steamroller in the House yesterday handily passed a $10 billion public works-energy research spending bill.
After yesterday's 319-to-71 vote, the measure adopted by House-Senate conferees now needs only Senate approval to reach the veto confrontation stage.
President Carter has not said specifically that he will veto the bill, although he has dropped hints, and the White House has begun a low-key public persuasion campaign to line up support for a veto.
The appropriations bill provides money for a number of flood-control and water resources projects opposed by Carter, as well as $200 million for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor he considers unneccessary.
But in the House in an election year> as evidenced by yesterday's overwhelming vote, sentiment for putting a lid on the traditional pork barrel runs low.
Officially, the White House position is that nothing will be said until the Senate acts, which could occur today.
Nonetheless, the administration began a month ago to attempt to generate public support for the veto that seems a certainty.
Thousands of information sheets have been sent to editors around the country, outlining Carter's objections, and groups representing business and environmentalists have received White House briefings.
"The president hasn't seen the final bill and we didn't want to gear up until we see what the Senate does," a White House aide said yesterday. "But we will be inviting citizen and civic groups in to hear our side."
On the House floor yesterday, however, the tone of debate and the lopsided vote margin left several impressions - on more compromise is possible and a veto will be dealt with when and if it occurs.
Rep. Tom Beville (D-Ala.), chairman of the public works appropriations subcommittee, said "a veto will be hard to override" and offered a sort of olive branch to the president.
Under the budget control act, he noted, Carter has the power to go ahead and sign the bill into law, while singling out for deferral or killing any portions of it that he finds unacceptable.
"We've done a lot of cutting to stay within the budget limits," Bevil said in an interview. "It is no pork barrel, no budget-buster. A vote for it would be a conservative vote. It is a good, solid bill."
But during floor debate, Reps. Robert W. Edgar (D-Pa.) and Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.) argued just the opposite - that the "savings" it provides are illusory and, in Conte's words, that it is "tainted by a number of classic pork barrell boondoggles."
Edgar acknowledged that the final bill is lower than last year's version, lower than Carter's proposed budget figure and lower than the earlier Hose version.
But, he said, the $1.2 billion that Bevill and others claim as savings are actually only "paper savings" that mislead the public.
Actually, the bill doubles the number of new water project starts recommended by Carter, provides money for six projects Carter though he had killed last year and directs the hiring of 2,300 new federal bureaucrats for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of reclamation.
The bill also abolishes the Water Resources Council that Carter intended as overseer of his proposed national water policy and it boosts by more than $70 million the administration request for fusion, biomass, geothermal and solar energy research.
A major bone of contention between Carter and the appropriations committees is the issue of "full funding" of water projects.
Carter's proposed water policy would include the full amount for each project in the budget so the public would understand the long-term financial commitment.
The committee, however, continued their usual practice of "incremental" funding - that is, providing fractional amounts for each project - leaving what the White House describes as "the impression of reducing the budget below the president's request, while actually tripling the long-term commitment."