The House, unimpressed with last-minute lobbying by Transportation Secretary Brock Adams, has rejected amendments that would have substantially reduced proposed highway spending levels.
The actions came Thursday night and yesterday as the House continued debate on the $66 billion, four-year highway and mass transit bill passed earlier by the House Public Works and Transportation Committee. Adams has labeled the bill "pure pork barrel" because of its plethora of special projects in various congressional districts. Final action on the bill is probable next week.
Most of that $66.5 billion-$48.1 billion of it-would go for highways and highway safety programs and would be funded from the Highwat Trust Fund.The other $18.4 billion was earmarked for transit programs. The Carter administration proposal was for a total highway-transit programof some $20 billion less.
Rep. James J. Howard (D.N.J.) chairmab of the Public Works subcommittee whence this bill came, had agreed in earlier bargaining to reduce the total program to about $60.4 billion.
This he did in an amendment that sailed through on a voice vote. Then the fun began.
Rep. Robert N. Giaimo (D-Conn.) proposed an amendment that would have limited authorized highway expenditures in the four years of the bill to the amount generated by the trust in that period of time. That pay-as-you-go approach would have meant a reduction in the highway program from $48.6 billion to about $35 billion.
Howard's bill, with the concurrence of the House Ways and Means Committee would fund the four-year highwat program with five years of revenue from the trust fund, device that guarantees that pressures would continue to keep the trust alive.
Adams called a news briefing at the White House to announce that the admininstration was absolutely in favor of Giaimo's amendment; that if Giaimo's amendment failed and the House simply split the difference in a conference committee with the much lower Senate authorizations, the bill would still be voted.
Giaimo went down, 238 to 111. It was a bipartisan effort. One hundred forty-three Democrats and 95 Republicans voted against the amendment.
That was on Thursday. Yesterday the big debate was over whether to reimburse the outdoor advertising industry for the cost of removing billboards from the sides of federal primary highways. Heretofore, states and local governments, if they were of a mind, just ordered the signs down after a certain period of time.
"We want to be fair," Howard said, "Study after study shows that the American public want signs," said E. G. (Bud) Shuster (R-Pa). "We should not go too far."
Rep. Peter H. Kostmayer (D-Pa). who was offering the amendment, said that reimbursement would cost $1.3 billion and was opposed by cities and counties. "Keep the federal government out of local affairs," he said.
The admininstration supported failed, 76 to 199.