The Senate yesterday gave final approval to two more pieces of President Carter's energy program that the House will try to package with the natural gas bill and pass later this week.
Both bodies originally passed the bills last year, but the final versions worked out by a House-Senate conference were held up until conferees reached agreement on the highly controversial natural gas bill and that agreement had passed the Senate.
One of the bills containing several conservation programs passed yesterday 86 to 3. The other measure, which seeks to reduce energy consumption by electric utilities, was approved 75 to 13.
The bill phasing out price controls on new natural gas by 1965 is considered the most important surviving part of Carter's energy proposals now that the major taxes he proposed on domestic crude oil and industrial use of oil and natural gas have been rejected.
Believing that their best chance to pass the natural gas bill lies in putting the entire energy issue to a single House vote, House leaders will ask the Rules Committee later this week for a resolution packaging into one energy bill what the Senate passed as four separate bills. Besides the gas bill and the two measures passed yesterday afternoon, this includes a bill setting up a regulatory program to order industry and utilities to switch 1 utilities to switch from gas to oil to other fuels.
The utility rate bill passed by the Senate yesterday was a watered-down version of Carter's proposal. He wanted electric utilities to be required to take various steps to reduce their consumption of energy, such as offering customers lower "time-of-day" rates for using power in off-peak hours. The House approved this, but the Senate rejected it and the confer-state regulatory bodies to take these hours. The House approved this, but the Senate rejected it and the conferees settled for a provision requiring state regulatory bodies to take these procedures into account when setting utility rate structures.
The other bill would require local utilities to help customers insulate their homes, authorize $900 million to insulate schools and hospitals, provide grants up to $800 to help poor poeple weatherize their homes, order the setting of energy standards for major home appliances and permit the doubling of penalties for auto makers whose fleetwide mileage performance fails to meet federal standards. The Senate had voted to ban the sale of big, inefficient cars, but settled for doubling the current penalties when the secretary of energy decides it would save substantial amounts of energy and would not increase unemployment or auto imports.
Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), who led the fight against natural gas deregulation voted for both bills yesterday. He said they represented, "a step forward but fall far shot of what is needed" to reduce oil imports that represent about 40 percent of national consumption.
House opponents of natural gas deregulation will fight in the Rules Committee and on the House floor to try to split the gas part off for a separate vote. The theory is that if memebers are confronted with a single vote on what Carter has tried to make the most important domestic issue, they will be under greater pressure to vote for it.
If the remnants of the energy tax bill, containing home-insulation credits and a watered-down tax on gas-guzzling cars, can be moved quickly enough it may be put into the House package.