As adjournament-minded Congress last night sent to President Carter the last of this fiscal year's big appropriations bills for the departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare, after agreeing on rules for federal financing of abortions.
But the energy bill was held up all day by a filibuster in the Senate that was not abandoned until well after midnight. And while at that point the energy bill finally seemed sure of passage, there remained a problem with tax cuts, on which House-Senate conferees could not completely agree.
THe $56 billion Labor-HEW money bill, whose progress employes of the two departments had nervously tracked for fear their paychecks would be delayed, was cleared for Carter's signature after the House agreed by a 198-to-195 vote to accept last fiscal year's abortion restrictions.
In other developments on what was supposed to be the last day of the 95th Congress, but turned out to be a day spent mostly talking rather than voting:
The tax part of the president's energy plan was held up by a 14-hour filibuster in the Senate led by retiring Sen. James Abourezk (D-S.D.), who opposes the price increases and tax concessions to the industry that the plan involves. Abourezk finally gave up about 1 a.m., saying his was a losing cause, and the Senate promptly passed the tax provisions 60 to 17. Still left was a single vote on all five parts of the plan combined into one bill in the House.
The House approved an extension of the expiring Endangered Species Act, but with some weakening amendments that the Senate was thought likely to oppose. That bill thus remained in limbo.
Two other bills - one to set aside large parts of Alaska as national parks or wilderness, the other intended to contain rising hospital costs - were declared dead for this Congress by key legislators.
But the Humphrey-Hawkins bill setting employment and inflation targets and the airline deregulation bill both took further steps toward passage.
The Senate approved the compromise version of the airline bill, and the House was expected to follow suit. Meanwhile, the House Rules Committee cleared the Senate version of Humphrey-Hawkins for expected approval without amendment on the House floor.
The Senate agreed Thursday to accept last year's antiabortion language on this year's bill. The House had held out for additional restrictions, but last night relented.
Under the agreed-upon language, federal funds can be used to finance abortions only where the life of the woman is in danger, or two doctors agree that her physical health would be seriously impaired if the pregnancy went to term, or where the pregnancy has resulted from a promptly reported case of rape or incest.
The fiscal year that is covered by the appropriations bill and the abortion rider began Oct. 1.
The abortions at issue are mainly those paid for previously by HEW under Medicaid, the program that pays the medical bills of the poor.
Local Reps. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.), Newton I. Steers (R-Md.), Herbert E. Harris II (D-Va.) and Joseph L. Fisher (D-Va.) all voted in favor of the Labor-HEW bill.
The House spent most of yesterday afternoon discussing minor bills. The leadership had agreed to schedule no votes until 4 p.m. because of funerals for two House members, Ralph H. Metcalfe of Chicago and Goodloe Byron of Maryland.
On the Endangered Species Art, the House first voted late in the afternoon, 231 to 157, to exempt the Tellico Dam in Tennessee from the provisions of the law.
The amendment would mean that the Tennessee Valley Authority project would be completed, flooding the habitat of a three-inch fish called the snail darter. The Supreme Court had halted construction by ruling in June that destriction of the snail darter's habitat violated the act.
The House then passed a three-year extension of the law, 384 to 12, and sent it to the Senate, which was expected to oppose the Tellico exemption.
The Alaska lands bill, designed to protect 100 million acres of wilderness in that state, died when a congressional negotiating committee could not reach agreement.
The negotiations broke up over Sen. Mike Gravel's (D-Alaska) unwillingness to accept a proposal for six transportation corridors through the protected areas. Gravel said he felt the proposal would leave too much power in the hands of "a willful secretary" of the interior.
Sen. John A. Durkin (D-N.H.) accused Gravel of torpedoing the bill, and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) stormed out, saying, "It's all over; no bill."
The failure leaves the Alaska lands technically open to development after Dec. 18. Sponsors began drafting a bill to extend the deadline for a year, but Gravel said he would oppose that as well. With Congress in its last day, it seemed likely he would prevail.
The House on a voice vote approved Carter's alternative to tuition tax credits. This plan would liberalize existing programs of student loans and grants.
The Senate has passed the measure in almost identical form, and chances of its final passage were considered excellent.
The House also passed and sent to the White House a chopped-down version of a bill to increase veterans' pensions and survivors' benefits.
Early today, the Senate adopted an airline noise-control bill after eliminating a provision that would have given more than $3 billion in federal funds to airlines to help defray the cost of quieter planes to meet federal noise standards.
The House had approved a bill that did give that money to the airlines, but the Senate refused to go to conference on the issue, so the House faced a choice between the Senate version or no bill.
Deletion of the $3 million payout was a victory for Abourezk, who convinced Sen. Howard W. Cannon (D-Nev.) to drop the provision during the filibuster Abourezk led against the energy tax bill yesterday.
Abourezk also convinced Cannon to extend the life of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for two more years. Abourezk is its chairman.
After a 15-week deadlock conferees reached agreement on the question of sick pay for pregnant workers. The compromise would require companies with sick-leave or disability-pay programs to extend coverage to pregnant workers. They agreed that companies would not have to pay for abortions but would be required to cover costs of sick leave and medical care should a worker be disabled as a result of an abortion.