Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) and a coalition of House liberals yesterday introduced separate bills that would block President Carter's plan to begin decontrolling domestic oil prices this June.
While the bill offered by Jackson, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, poses a potential challenge to the Carter decontrol plan, the bill's consponsors yesterday conceded it faces an uncertain future.
Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), one of 13 Senate liberals backing Jackson's proposal, said yesterday, "It will be an uphill battle."
Jackson's bill calls for extending current mandatory price controls for two years, until Oct. 31, 1981, and would give the president discretion to continue controls on prices until the end of 1982.
Under a 1975 law, Carter has the authority to lift controls altogether on domestic oil production on June 1. The administration's proposed decontrol package, however, calls for phased decontrol of domestic oil prices and the enactment of a "windfall profits" tax to reduce oil industry earnings.
Jackson, who generally has allied himself with Carter's and Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger's energy policies, lashed out last Friday at the White House plan, saying it would raise domestic gasoline prices 15 to 20 cents a gallon by September 1981 when controls end.
Earlier the White House said that decontrol would increase domestic prices by only 4 to 5 cents a gallon.
Jackson said decontrol "will increase prices to the consumer and fuel inflation which is nearly out of control now."
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of the bill's cosponors, said decontrol "undermines public trust in the fairness of the anti-inflation program and it will force the poor to choose between food, medical care, and keeping warm."
Following President Carter's press conference yesterday, a senior White House official said there is little chance the president's decision on decontrol will be reversed "We did a lot of consulting up there (in Congress) on the prospects for continuing controls and nobody, including these two gentlemen (Kennedy and Jackson), suggested there was any chance of doing that."
Minutes before Jackson formally introduced his legislation, Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said, "I hope it would not get anywhere."
In the House, Rep. Thomas A. Luken (D-Ohio) sponsored a bill along with Reps. Ronald Mottl (D-Ohio and Ted Weiss (D.N.Y.) that would extend domestic oil price controls for 25 cosponsors.
Late last evening Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.). huddled with House Commerce Committed members John Dingell (D-Mich.) Bob Eckhardt (D-Tex.), Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to formulate a strategy to block decontrol in the House.
Moffett said, "We're looking procedurally at what kind of a handle we have. We could try to amend the DOE budget, offer something in the energy and power subcommittee or go straight to the full Commerce Committee."
As for the prospects of stopping the decontrol measure, Moffett said, "Like Jackson, were not extremely optimistic."