House liberals yesterday accepted a token Senate concession on the compromise congressional budget resolution, resulting in final approval of Congress' fiscal 1980 budget targets following a guns-vs.-butter battle Wednesday.
With the liberals largely supporting the measure, the House voted 202 to 196 to approve the resolution, which calls for a moderately austere spending level of $532 billion and a deficit of $23 billion, $6 billion below what the president requested.
Yesterday's floor vote completed congressional action on the initial budget targets. The Senate approved the measure Wednesday. Since the targets affect only congressional action, the president's signature is not required.
Had the resolution failed again yesterday, the lawmakers would have been unable to go ahead with routine appropriations bills until a compromise was reached. Congress begins a Memorial Day recess Saturday.
The liberals acquiesced after the Senate voted 72 to 17 late Wednesday to add $350 million in authority to commit funds for future spending to a broad category of programs that includes education grants and job programs.
Earlier, the House had voted 260 to 144 to reject a compromise resolution reported out by a House-Senate conference committee. The liberals contended that the resolution pared too much from education funds and gave too much to defense.
The Senate's concession did not touch defense spending. The budget targets approved by the two houses essentially parallel the president's military budget requests, allowing for a 3 percent increase after accounting for inflation.
The shift by the liberals yesterday was signaled by Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), the leader of Wednesday's successful challenge, who called the Senate concession "constructive" and urged other Democrats to go along.
Nevertheless, even with the liberals' support, the vote was close, with 80 Democrats opposing the resolution and only 28 Republicans supporting it. House leaders prowled the floor during the vote urging members to support the measure.
Obey indicated yesterday that his main complaint about the earlier version was that it would have set a lower figure for education grants than his Labor-HEW appropriations sub-committee has voted, making the panel's job more difficult on the floor.
He also castigated those who described the Wednesday vote as symbolic, saying that "the argument was not over symbols . . . It was real." And he vowed to try to cut defense spending further when the appropriations bills reach the floor.
However, House Budget Committee Chairman Robert N. Giaimo (D-Conn.) pointed out that the targets set by the budget measure cover only broad spending categories, and do not attempt to limit specific programs such as education.
Giaimo said that even under the earlier version of the resolution the House Appropriations Committee still could have allocated education and training funds as it saw fit, giving education grants more or less money compared with other programs.
The Labor-HEW appropriations sub-committee marked up its annual money bill last week, but has kept its actions secret so far, refusing to divulge its spending figures even to the House Budget Committee.
The targets set by the initital budget resolution are only tentative and can be revised in September, after the appropriations bills are passed. The initial measure is primarily a guide so that Congress can measure its budget actions.
The House action yesterday was a victory for President Carter, who proposed similar budget totals in his meassage last January. The Senate concessions for education grants covered only future spending authority, and did not affect outlays.