The House Rules Committee yesterday voted to kill President Carter's proposed cuts in Social Security disability benefits.
The committee refused, on a 5-to-5 tie vote, to clear the bill for floor action.
However, Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.), who missed the vote, said he would ask at a later meeting to vote again on the measure. Six members, including Bauman, were absent during yesterday's voting.
Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.), who was strongly opposed the cuts, said before the vote, "I don't feel very noble" about a bill designed "to save money with respect to the families of the disabled people of this country."
Republican conservative James H. Quillen (Tenn.) surprised observers by voting against granting the floor clearance. He said later that the cuts in monthly disability payments, up to 15 percent for persons going on the rolls after Jan. 1, 1980, are "a bit too strong . . . I saw no reason to bring it to the floor without modifications."
One reason for the surprise out-come of yesterday's Rules Committee deliberations was a whirlwind lobbying effort by former secretary of health, education and welfare Wilbur J. Cohen, one of the fathers of the social Security Act and head of a coalition of aged and disabled persons called "Save Our Security."
Cohen, arguing that the big expansion of the disability rolls has diminished, spearheaded an affort to get Congress to turn back not only the disability bill but a half dozen cuts in different parts of Social Security President Carter sought to reduce the costs of the system.
The disability cuts had been the only Carter proposals for Social Security reductions with any chance of approval this year. Now, the disability bill is dead unless the Rules Committee reversed itself.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. J. J. (Jake) Pickle (D-Tex.), met with House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) after the vote to figure out ways to keep the bill alive.
He called the bill a "very modest step" toward pruning some parts of Social Security to save money. Asked what he will do next, he said, "We're gonna pray" that the Rules Committee vote can be reversed.
Both Cohen and Social Security Commissioner Stanford Ross, who wanted to bill sent to the floor, were in the Rules Committee offices as the committee took its 5-to-5 vote.
HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. told a news conference after the vote that he hopes the bill is only "resting" in the Rules Committee, not killed. "I figure a tie vote . . . maybe we can reverse it." He said the cost of the disability program, which a few years ago was a billion dollars or so, has jumped to $15.6 billion.
Under the bill, a disabled worker and two dependents would get annual benefits of $8.109 if the disabled worker's previous average earnings had been $12,650 a year. Under current law, the same worker would get $9,546 in family benefits - a differences would apply to other income groups. The cuts are said to be designed to save money and reduce consider an incentive to malingering. By 1984, the bill would save $1 billion a year, it was estimated.