Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va) said yesterday he will speed passage of the omnibus energy production bill by delaying it until after the August congressional recess.
Byrd said he had called in the chairmen of five Senate committees with jurisdiction over various aspects of the measure and had gotten "excellent cooperation" from them. The idea, Byrd told reporters, is "to avoid jurisdictional squabbles and sequential referrals" to the committees by having all of them work on it at the staff level during the recess.
"I don't see this as a delay. I see this as a sensible, responsible, logical procedural approach to dealing with a difficult and complex bill," Byrd said.
The $88 billion measure would boost the production of synthetic fuels, set up a special board to slash red tape on nonnuclear energy projects and impose a tax on oil companies' socalled "windfall profits," among other things. Byrd said he now expects it to reach the Senate floor in early September.
There is the chance of a filibuster by senators opposed to the windfall profits tax, Byrd said, but he said that the more opportunity senators have now to understand the bill's provisions, the more likely they will be to vote for cloture later.
The Senate leader warned President Carter, however, that the final bill will be different from the one Carter sent to Congress. In his televised news conference last week, Carter asked viewers to write their senators and save his program from the oil lobby.
"Just because a senator votes for a change does not mean that that senator is controlled by any oil lobby," Byrd said. "Nobody needs to expect Congress to rubber-stamp any president's proposal on energy. This Congress certainly is not going to."
Byrd refused to outline the changes he expected. He did note that Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, " had promised Carter that the president would be pleased with the final shape of the windfall profits tax measure.
Authority to order emergency gasoline rationing, which Carter has requested, could be tacked onto the energy package if it passes the House in time, Byrd said. But he said he would oppose emphatically any attempt to add a tax cut proposal. "I wouldn't rule out at some point in time some kind of tax cut," Byrd said, "but it's too early to enact it now."
Carter's new Cabinet members and new White House adviser Hedley Donovan are "good choices," Byrd said, recalling that he had advised Carter to broaden his circle of counselors.
Byrd said it was still too soon to assess the effect of the overhaul on Carter's political future. "People don't distrust the man," Byrd said. "He has a lot going for him...I wouldn't join anyone in writing [his] political obituary."
Turning to international matters, the majority leader said defenders of the SALT II pact had made "a good case" that its rejection would require the United States to spend far more for defense than if the treaty is approved. However, Byrd added, "whether we have SALT II or not, the country is going to have to spend more for defense."
He said he would make his decision on the treaty in September. CAPTION: Picture, SEN. ROBERT BYRD..."sensible approach"