The House voted last night to save both the Tellico Dam and the Hart Senate Office Building.
The votes came on an energy and water resources appropriations bill as the House met late into the night in order to be able to adjourn today for the August recess.
By 258 to 156, the House insisted on exempting the Tennessee Valley Authority's Tellico Dam from any laws that might hinder its construction.
The Senate had refused to let the dam on the Little Tennessee River go forward, and the issue now goes back to that chamber for a vote.
The Little Tennessee River harbors the snail darter, a small fish protected by the Endangered Species Act. Years of controversy ensued when it was ruled that the dam could not be built because it would destroy the fish's habitat.
Congress set up an Executive Review Committee to review projects stopped by the act, and the committee unanimously decided to stop contruction of the dam.
But the House quietly slipped an amendment into the appropriations bill that would exempt the dam from laws preventing its completion.
The dam is expected to cost about $145 million, $111 million has already been spent. But the Senate refused to go along with the House, and voted to deny funding for the dam.
Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus said in a letter he would urge President Carter to veto the bill if the dam go-ahead remains in it.
Reps. John Breaux (D-La.) said he exemption would not only go to the Endangered Species Act, but all other acts as well. He said the action "negates the work of the last Congress and invites a parade of specific project exemptions in the future."
But Rep. Tom Bevill (D-Ala.) said the snail darter has been successfully removed to another river where it is thriving, and the dam, providing heat for 20,000 homes would save "15 million gallons of oil a year." He called it an energy project and said the "people of Tennessee want the dam completed."
On the other subject, the Senate had appropriated $57.5 million for continued construction of the controversial Hart Office Building, but also added a ceiling of $142.6 million on its cost.
Last year the House set off an uproar by refusing to fund the building, criticized for its extravagant features, such as a rooftop garden restaurant, saunas, a gym, track and swimming pool. In the end, the House backed down from its unusual violation of the "comity" or politeness between the House and Senate.
Bevill argued the building should be completed because it would cost $100 oillion to tear it down, and because 1,700 Senate staff members were working in "firetraps" scattered around the Hill. He promised that all the frills such as the restaurant, gym and pool had been eliminated.
But Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.), in a speech that had House members cheering, intoned, "The Versalles Palace, the Eiffel Tower, the Capitol of the United States, the Japanese Diet did not cost this much money. The greater St. Peter's in Rome did not cost this much money and Mimcihaelangelo was its architect, not George White."
The House then voted 236 to 173 not to allow the Hart building to go forward.
However, Appropriations Committee Chairman Jamie Whitten (d-Miss.) then offered an amendment to cut the money to $52.5 million and put a $137.7 million cost ceiling on the building. That move carried by a 214-to-184 vote.