The Carter administration wished Congress a happy summer vacation yesterday with a sorrowful complaint about congressional inaction on President Carter's energy proposals.
Vice President Mondale, a key link between the White House and Capitol Hill, where Mondale served for 12 years, delivered the message on the day Congress officially left for an August recess that will past Labor Day.
The leadership of the Congress and many of its members have worked very hard, but as the gas lines have receded and as the inevitable interest group pressure has mounted, I regret to say Congress has failed to make adequate progress on the president's proposals," the vice president said.
That was the general tenor of the statement, which was delivered by Mondale in the tone of a disappointed parent addressing an errant offspring who still offers hope of improved behavior in the future.
Mondale's statement was part of a White House strategy to build pressure on Congress during the recess for action on the energy proposals. As part of that effort, the president plans weekly forays into the country to drum up constituent support for his program.
The gentle tone of the Mondale statement also suggested that the White House hopes that when members of Congress return in September they will be in more of a mood to compromise over the energy issues, and that in the meantime the administration should do nothing to fray congressional nervns.
The president's top priority was enactment before the August recess of the "windfall profits" tax on the oil industry, which would provide the funds for the administration's ambitious 10-year energy program. Without the tax, Carter has said repeatedly, the nation will not reach his goal of cutting oil imports in half by 1990.
The tax measure has passed the House but is bogged down in the Senate, where Finance Committee Chairman Russell B. Long (d-La.) has told the president not to expect enactment of the bill before October.
Similarly, congressional leaders had told the president they hoped to enact legislation before the recess that would give him authority to develop a standby gasoline rationing plan. But the House loaded the bill with amendments, which the White House called "unacceptable" and Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W, Va.) described as "ludicrous," leaving that issue in limbo for the rest of the summer as well.
Other parts of the Carter energy plan are also bogged down on Capitol Hill including the president's proposed $88 billion synthetic fuels program, already cut back to $20 billion by the Senate Energy Committee.
In most respects, little was expected of this Congress and many onservers believe it has pretty much lived up to expectations.
In addition to energy, the economy is a crucial domestic problem. Inflation is eating into savings but neither Congress nor the president has been able to do much about it. Early in the year, Congress talked about a balanced budget by constitutional amendment or legislative discipline. Neither seems likely, and as the economy slows and revenues drop, it probably will again be acknowledged an impossible dream.
A bill designed to hold down hospital costs has moved through one of two House committees in weakened form and may be considered by House and Senate before Congress quits for the year. If not enacted, it would, like all other bills introduced this year, remain alive during the second year of this 96th Congress.
There has been more action in fields other than these two most pressing domestic issues.
Perhaps the most impressive was easy passage of a giant trade bill that will significantly cut tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade. Usually, a trade bill means months of battling in Congress. This time the deals were cut before the bill went to the Hill under rules that forbade amendment.
The record on foreign policy legislation has been mixed but generally it has gone not as badly as some feared. Legislation changing the relationship between the United States and Taiwan after recognition of mainland China was passed without as much fuss as expected. Senate consideration of the strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II) seems to be going better than feared, though the cost may be considerable extra money for defense. The House cut some holes in legislation implementing the Panama Canal treaties but it could have been much worse, and the administration may be able to get rid of some House changes in a House-Senate conference. The long debate over Zimbabwe-Rhodesia sanctions may have been ended with an agreement that if President Carter doesn't lift sanctions by Mid-November, Congress can by majority vote.
Both bodies have voted to create a separate department of education and must settle differences on side issues when they return in September. Both have approved in generally similar form an Amtrak bill which, because of gasoline shortages, restores a number of passenger trains the administration wanted to cancel.
For the first time in nearly 60 years, the House censured a member, Rep. Charles C. Diggs Jr. (D-Mich.), who qad been convicted of taking payroll kickbacks. The Senate has still to dispose of the charges of financial irregularities against Sen. Herman E. Talmadge (D-Ga.).
One of the sleepers of this Congress could be passage of a bill to overhaul the federal criminal code. The massive project has been incubating for more than a decade. The Senate has produced a bill twice, but until this year, when Rep. Robert F. Drinan (D.-Mass.) took over the issue, the House had shown no interest. Now there are indications there may be legislation, probjbly not dealing with all the large controversial questions. But making provisions in the code uniform would be a large step forward.
A step backward, some might think, was the Senate's quick 50-to-29 vote yesterday, just beating the closing gavel, to ease its financial disclosure requirements and comply only with the milder rules observed by the House and the executive and judicial branches.
The move means senators and their top aides now must file the yearly financial reports required by the decade-old Ethics in Government Act rather than the tougher requirements Senate rules had required.
Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and Harrison Schmitt (R-N.M.) objected to the change. "At a time when people are calling for more openness in government, we are not providing that openness," Metzenbaum said. "This is a step backward." CAPTION: Picture, Vice President Mondale: ". . . I regret to say Congress has failed to make adequate progress on the president's proposals" on energy.