A congressional subcommittee's plan to halt major antitrust actions against the petroleum and automobile industries has drawn protest from the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees.
Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said the move against the Federal Trade Commission is "a very serious and improper interference" in regulatory proceedings.
Their protest was sent over the weekend to Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, where the anti-FTC action is taking shape.
They were joined by Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), chairman of a subcommittee on antitrust and monopoly, in urging that Whitten stop the action against the FTC.
An Appropriations subcommittee headed by Rep. John Slack (D-W. Va.) is expected to meet today to approve a plan banning the FTC from spending any of its fiscal 1980 appropriations on the anti-trust cases and other trade regulation cases.
The plan took shape at an unannounced subcommittee meeting last week.
The Slack subcommittee's approach was to appropriate $59.5 million for the FTC, but ban it from spending any of the money on the oil and auto antitrust cases or on at least two dozen other trade regulation cases.
The most active of the cases include rule-making that would affect the funeral industry, children's advertising, over-the-counter drugs, hearing aids, protein supplements, health spas and used cars.
Whitten, a longtime critic of the FTC, also attended the subcommittee session and urged Slack to have final language ready this week so the full committee could act quickly.
Slack insisted after the meeting that his committee's intention was to force House and Senate authorizing committees to approve an authorization bill that has been stalled by controversy.
The controversy involves House insistence and Senate refusal on attaching a "legislative veto" provision to the FTC bill to allow Congress to override agency rulings with which it disagrees.
Under pressure from businesses affected by the FTC trade regulations and investigations, growing numbers of members of Congress have joined in criticizing the FTC.
Rodino, Kennedy and Metzenbaum told Whitten that "if there are concrens about the FTC's policies or practices they should be considered by the appropriate oversight committees."
A Senate subcommittee, coincidentally, is scheduled to begin a series of oversight hearings this week in connection with complaints about FTC actions.