The House yesterday staged its second show of protest in two days over the politically volatile federal spending issue, voting to defeat routine legislation raising the ceiling on the national debt.
The action, on a 215-to-200 vote, came a day after the House rejected a fiscal 1980 budget resolution proposed by its Democratic leadership, apparently on grounds that the $29.3 billion projected deficit was too high.
Both votes were mostly symbolic. In both cases, the House and Senate are required by law to approve some form of legislation. If the debt limit is not raised by Sept. 30, the government would have to stop borrowing.
House leaders said they hope to reschedule the debt-limit legislation sometime next week, in time to get it passed before House members leave for a 10-day vacation. The chamber begins another recess on Sept. 29.
Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee, seeking to salvage its torpedoed budget resolution, voted yesterday to make minor changes in the spending plan the House defeated on Wednesday and bring it up again next week.
Rep. Robert N. Giaimo (D-Conn.), the budget panel's chairman, said he will ask the Rules Committee to approve a shortened parliamentary procedure that would allow a simple up-or-down vote without repeating two days' debate.
The budget resolution was defeated 213 to 192 late Wednesday as liberals and some conservative Democrats joined Republicans in rejecting the measure as a protest.
The liberals had objected to the proposal's rise in defense spending and failure to increase key domestic programs. Conservatives wanted higher defense outlays and a smaller deficit.
The Senate on Wednesday passed its own version of the plan, calling for a sharp 3 percent increase in defense spending in fiscal 1980 and $3.6 billion in cuts in domestic programs, with a deficit of $31.6 billion.
Giaimo warned yesterday that next week's budget vote would be the "last chance" for House members to pass a credible budget. If the measure fails again, he said, "members will have to admit . . . they can't live with a budget."
The defeat of the debt-ceiling legislation came despite efforts by House leaders to include two procedural changes designed to make it easier for would-be conservatives to back the bill.
The first would have provided enough new borrowing authority for the government to put off the need for any further votes on the politically sensitive debt-ceiling issue until after the 1980 elections.
The second would have ended the requirement for separate legislation on the debt ceiling and instead merely increased government borrowing authority automatically as part of the congressional budget resolution.
The debt-ceiling legislation has become something of a straw man in recent years. Although the lawmakers all know they must pass the bill each time it comes up, they consistently have defeated it as a political gesture.
Both Republican and Democratic administrations have complained that the delays wreak havoc in the Treasury and create unnecessary uncertainty in the credit markets, often costing the government millions in higher interest rates.
However, House members yesterday rejected both those proposals, voting an overwhelming 408 to 1 to hold the amount of new borrowing authority to last only through next July and defeating the procedural "reforms" as well.
The new resolution proposed by the Budget Committee would make essentially bookkeeping changes in four categories of the defeated budget plan, leaving the basic components intact, but trimming the deficit to $28.9 billion.