Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) warned the oil industry that attempts to thwart and weaken the "windfall profits" tax bill could anger the public and lead to much harsher legislation against the industry.
"I hope the oil companies themselves will give strong -- very strong -- support to a meaningful excess profits tax lest they be overrun by a stampede of angry public opinion" stimulated by reports of huge oil profit increases, Byrd said.
Byrd said he is not personally threatening to sponsor "punitive legislation" but he could conceive of numerous tough proposals coming up as a result of reports that the profits of some oil companies doubled or tripled in the most recent quarter.
Byrd's statements, at a press conference, came one day after Texaco announced its third-quarter profits were up 211 percent over a year before, and the White House Council on Wage and Price Stability ordered 20 oil companies to supply profit information to determine if the companies have complied with voluntary price controls.
On another subject, Byrd revealed he had met Friday in his office with Soviet Ambasador Anatoliy Dobrynin to appeal for Soviet help in persuading Cambodia to accept $69 million in U.S. food aid offered by President Carter.
He said he had invited Dobrynin to meet with him at the request of Sens. James Sasser (D.-Tenn.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), who had just returned from the Far East after looking into the food situation in Cambodia.
"The Phnom Penh authorities were taking a very inhumane view," said Byrd.
"They are resisting this request" to allow the food in and it is obviously "on the basis they feel some sort of aid would go to people who are on the other side in the civil war."
Byrd also said he "wouldn't rule out" action this year by the Senate if the House passes the welfare-revision and hospital cost-containment bills.
He said there is also time to take up the Chrysler-bailout bill if it has support, and he personally supports the House-passed bill limiting the amount House candidates can take in campaign contributions from special interest groups.
He said he has a "resonably high level of confidence" that the Senate will defeat direct amendments to the strategic arms limitation treaty. defeat direct amendments to the strategic arms limitation treaty.