The 96th Congress adjourned yesterday after predawn approval of an urgent government funding resolution that had been stripped of a $10,000-a-year congressional pay raise and nearly all its "Christmas tree" spending ornaments for the home folks and special-interest groups.
Instead of a something-for-everyone spending spree and a farewell round of potshots at federal regulatory agencies, the bleary-eyed lawmakers found that their only ticket home was on a no-frills, if not super-saver, flight.
What was left was basically what was needed before all the amendment-writing and horsetrading started: enough money to keep the government operating through early summer, staying technically within the current budget but leaving the incoming Reagan administration leeway for its budget plans.
Amendments were restricted to relatively noncontroversial items, such as nearly $1 billion in military credits for Israel and Egypt and $50 million for Italian earthquake relief. A $500 million reduction in the once handsomely financed public service jobs program was also approved, with almost no outcry from the year's departing liberals.
As it was, agreement on the funding measure came more than five hours after a half-dozen major government departments officially ran out of money, once again held hostage to congressional squabbling over legislative riders that had little, if anything, to do with their daily spending needs.
To reach agreement, both chambers had to give up cherished provisions.
The House gave up the pay raise it had managed to approve last week without a roll-call vote. It had to do so because a adamant opposition from the Senate, which could not avoid a roll call on the issue. But in return the House forced the Senate to drop most of the nearly 150 pet projects it had added to the bill, ranging from a beetle eradication program for Baltimore to a new federal courthouse for Redding, Calif.
The losers, however, weren't just big spenders and the Democrats who will be forced by last month's elections to relinquish control of the Senate -- and effective control of the House -- when the 97th Congress convenes Jan. 5.
The last adjornment-delaying fight in the Senate came well after midnight yesterday morning, and was led by angry Republican conservatives who had tried to use the funding measure to block the Carter administration from leaving behind a mass of new regulations covering everything from scenic-river designations to tax exemption for private schools.
They lost their efforts to block new regulations in these and other areas, but kept existing curbs on Medicaid abortions and governmental efforts to curtail prayers in public schools. Rules on bilingual education were delayed again, as were regulations for nursing homes.
Also swept away in the adjornment rush were miscellaneous items such as an amendment barring persons who advocate violent overthrow of the government from receiving public service jobs -- the only known target of which is a couple living in Martinsville, Va.
Approval of the spending measure assures funding through June 5 for the Treasury, State, Justice, Commerce, Labor and Health and Human Services departments as well as other agencies and programs for which Congress has not passed appropriations bills.
Funding was not quite as bare-boned -- or "bare-bottomed," as Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.) called it at one point Monday night -- as some senators were proclaiming. The House insisted on funding the agencies at proposed fiscal 1981 levels rather than at 1980 levels.
Although exact figures were not available, congressional sources estimated that the spending increases from add-ons that were finally approved were not large.
Late Monday, the House in effect, called the Senate's hand by presenting a final offer on the bill and then quitting for the night, leaving the Senate with the choice of adopting the House version or letting the government founder in technical insolvency when it opened for business yesterday morning.
This provoked cries of outrage from senators who complained that the House is always doing this to them. "I think we got a whopping bad deal," complained Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) during the early-morning debate. "The House did take advantage of us," said Minority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) later in the day, even after tempers had cooled.
But the senators also fell to quarreling among themselves, with the Democrats warning that the government would grind to a halt if the bill wasn't passed quickly and Republican pooh-poohing the idea. "The silliest hogwash I've ever seen," fumed Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), a former secretary of the Navy, in responding to suggestions that ships would have to drop anchor at midnight. "Do they turn off their lights and diesel engines and wait for a radio message?" he asked sarcastically.
Defeat of the congressional pay raise also ended immediate chances for a salary increase for more than 34,000 high-level government officials, although the issue is likely to rise again next year when quadrennial pay adjustments are considered.
President-elect Ronald Reagan had lobbied for the increase to help recruit people for his administration, but his pleas didn't stand a chance in light of unyielding comgressional reluctance to anger voters by raising congressional pay.
The spending bill also omitted any language barrier the Justice Department from intervening in school-busing suits. President Carter vetoed an appropriations bill with such language, and threatened to veto the omnibus spending package if it included the antibusing clause. Congressional foes of busing relented to avoid an adjournment-threatening confrontation with Carter, confident that Reagan will support their busing curbs next year.