The Senate, with members flown in from across the country by military air transport, yesterday brushed aside complaints that the $750 billion tax cut bill gives too many breaks to oil companies and passed the legislation, 67 to 8.
The measure goes to the House for enactment today.
Yesterday's key vote was on a motion by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) to send the legislation back to committee in protest of the $11.8 billion tax reduction for the oil industry over the next five years.
The Kennedy motion, which had delayed the start of the August recess by two days, provoked intense criticism from those anxious to go on vacation and was rejected, 55 to 20.
The oil tax breaks were defended by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) as benefiting what he described as "mom and pop" independents, not the major oil companies. "There are no big oil amendments in this bill," Dole argued.
Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.) countered that the entire Reagan tax bill, including oil provisions, eventually will give new life to the Democratic Party. Dropping his prepared text, Eagleton told colleagues:
"Those journalistic pundits who are predicting the demise of our party will point to this date . . . when the Reagan folks foisted on the American people a greedy, bloated, avaricious tax bill that benefits only the rich and gives a pittance to the poor and to the moderate-income taxpayer. The bill keeps the Democratic Party alive."
The Senate debate and subsequent press conference were marked by unusual harshness in the personal criticism of Kennedy by supporters of the bill. The Senate GOP leadership had sought a final voice vote backing the measure Saturday night, but Kennedy campaigning on Cape Cod, used his senatorial prerogative to block the bill until yesterday.
Dole charged that Kennedy was seeking only a "media event" in which "he could come down and attack big oil." He described Kennedy and his backers as "the same old, tired liberal voices . . . knocking our free enterprise system."
Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) claimed that flying senators back and forth from their home states on Air Force jet transports cost about $40,000; and other senators privately suggested the tab should be sent to Kennedy.
The Kennedy motion did appear to touch some nerves. He was joined by five Republicans, including Sen. William V. Roth Jr. of Delaware, one of the original sponsors of the Kemp-Roth tax bill, in the effort to send the bill back to committee. Democrats already are planning to use oil provisions in the legislation as campaign issues in 1982.
"When we are asking schoolchildren to pay more for lunches [through the Reagan budget cuts], should we be giving away billions of dollars to the oil companies?" Kennedy asked in a rhetorical series of questions.
"When we are asking the elderly to give up their minimum Social Security benefit of $122 a month, should be giving away $33 billion to the oil industry?" he said, referring to the estimated costs of the oil breaks over 10 years.
These are themes Democrats from the Northeast and Mideast are expected to emphasize between now and the election in November, 1982.
Sens. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. of Maryland, in addition to voting for the recommital motion, was the only Republican senator to vote against the bill on final passage.
Virginia's Harry F. Byrd Jr. (I) and John W. Warner (R) voted against the Kennedy motion and for the bill, while Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) voted for the recommittal motion and for the bill. Mathias adamantly opposes indexing the tax system, a provision that goes into effect in 1985 under the legislation.
As soon as the vote was over, the administration provided military transport to 19 senators, Democratic and Republican, on five separate planes. t