House Democrats yesterday wrapped up a $5.4 billion Christmas program for the nation's unemployed, designed to give even a Scrooge second thoughts.
Almost daring Republicans to oppose it, they filled it with everything from soup kitchen money to small business loans, thousands of construction and maintenance jobs and $100 million for the government to buy 15,000 American-made cars.
The jobs program, which is in addition to a $5.5 billion road repair bill that is currently making its way through Congress, will be presented to the House Appropriations Committee today for inclusion in an omnibus "continuing resolution" to keep the government from running out of money on Dec. 18.
President Reagan supports the road repair bill, financed by a nickel-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax, but has indicated he will veto any other jobs legislation this year. Senate Republican leaders have also indicated they oppose a major jobs bill this year, and Senate Democrats are pushing for a separate jobs program that conflicts in many ways with the House plan.
House Democrats would finance their plan by adding to the federal deficit; their Senate counterparts would raise taxes on the wealthy by putting an income ceiling on the 10 percent tax cut that is due in July.
In a draft report on their legislation, House Democratic leaders viewed the economy in dire terms, calling for both emergency and longterm recovery efforts.
"There exists in the country today a national tragedy of unemployment . . . . The country is in a state of economic emergency reminiscent of the darkest days of the Great Depression," the report said.
In addition to the creation of about 300,000 jobs as soon as possible, Democratic leaders proposed that Congress direct the Federal Reserve to pursue policies that would lead to lower interest rates.
They also urged that Congress next year consider creation of a federal corporation to help revive troubled domestic industries, similar to the Reconstruction Finance Corp. of the 1930s.
Among the major allocations of funds in the $5.4 billion proposal for pre-Christmas action are $1 billion for community development grants for repair and maintenance of public facilities, $200 million for public housing modernization, $230 million in small business loans, $155 million for prison repair, $250 million to weatherize homes of poor families, $232 million for job relocation and retraining, $339 million for administration of unemployment services and $489 million for military housing.
Smaller allocations include $50 million to be channeled through the nation's civil defense agency to the United Way of America for emergency food and shelter services.
There would also be funds for sanitary facilities on Indian reservations, for repairs to 200 existing railroad bridges, for improvements at 172 veterans hospitals, for day care facilities and for a variety of waterway and reclamation projects.
As a boost to the reeling domestic auto industry, the bill would give the General Services Administration $100 million for replacement of older gas-guzzling cars with new vehicles, so long as they are made in the United States.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) acknowledged that the administration-backed proposal to finance road-related repairs by raising the gas tax to 9 cents a gallon from 4 cents on April 1 is running into trouble but reiterated that he expects it to pass.
"I think it will pass, but it won't be easy," said Baker, adding that modifications may have to be made to win final passage. The bill is expected to run into a filibuster from some GOP conservatives when it comes up today.
Meanwhile, House Budget Committee Chairman James R. Jones (D-Okla.) said Congress should reverse its decision of last year to start indexing income tax rates to inflation after 1984, asserting that "tax indexing, whatever its merits as long-term tax policy, simply does not make sense at a time of budgetary crisis." In a speech outlining his overall economic views, Jones also called for modification or deferral of the July tax cut.