The Democratic-controlled House yesterday approved, 324 to 95, a $4.9 billion program of public jobs and humanitarian aid for the unemployed that has won qualified support from a reluctant President Reagan.
Overriding Republican objections that it was nothing more than "frenzied feeding at the public trough," the House attached the program to a $5 billion appropriation that is needed within the next couple of weeks to assure continued payment of unemployment benefits.
The whole package now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, which is considering a slightly smaller package of recession relief for action next week.
The jobs vote came as the House Armed Services Committee, in the first test of the year on Reagan's defense budget, voted to hold next year's increase in military spending to 7.5 percent after inflation, 3 percentage points less than Reagan requested. Details on Page A4.
In day-long debate, the House bill's defenders said it would provide at least temporary employment for nearly 1 million people, the equivalent of 400,000 full-time jobs, along with food, shelter and other humanitarian assistance to some of the recession's neediest victims.
But critics were scathing in their ridicule of the measure as a "pork-barrel" bill that especially rewarded districts represented by members of the Appropriations Committee, which drafted the bill.
"It's more about pork than it is about jobs," complained Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.).
The only members who got anything were those "who were in the butcher shop when the hog was slaughtered," added Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.).
Liberal Democrats also charged that the jobs provisions, which were preshrunk by the Democratic leadership to avoid a veto by Reagan, were too small to deal adequately with suffering from the recession.
"To call this a jobs bill in March of 1983 is to mislead millions of people out of work and millions more who will wind up out of work," contended Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.).
Before final approval of the bill, the House attempted to defuse some of the criticism by adopting amendments to target the aid more toward areas of highest unemployment, to add $200 million for health care services and to drop language earmarking all the mass transit jobs for districts represented by members of the Appropriations Committee.
But it rejected, 256 to 158, a proposal from Conte, ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, to shift $423 million from water projects and related programs favored by Chairman Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.) and his rural constituents to a variety of other programs more attractive to other regions of the country.
For all his criticism of the "pork" in the Democrats' bill, however, Conte included $100 million for disaster relief in California. Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) dismissed this as "very seductive candy" to attract the votes of his fellow Californians concerned about recent storm damage.
On passage, the bill was opposed by only 13 Democrats, mostly conservative southerners, while Republicans split almost evenly, with 77 for the measure and 82 opposed to it. Among Washington area members, all Virginians opposed the bill and all Maryland members except Rep. Marjorie S. Holt (R) voted for it.
It was the second jobs bill passed by the House this week, following approval Tuesday of a smaller program to create a New Deal-style conservation corps to employ young people in parks and forests. And House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) promised immediately after yesterday's vote that it won't be the last.
"I hope that the president will help us do more, by supporting a second-phase program that restores confidence to those still facing economic tragedy," he said. "The House has passed Phase 1. Now, on to Phase 2."
While Reagan has not said he would sign the $4.9 billion bill, he abandoned his opposition to jobs programs last month and, under intense pressure from Republicans as well as Democrats, offered a $4.3 billion package of jobs and relief that the Democrats built on in drafting their own measure.
Last week, when the bill amounted to about $4.4 billion, Reagan said he could go along with three-quarters of it and urged Congress to modify the rest. Subsequently, the House added about $500 million, including $200 million for health and $61 million for transit during floor action yesterday.
But the Senate is expected to approve a smaller version, meaning the size and content of the final version will have to be hammered out in conference.
During yesterday's debate, even the bill's staunchest supporters conceded that the measure was not perfect, but defended it as the best that could be done under the circumstances, including an implied threat from Reagan to veto a larger program. As for the "pork-barrel" charge, they said, the money still provides jobs.
"This is bread and butter, it is not pork-barrel," said Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.). Furthermore, said Whitten in defense of his committee's actions, "a man that handles a national program and leaves the district out, he better not go back home."
The bill includes $500 million for emergency food and shelter and about $4.4 billion for jobs through expanded funding of a variety of existing programs, from repair of government buildings to day-care centers.
According to a Democratic breakdown of the spending before the amendments were approved, $1.8 billion would go for local development and services, $1.2 billion for public works and water projects, $837 million for construction and reapir of public buildings and related facilities, $132 million for youth employment, $150 million for insulation of low-income homes, $351 million for employment and training programs and $203 million for miscellaneous activities.
The additional $200 million for health care services, proposed by Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and approved by voice vote, would go for community health centers, maternal and child health services and community hospitals.
Under the mass transit amendment proposed by Public Works and Transportation Committee Chairman James J. Howard (D-N.J.), $171 million in new money would be provided, along with $229 million in previously appropriated funds that Reagan had proposed to shelve.
The committee had proposed $110 million for transit, all of it earmarked for districts of committee members. Howard's amendment left distribution up to the Department of Transportation.
The proposal to target $1.8 billion of the jobs spending for areas with especially high unemployment, proposed by Rep. Bob Edgar (D-Pa.) and others, was approved, 335 to 83, over only faint objections from committee leaders.