With the Democratic leadership firmly in control, the House yesterday voted 283 to 124 to reverse key parts of the 1981 "Reagan revolution" and raise spending ceilings on 10 major social welfare programs a total of $1.6 billion next fiscal year.
The vote was mainly along party lines.
The 10 programs include education grants for poverty children and the handicapped, grants to help the poor pay fuel bills and a controversial federal feeding program for low-income pregnant mothers and newborn children.
All 10 were curtailed two years ago when the newly elected president pushed through Congress his first sharp cuts in domestic spending.
Yesterday's vote would lift the spending ceilings voted then for the 10 programs. The big gainers would be the aid-to-education program for the poor, up $350 million, handicapped education ($450 million), and low-income energy assistance ($375 million).
The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where its fate is uncertain. White House officials have threatened a veto if it reaches the president's desk. But Democrats, who pushed the bill yesterday on grounds of compassion, figure they win either way, getting either the increases or a choice issue for next year's campaigns.
These political considerations popped up repeatedly in the House debate yesterday.
"The entire education community is looking to this vote," said Rep. Carl D. Perkins (D-Ky.), chief sponsor of the spending package, "and to the president's signing of this bill, as an indicator of who is really concerned about education."
"This bill isn't about education," replied Rep. Buddy Roemer (D-La.), a "Boll Weevil" Democrat who has supported Reagan's efforts to limit domestic spending. "This bill is about money, about power, and mainly about politics."
The vote yesterday was a signal victory for Perkins, the soft-spoken long-time chairman of the Education and Labor Committee.
Perkins, who comes from a poor mountain district in eastern Kentucky, assumed his chairmanship in 1967, just as President Johnson's "Great Society" was starting to bloom, and he used the post to build a broad range of federal spending programs for his district and other poor regions. For him, the budget limitations and reductions that Reagan won two years ago came as a personal affront.
Yesterday, Perkins took the lead in denouncing Reagan's "revolution" and what he called "our badly misshapen national priorities." When the Republicans rose to denounce "big spending" and "budget busting," Perkins sat quietly in his chair with the contented smile of a politician who knows he has the votes.
To make sure they could not be easily cast aside in the Senate, the spending increases approved yesterday were appended to a popular bill extending the Rehabilitation Act, which provides about $1 billion annually to state programs for the physically and mentally handicapped.
All Maryland representatives except Barbara A. Mikulski and Marjorie S. Holt, who were absent, voted for the spending increases. Democrats Frederick C. Boucher, James R. Olin, and Norman Sisisky and Republican Frank R. Wolf were the only Virginians to vote for the spending package.