The House Rules Committee last night turned back a tide of spending proposals and opened a fast track for House passage of an omnibus stopgap spending bill to keep the government operating after midnight Friday.
Under pressure from Democratic and Republican leaders in both houses, the committee approved procedures for consideration of the urgent "continuing resolution" money bill that, in effect, bar amendments when the measure comes to the House floor, probably today.
The only way that dissident House members can have their amendments considered is difficult: by marshaling a majority for rejection of the Rules Committee procedures. The action does not bar the Senate from amending the measure when it reaches the Senate floor later in the week, but speedy, straightforward House action could increase pressure for Senate restraint.
As the Rules Committee began consideration of the funding bill, shorn of most of the amendments that bogged down an earlier version, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.) warned that any amendments could lead to a "breakdown in the government."
In asking for a rule barring House members from offering amendments, including some backed by powerful committee chairmen, Whitten had the backing of House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) and Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.).
But some members complained that such restrictive action would violate House Democratic rules as well as an agreement last week by House leaders to allow up to $1.5 billion more spending for social welfare programs in the continuing resolution.
Several members, including Education and Labor Committee Chairman Carl D. Perkins (D-Ky.) and Post Office and Civil Service Committee Chairman William D. Ford (D-Mich.) asked that the House be allowed to consider an amendment adding the $1.5 billion to the resolution. Other requests ranged from drought relief to a prohibition on further spending for the Clinch River breeder reactor.
The continuing resolution is needed because funding for the government runs out when the current 1983 fiscal year ends Friday and only four of the regular 13 appropriations bills for next year have been enacted. The stopgap bill would finance the rest of the government, including most major departments and agencies, at roughly current levels for 45 days.
Under this proposal, another continuing resolution would have to be passed by Nov. 15. But House and Senate leaders hope to have most of the regular fiscal 1984 appropriations bills approved by then, meaning the Nov. 15 measure would be relatively small, perhaps confined only to foreign aid.
The version that Whitten was pushing yesterday was drafted informally by committee leaders, thereby bypassing the full Appropriations Committee. The committee had so decorated it with amendments, including a war powers resolution, that O'Neill scuttled it.
Meanwhile, in related action on spending measures as the start of the new fiscal year approached:
* The House Appropriations subcommittee on defense agreed to fund most of the big weapons programs that Congress previously authorized at President Reagan's request, including initial production funds for the MX intercontinental ballistics missile, according to subcommittee Chairman Joseph P. Addabbo (D-N.Y.).
* A $92.5 billion fiscal 1984 appropriations bill for major health, education and jobs programs was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in roughly the same stripped-down form as a House-approved measure, clearing the way for a possible compromise satisfactory to the White House.
* The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $12.1 billion foreign aid spending bill for the 1984 fiscal year that would give Reagan the entire $86.3 million he asked for in military assistance for El Salvador and $425 million more than he requested in military aid for Israel.
The action of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense on major weapons programs came as no surprise in light of the subcommittee's generally hawkish outlook. Fights are expected, however, in the full Appropriations Committee and on the House floor.
Senate committee approval of the huge labor, health and human services appropriations bill--the largest of the domestic spending bills--came after Appropriations Chairman Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) joined Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) in urging members to forgo add-ons that might provoke a veto.
Similar pleas in the Democratic-controlled House last week helped keep the House version of the measure within range of White House targets and well short of goals set for social welfare spending in the congressional budget resolution approved earlier this year.
Hatfield and Weicker are Republican moderates who are usually sympathetic to social welfare spending, and their opposition to additional outlays kept most of their colleagues at bay, at least for the time being.
The major exception was Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who normally can be found in the frugality camp but yesterday insisted on an additional $64 million for educational programs for disadvantaged high school, vocational and college students.
Domenici, who is up for reelection next year, argued that omission of the funds would "send a message that we aren't concerned about this program," which he described as one of the most successful of its kind. Domenici's proposal would bring spending for the program to $164 million, or $10 million more than the House approved and $64 million more than recommended by a Senate subcommittee.
Hatfield warned that the Senate bill was nearly $350 million more than the White House wanted. With Domenici's proposal on top of that, there is "far greater question" about whether the bill would be signed into law, Hatfield said.
The committee also rejected anti-busing language proposed by Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.) and softened a ban on use of Medicaid funds for abortions that the House included in its bill.
The foreign aid bill is expected to be used as bargaining leverage by the Senate in working out aid levels in the continuing resolution.
The House would give Reagan $64.8 million of the $86.3 million he wanted in military assistance for El Salvador, while the Senate would give him his full request. On aid to Israel, the House would provide $1.5 billion, which is $200 million less than current levels and the amount that Reagan requested.