The House yesterday approved a $12 billion appropriation for the State, Justice and Commerce departments next year that would preserve the Economic Development Agency, the Legal Services Corp. and several other programs that President Reagan proposed to eliminate in his fiscal 1986 budget.
The measure was adopted, 273 to 136, after Republicans unsuccessfully tried to kill the EDA; they were able to slash funds for a direct-loan program of the Small Business Administration, which Reagan also wanted to kill.
The bill was the second appropriation measure taken up by the House this week out of frustration at the House-Senate conferees' failure to agree on a budget resolution setting spending targets for fiscal 1986. Talks between the two sides are in a virtual state of collapse.
By law the two chambers must agree on a budget resolution before any of the 13 annual appropriations bills can be taken up, but on Tuesday the House voted overwhelmingly to waive that portion of the Budget Act to allow it to begin work on the first three spending bills.
The three measures were sent to the House floor by the Appropriations Committee with price tags at or below the budget-freeze level approved by the House to reduce the deficit in its version of the budget resolution.
Lawmakers said yesterday that the House could not afford to wait any longer for the budget conferees because in a few weeks Congress is due to recess until after Labor Day, and when it returns it will have less than a month to complete action on the spending bills before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
At this time a year ago, the House had passed eight spending bills, even though a budget resolution had not been worked out between Senate and House.
House Democratic leaders said yesterday that moving ahead now on appropriations bills would show the public that the Democratic-led House is working to solve the deficit, and might put pressure on the Republican-controlled Senate to settle the budget dispute.
"It's important for the House, and clearly from a partisan standpoint the Democrats want to show we can go ahead and be fiscally responsible," said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), a member of the Appropriations Committee. "If we pass all the appropriations bills and put them in the Senate and the Senate doesn't act and there's no budget resolution . . . , it's the Senate and Reagan who'll have the explaining to do."
As with the energy and water development appropriation measure passed Tuesday, the State, Justice and Commerce appropriation approved yesterday would give the affected agencies less money next year than this year. However, the measure would provide more money than Reagan requested.
In addition to $206 million for the EDA and $305 million for the Legal Services Corp., the bill would provide $70.3 million for a juvenile justice and delinquency program, $22 million for a trade adjustment assistance program and $24 million for public television and radio grants -- all of which Reagan wanted to terminate.
The measure would continue the SBA disaster-loan fund, which Reagan wanted to kill. The House also voted to preserve the SBA direct-loan program, but only after approving an amendment that would reduce loan funding from $216 million to $121 million.