A three-year package of deficit reductions was approved yesterday by the House but stalled in the Senate in a dispute over trade controls and other extraneous issues.
The so-called budget "reconciliation" bills are down payments on $276 billion in three-year deficit reductions that Congress pledged in the budget it adopted last summer for the current fiscal year.
Together with two companion measures, the House bill, approved by a largely party-line vote of 228 to 199, would cut domestic programs by $78 billion through fiscal 1988.
The Senate measure, which was shelved temporarily last night in order to resolve the trade dispute, would cut the programs by $85 billion over the same period.
The House bill would freeze federal civilian workers' pay for a year, cut some housing programs, impose a means test on certain medical aid for veterans, reduce highway spending, increase federal insurance costs for some private pension plans, require financial-needs analysis for guaranteed student loans, abolish the Synthetic Fuels Corp. and substitute a smaller program, slow the fill-rate for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, cut small-business programs and end revenue-sharing for local governments next year.
The Senate bill would do many of the same things and achieve extra savings, largely from Medicare.
For both houses, most of the rest of the savings would come from curtailing annual appropriations, including defense spending.
While both House and Senate versions meet targets set in the congressional budget, veto threats have been heard from the White House. Administration officials accuse both houses of larding the measures with excessive spending, and they object to revenue-generating provisions, including continuation of the 16-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes.
In addition, the Senate indicated in a series of test votes yesterday that it intends to use the deficit-reduction measure as a vehicle for legislation to curtail textile and shoe imports, which President Reagan has also indicated he would veto.
However, controversy over the textile proposals triggered moves to bring up amendments on other issues ranging from school prayer to civil rights, prompting Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) to complain that the measure had become "open season" for every legislative leftover on the Senate calendar.
The situation became so complicated that Dole at one point indicated it could take as many as 155 votes to arrive at final passage of the bill.
The Democratic-controlled House approved its version after rejecting, 219 to 199, a Republican effort to strip out new programs and renewed ones that were tucked into the measure to ease their passage.
Among the GOP targets was the big housing authorization bill for this year, including several new housing programs for the poor. The Republicans also attempted to scale back proposed federal civilian pay raises of 5 percent for fiscal 1987 and 1988. The bill proposes to freeze pay this year.
The House not only voted to keep the program authorizations in the bill but added a $603.5 million reauthorization for the Amtrak rail passenger system.
In an attempt to pick up bipartisan support, the Republicans endorsed a Public Works and Transportation Committee proposal to exclude trust funds for highways, mass transit and airports from the budget, a move that would help shield these programs from future deficit-reduction efforts.
But the House later rebelled against the committee's move, approving a proposal by Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) to keep the funds within the budget, thereby continuing to count them in computing deficits.
Meanwhile, House-Senate conferees continued slow-motion work on a longer-term deficit measure aimed at achieving a balanced budget by fiscal 1991. Both Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), the conference chairman, and House Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.) said they hope to complete work by the end of next week in order to avoid pushing up against another debt-ceiling deadline.