Prospects of a Senate budget compromise dimmed yesterday as senators voted to save one of the few programs targeted for extinction by their budget committee and Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) warned that odds for an agreement are "not very good."
After the 55-to-42 vote to save the Work Incentive Program, which President Reagan and the budget panel had wanted to end, Dole, appearing frustrated and angry, took the floor to suggest that the Senate may have to abandon efforts to pass a budget for the time being.
"That's what's called a budget meltdown," Dole told reporters after the vote in which the Senate restored $174 million for the relatively small program to provide job assistance for welfare recipients.
Earlier in the day, Republican and Democratic budget negotiators reported little success in behind-the-scenes efforts to work out a compromise aimed at picking up more votes from Senate Republicans who contend that the committee plan has too little for defense, too much for domestic programs and too big a tax increase.
A vote on the committee plan could come as early as today. Without an alternative, Dole suggested, the Senate might have to kill the committee plan and "try later."
The Senate also voted to halt funding for newsletters when Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) made it choose between them and more money for research on AIDS and Alzheimer's disease.
But Senate budget leaders characterized the vote as largely symbolic, noting that appropriations committees are not bound by it in allocating funds for next year.
Wilson described the vote as "morally binding," however, indicating that he will continue his campaign to stop the presses that have been printing newsletters at an annual cost of about $75 million.
They are little more than "campaign reelection pieces . . . unsolicited, unwanted and unread," he contended.
The Senate rejected, 55 to 44, a proposal to charge utilities for uranium enrichment and to transfer $341 million that now goes for the nuclear energy program to the "Superfund" for toxic-waste cleanup.