As deficit-reduction talks between the White House and Congress drag on inconclusively, the powerful appropriations committees that control the flow of federal money to home states and districts have been using a mixture of carrots and sticks to push through a package of record-size fiscal 1991 domestic spending bills.

In the Senate, Democratic and Republican leaders who helped the Appropriations Committee out of a budgetary jam several weeks ago were speedily rewarded with grants for their states in a new energy and water bill that is 13 percent larger than this year's.

But on Friday, committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) applied a stick. He blocked language sought in another spending bill by Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who wanted the Transportation Department to resume Amtrak service on the "Lone Star Route" across Oklahoma, between Kansas City and Dallas.

"I would suggest it not be put in the committee report," Byrd declared abruptly. He then noted that Nickles, a member of the Budget Committee, had favored a sharp reduction in fiscal 1991 funds for government programs under the committee's jurisdiction. That was the end of the Nickles proposal, though Nickles can try to revive it when the measure reaches the Senate floor.

In the House, seven major domestic spending bills that add about $13.6 billion to Bush administration budget proposals have been passed with only minor changes, and with majorities ranging from 79.6 percent (rural development and agriculture) to 92.5 percent (transportation).

Republicans joined Democrats to defeat easily all 17 amendments to pare the bills by amounts ranging from 2 to 15.2 percent. The sole item deleted on the floor was $6 million for a tiny federal program that uses a network of radio telescopes to search the heavens for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

That record testifies to the popularity of appropriations bills, stuffed with programs benefiting home states. But this year, said some Republicans, appropriators also have been using strong-arm tactics to discourage the critics of domestic spending.

One example is the behind-the-scenes maneuvering over a request by five Orange County, Calif., Republicans for $1 million in the 1991 transportation appropriations bill to fund design work on an 18-mile monorail system connecting Santa Ana, Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Orange and Irvine.

The earmarked funds -- requested by Reps. Robert K. Dornan, William E. Dannemeyer, Christopher Cox, Dana Rohrabacher and Ron Packard -- were included in the bill that passed the House July 12 on a vote of 385 to 31. All five voted for an amendment to cut the bill across the board by 2 percent. But with the exception of Dannemeyer, each departed from his usual practice and voted for the bill when it came up for final passage.

Dornan said that was no coincidence. He said he and the three others made an "exception" in agreeing to back the measure after Dornan talked with Rep. William Lehman (D-Fla.), chairman of the Appropriations transportation subcommittee.

Dornan also said he persuaded Dannemeyer to drop his plan to introduce an amendment on the floor to cut the bill by 5 percent.

"Bill Lehman is a gentleman and he just said to me, 'Can't you please ask Dannemeyer, if the bill's going to benefit Orange County, couldn't he drop the idea?' " said Dornan. Dannemeyer remembers receiving a blunter warning. "If I put in my amendment, the project was going to be deleted in the conference {that reconciles the House and Senate bills}," he said.

A congressional source confirmed the Orange County project had been discussed in the Appropriations Committee, where members from both parties agreed it was "inconsistent" to seek projects but regularly oppose appropriations bills.

A Packard spokesman said the congressman hadn't known about any deal between Dornan and the Appropriations Committee and had voted for the bill for other reasons. "A million-dollar appropriation wouldn't buy his vote," the aide said.

Rep. Harris W. Fawell (R-Ill.), whose rural and suburban district west of Chicago includes Argonne National Laboratory, said his criticism of appropriations bills has caused him problems with the Appropriations Committee.

On May 24, Fawell, speaking on the House floor, criticized several projects funded in the 1990 "dire emergency" supplemental appropriations bill. He said that speech resulted in his being "punished" when the 1991 energy and water appropriations bill began moving through Congress in June.

Fawell and two influential Illinois Democrats -- Reps. Dan Rostenkowski and Richard J. Durbin -- supported an additional $17 million for the Argonne Laboratory's work on advanced nuclear reactor research, to be conducted in its Idaho Falls branch. But when the bill emerged from a closed subcommittee markup on June 8, the extra funds were not included.

Fawell says he was assured by Rep. Tom Bevill (D-Ala.), chairman of the Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, that the extra funds were not included solely because the budget situation was tight and Argonne was already to be funded at the level requested by the president. But Fawell said he later was told otherwise by Rostenkowski and Durbin.

Fawell says he was "lectured" by Durbin on two occasions and told that "I was expected to bring home the bacon and couldn't get these 'watchdogs of the treasury awards.' "

Durbin, an Appropriations Committee member who specializes in improving Illinois' share of federal programs and projects, said: "Argonne has a great bunch of people who do very fine work, but this is a very tough budget year. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line Fawell made a statement that attracted the attention of the Appropriations Committee. It came back to me secondhand that this wasn't funded partly because of Mr. Fawell's approach. To have his hand out and beg for money beyond what the president asked for when he's slapping the committee with the other hand baffles me."

A Senate Appropriations panel later added the $17 million, but the item could still face difficulties at a House-Senate conference.

Fawell has continued to vote for across-the-board cuts in the spending bills. When the Treasury and Postal Service appropriations bill came to the floor he questioned a number of university and hospital grants that had been added to the General Services Administration account on behalf of members.

"A number of colleagues came over and made me feel like a skunk at the picnic," he said. "Even a friend said this is going to hurt you at Argonne." He said that persuaded him to forgo a recorded vote on his amendment to cut the unauthorized GSA projects. "I was shook up," he admitted.

Fawell said fear of the appropriators suffocates real debate on spending bills, despite the nation's "calamitous" financial condition. He has complained of a "sacred aura in regard to the Appropriations Committee."

During a July 18 floor debate on a proposal by Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.) to cut the agriculture spending bill by 7.7 percent, only a handful of House Republicans rose in support. As they did, one Appropriations subcommittee chairman after another drifted into the chamber to sit alongside committee Chairman Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.).

Soon six chairmen, including 6-foot-4 Marine combat veteran John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, were lined up like a football front line. The agriculture bill brings something to almost every county in America. Frenzel's amendment was defeated 305 to 115.

Later Frenzel said it may be harder to persuade Republicans to accept spending cuts than tax increases if both are included in a future deficit-reduction agreement.

"If you are for competitiveness, if you are for the future of this country, if you are for increasing a growing economy, then you have got to be for infrastructure, and infrastructure is not pork," said conservative Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), extolling the transportation appropriations bill. The measure includes $30 million for Houston Metro, which is in DeLay's home city.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), chairman of the Appropriations transportation subcommittee, noted this week that 77 senators had put in 486 requests for projects in their states. If all had been funded, the cost would have been $3.8 billion.