The House of Representatives opened debate on a budget bill designed to help President Carter's battle against inflation by providing the first federal surplus in 12 years.
On March 31, with inflation soaring at an annual rate of 18 percent, President Carter presented revised budget proposals calling for a $16.5 billion surplus for fiscal year 1981, which begins next Oct. 1.
Debate was scheduled to begin April 24 in the House on a budget measure produced by its Budget Committee which calls for a $2 billion surplus, with projected revenues of $613.8 billion and spending of $611.8 billion.
The committee bill proposes major cuts on spending on domestic federal programs except for defense, generating opposition from spokesmen for those programs.
House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill III said the House would not finish debate until late this week or early next week. The Senate must then debate its own bill, and the process will be completed when Congress approves a final measure that sets firm spending ceilings.
The House began debate after the government issued figures Tuesday showing that inflation held steady in the first quarter of 1980 at an annual rate of 18 percent -- the worst level since just after World War II.