"I'll take the heat" for budget cuts, President Reagan declared Saturday, urging Congress to give him the constitutional power to veto specific spending programs.
The President ridiculed his critics as "born-again budget balancers," and called on Congress to demonstrate its political courage by slicing $50 billion in federal outlays by Easter.
If the legislators won't curb spending on their own, they should adopt a constitutional amendment to "give me the authority to veto line items in the federal budget," the President said in his weekly radio address.
"I'll take the political responsibility, I'll make the cuts, I'll take the heat," he said.
Governors in many states, including California, have the power to reject particular spending provisions in financing bills approved by their legislatures. But the President lacks such power to discriminate--his veto kills an entire bill.
Called for Amendment
President Reagan has previously proposed a constitutional amendment granting the veto power for specific items. He renewed the call Saturday, not because there is any likelihood that Congress will adopt it, but rather to use it as a verbal weapon against the legislators in the war over federal spending.
With the military and Social Security--the major components of federal spending--declared exempt from budget cuts, the President wants Congress to make deep reductions in the remaining portion of federal outlays.
Politically popular programs must be trimmed because they subsidize "some people at everyone else's expense," the President said.
"Why, for instance, should the federal government be forcing taxpayers in, say , Colorado, to subsidize subway fares in New York?" he asked .
"Why should any taxpayers subsidize the operating costs of the Washington, D.C., transit system, an area with the second highest per capita income in America?" the President asked. The government must restrain spending for college education, for aid to local governments, and for assistance to the business community, Reagan said, defending his budget proposals.
Various Stands Cited
"Farm-state senators push multibillion-dollar bail-outs for banks and farmers, and one member even rebukes proposed cutbacks in spending on opera and music in our budget for the National Endowment for the Arts," he said.
"I won't deny all the groups I mention represent valid interests which may seem compelling," he noted. But a "larger interest" must be protected--"the freedom and security of American taxpayers," Reagan said.
Under the President's budget plan, federal spending would total $973.7 billion, with revenues of $793.7 billion, for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. To prevent the deficit from ballooning beyond the projected $180 billion, the Administration has proposed spending cuts totaling $50.8 billion, largely from domestic programs.
Many members of Congress are exploring alternative methods of achieving $50 billion in budget cuts through a combination of reduced domestic outlays, some trimming of defense spending and a one-year cancellation of the annual cost-of-living increase for Social Security beneficiaries.
But the President maintains that he will not change Social Security unless Congress takes the initiative and he continues to insist that defense outlays are untouchable.
In his radio address, the President lashed out at critics who, he said, had offered a "non-stop barrage" of warnings about the dangers of big deficits. Now that the Administration has offered a plan to cut spending, Reagan said, the response is "a chorus of boos from guess who? --the very people who told us again and again that tough action on deficits couldn't wait."
Reagan declared that under his leadership, "we're not going back to the days when America was fast becoming an impotent democracy, too weak to meet defense commitments or to resist communist takeovers and, yes, too weak to stop a federal spending machine from impoverishing families and destroying our economy with runaway taxes and inflation."
The President's determination on the budget issue will face a quick test with the expected passage by the House this week of emergency legislation that could contain up to $3 billion in direct loans and loan guarantees for debt-plagued farmers.
Senate Approves Bill
The Senate has already approved a bill to provide farmers with cash for spring planting. But the White House is threatening a veto of the bill, which Administration officials call a "budget-buster."
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) posed the political challenge to the White House on Saturday, saying "the Administration is trying to obstruct our efforts to help the American farmer."
"I believe this obstructionism is short-sighted and that it compromises our security," O'Neill said in a radio address. The speech was billed by the Speaker's office as a direct response to the threat of a veto of farm legislation, rather than as the normal Saturday Democratic reply to Reagan's radio talk.