Reagan Pushes Senate Bill on Spending
President Reagan called on voters Saturday to pressure the congressional conference striving to reconcile competing spending programs for fiscal 1986 to approve the version passed by the Republican-controlled Senate rather than that written by the Democratic-run House.
In his weekly radio address, delivered from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., Reagan lauded the Senate bill for “real, substantial and permanent reforms” and denounced the House version for “phantom cuts,” which he said will not control overspending in the long run, but will undermine the nation’s military and economic security.
“I am asking for your support to make Congress understand that this is a moment in our history when all of us should pull together and put our national interest above partisan politics,” Reagan told his listeners.
Although both proposals are designed to slash spending in the next fiscal year by approximately $56 billion, deep divisions on Social Security and defense spending have stalled a compromise for more than a week.
The Senate version would freeze Social Security benefits at present levels and kill 13 existing domestic programs while allowing defense spending to rise at the rate of inflation, estimated at 4%. The House bill would permit scheduled cost of living increases in Social Security and other pension programs. But it would hold the Pentagon’s budget about $6 billion below the Senate version.
Reagan charged that the House plan consisted of “one-time measures” that would only “postpone the inevitable” without really controlling spending and would “send a signal of weakness by cutting purchasing power for vital defense needs.”
But House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.), responding for the Democrats, denied in a broadcast that his party is weak on defense and accused Reagan of overspending on the Pentagon.
Wright denounced program cuts embodied in the Senate bill that Reagan praised as reforms, and declared that Democrats have an obligation to keep faith with the nation’s children, the aged and the handicapped.
“Being fiscally responsible, we intend also to be morally responsible,” Wright said.
Wright chided Reagan for tolerating waste in the Pentagon, even though the President observed in his address that “after years of others’ closing their eyes to this problem, it is our Administration that has begun uncovering and routing out that waste and going after the defense contractors who shamelessly cheat America.”
Reagan called it “sheer folly to blindly weaken ourselves when our adversaries are conspiring and working so hard to cripple America,” and said it is “time to stop treating our defense Establishment and intelligence agencies like enemies and concentrate our attention and anger on the true enemies of freedom and democracy.”
As he has before, Reagan rejected proposals that the deficit be dealt with by tax increases rather than spending cuts.
“If I must, I will repeat it until I am blue in the face,” the President said. “I will veto any tax increase the Congress sends me. And I am pleased to say I have been promised the votes to sustain that veto.”