President Reagan met for an hour today with Republican leaders in what some senators billed as “a gloomy session” on the budget, highlighted by “a feeling of despair” about whether compromise can be reached.
Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, who is miffed over Reagan’s rejection, did not attend the White House meeting.
Reagan on Monday rejected the Senate GOP leaders’ latest budget proposal because it contained an oil import fee, and changes in Social Security benefits and income tax indexing.
Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) said of the Cabinet Room meeting with Reagan: “The President behaved with great decorum, but it was a gloomy session. . . . There is a feeling of despair among senators whether a budget can be achieved.”
Rep. Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.) described it as “an unpleasant session, basically.”
Stuck to His Principles
Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), at odds with Dole and other Republicans over the budget, said Reagan stuck to his principles in refusing to accept higher taxes and delays in Social Security benefit increases.
House Republican leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois told reporters that unless a budget compromise is reached in two days, Congress will go home Friday for a vacation recess without a budget.
Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) said: “We’re back to wrestling over the cuts. The President has narrowed the options” by refusing to go along with an oil import levy and changes in Social Security cost-of-living benefits.
Earlier, Dole (R-Kan.) said: “There’s a great deal of frustration with Republican senators. We’ll do our best to keep them on board. Maybe the long recess coming up will help.”
Only ‘Marginally Better’
He urged Congress to agree on a budget but admitted that anything they can adopt now may only be “marginally better” than nothing.
Nonetheless, he urged the Senate to approve a spending document.
“I think we’re better off with a budget resolution than not,” Dole said on the Senate floor. “It may not be as meaningful, but at least it’s better--marginally better.”
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill Jr. reiterated that the House is proceeding to pass money bills that are under its own budget, as if the disagreement with the Senate had never happened. He also predicted that the House will accomplish $56 billion in deficit reduction.