Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), throwing a cloud over Congress' ability to write a federal budget for next year, said Tuesday that the annual budget-writing process is "a joke" and called on Congress to prepare two-year spending plans with strict deficit controls.
Domenici, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said Senate Republicans will not cooperate in preparing a fiscal 1988 budget unless they are convinced that Democrats will agree to legislation reforming the budget process.
Budget Committee Chairman Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.) said Democrats intend to go ahead and issue their own budget soon for fiscal 1988, which begins on Oct. 1.
GOP Boycott in House
Meanwhile, partisan wrangling also intensified in the House, where Republican leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois insisted that Democrats should say what programs they plan to cut and what taxes they plan to raise. House Republicans, he said, will continue to boycott the budget-writing sessions until Democrats offer a spending program.
House Budget Committee Chairman William H. Gray Jr. (D-Pa.) responded angrily: "Here we go again. We expected a legislative process, not a diplomatic negotiation. Instead, we have another delay and another excuse for the President to lambaste the Democrats."
The partisanship could leave Congress unable to write a budget. Although Democrats control both houses, it is unlikely that all Democrats in both the House and the Senate could unite around a single package of spending cuts and tax increases.
Goal of $36 Billion
Their goal is a combination of expenditure reductions and new revenues totaling $36 billion to enable Congress to reduce the 1988 deficit to $108 billion, the goal of the Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction law.
So far, the House Budget Committee has made virtually no progress in writing a budget. In the Senate Budget Committee, Democrats have been meeting privately to devise a plan.
Domenici, who ran the Senate committee for six years until the Democrats won control of the Senate in November, complained in an interview that Congress often ignores its own budget when it passes individual spending bills. "What we've got now is a joke," he said.
In addition to recommending that Congress adopt budgets and spending bills that cover two-year periods instead of just one, Domenici called for automatic spending reductions if the deficit exceeded congressionally established targets.
The Supreme Court ruled the automatic spending cuts of the Gramm-Rudman law unconstitutional because the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, participated in executing the law, and Domenici would delete the GAO's role.
"We need to see some willingness to reform the process," he said.
Chiles said the Democrats will proceed with the process anyway.
Domenici "is my friend and sincere in wanting to make some changes," Chiles said in an interview. But he added: "There's a little bit of hypocrisy to say another process, a two-year budget, will take care of the problem."