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Bush Upset at Congress Over Defense, S

Times Staff Writer

President Bush expressed frustration Friday with the way Congress has treated his legislative agenda, complaining that lawmakers are thwarting his ability to negotiate arms control agreements and delaying resolution of the savings and loan crisis.

“I do not want to negotiate with the Soviet Union without as many cards in my hand as possible,” said Bush, referring to congressional cuts in his proposed defense budget, “so there’s an arms control dimension to what we’re talking about.”

Bush’s remarks were made during a wide-ranging, 30-minute news conference convened to call attention to a switch by Rep. Tommy F. Robinson of Arkansas from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

Vows to Keep Fighting

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“Yesterday was not the House’s most memorable moment,” Bush said, citing Thursday’s House vote on the defense budget. “But we’re going to keep fighting on for what we believe in.”

Bush predicted that his military priorities would survive, even though the House chopped funding for the Strategic Defense Initiative, the B-2 Stealth bomber and the MX and Midgetman missile programs, all components of what Bush described as his “strategic concept.”

Bush said that he also believes he will prevail in final congressional action on a proposed multibillion-dollar bailout of the troubled savings and loan industry, even though House and Senate negotiators rejected his plan to keep the initial cost off the books of the federal budget.

“It won’t come to vetoing the S&L; (legislation) because we have 40-plus votes in the Senate” in favor of the Administration’s position, he said. If his funding proposal fails, Bush said, “It would send a very bad sign to international markets.”

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No High Marks for Congress

Overall, Bush said, he “wouldn’t give (Congress) high marks” for the way in which it has responded to the Administration’s legislative proposals. But he insisted that he will not shift to a more confrontational approach and that he will still seek cooperation and compromise.

“I’m not sure name-calling or questioning somebody’s motives (will) be successful,” he said. “We have a Democratic majority in the Senate, a Democratic majority in the House. I have to work with these people. I will work with these people.

“I have never been too hot at being a name-caller, and I think they know the principles upon which I stand. . . . It’s a question of style, I think, and I’ll take a shot at them once in a while if they get too outrageous.”

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Open to Compromise

Bush also indicated that he is still open to compromise with lawmakers on his proposal to lower the tax rate on capital gains, which involve sales of assets such as stocks and bonds.

“If there’s some compromise that can spur investment, spur jobs, increase employment--the cause of new jobs starting up--I’d be interested in it,” he said. “I don’t think I should ever say it’s got to be done just this way.”

Bush’s plan would reduce the maximum capital gains tax rate to 15%. The reduction would apply to stocks and most other income-producing assets, but not to timber and real estate.

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But a majority of the House Ways and Means Committee appears to be supporting a substitute proposal by Rep. Ed Jenkins (D-Ga.) to cut the top rate to 20% for two years for all assets, then raise it to 28% while ending taxation of gains attributable to inflation. Democratic leaders have delayed a vote while negotiations continue with the White House.

Bush called his plan “a good, solid proposal,” saying that he believes “it will stimulate jobs” and encourage business creation.

Supports Lucas

Bush also reiterated his support for former Wayne County, Mich., sheriff and county executive William Lucas, his embattled nominee to head the Justice Department’s civil rights office.

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“I strongly support Bill Lucas,” he said. “I am convinced that much--not all, but much--of the criticism of him is pure gut American politics. And it started long before Day 1 of the hearings. And this is a man that served as a Democrat, was widely respected, switched to the Republican Party, and then people piled onto a fare-thee-well. He has my confidence.”

Bush said he had made telephone calls to lawmakers on Lucas’ behalf. “I feel strongly about it,” he said. “And I told Bill last night--he was over at the house for dinner here--and I told him, ‘I am staying with you 100%,’ and it’s going to be right there and solid.”

Bush refused to say if he would sign or veto a Democratic-sponsored statute to outlaw flag burning, although he still favors a constitutional amendment. “I will see what comes down here, but I will continue to push for the approach that I think is the best, " he said.


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