WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, venting frustration over difficulty at reaching GOP budget accord, lashed out at Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger today for trying to "sit out" deficit-reduction efforts.
In an unusually sharp attack on the defense chief, the Kansas Republican also accused Weinberger of using inflated economic figures to exaggerate Pentagon belt-tightening.
"They've been able to survive over there (the Pentagon) without much difficulty," Dole said in a speech to public relations officials. "I think the rest of the country needs to survive too."
Dole suggested Weinberger's unyielding attitude on military spending was hampering efforts by Senate Republicans to craft their own deficit-reduction package.
'In Real Trouble'
"I'm willing to go after sensitive programs . . . but don't count on me if Weinberger continues to sit it out," Dole said. "We're in real trouble if we can't get together on defense numbers.
"I won't say everything is lost if we don't get more defense spending restraint--but we might be close to it."
Weinberger has agreed to trim $8.7 billion from an overall proposed defense budget of $286 billion, but that figure still represents a substantial increase over the current budget. He has repeatedly cautioned congressional leaders not to include Pentagon spending in any across-the-board spending freeze.
House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) also voiced frustration today with Weinberger's uncompromising attitude, but in a gentler fashion than his Senate colleague. "That's (Weinberger's) posture. I know it. We've been dealing with it. We've got to deal with it again," Michel told the same group addressed by Dole.
"I never saw a defense budget that couldn't be cut," Michel added.
Meanwhile, Dole announced he will seek to use a parliamentary shortcut to try to win quick congressional action on the deficit-cutting plan, but the scheme immediately ran into strong opposition from House Democrats.
"The House is not going to go along with that," said House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.), adding that the House will stick to the usual procedure of requiring a congressional budget outline to be completed by May 15, with measures to implement the outline to follow later in the year.
"The idea that you can come up with a razzle-dazzle package and expect us to swallow it whole is poor reasoning. . . . We're not going to do it," Wright said.
Dole said he hoped to use a single so-called "reconciliation" bill to handle all the budget cuts, a process similar to that used in early 1981 when Reagan domestic budget cuts were moved through Congress in one package.
Dole has been overseeing an effort by Senate Republicans to seize the initiative on deficit reduction and to craft their own package.