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Cranston Expects Reduced MX, 'Stars Wars' Funding : Senator Predicts Approval for 50 Missiles, Up to $3 Billion for Space Defense Research

March 12, 1985|JACK NELSON | Times Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON — Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) predicted Monday that Congress will support both the MX missile and the so-called "Star Wars" missile defense research program--but at significantly lower levels of funding than those requested by President Reagan.

Reagan, who has campaigned intensely for both programs, wants to produce 100 MX missiles by 1989 at an estimated cost of $21.5 billion and seeks an additional $3.7 billion for the proposed "Star Wars" program, formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

But Cranston, an opponent of the MX and a lukewarm supporter of "Star Wars," said he expects Congress eventually to approve funding for "more like 50" missiles and to vote between $2 billion and $3 billion for missile defense research.

In a wide-ranging luncheon interview with several reporters, the senator also discussed California politics and said he expects no serious primary opposition when he runs for reelection next year.

Reagan Argument Effective

So far, Reagan has made an effective argument that canceling production of the MX would send the Soviet Union the wrong signal about U.S. defense commitments and weaken the hand of negotiators at the U.S.-Soviet arms control talks that resume today in Geneva, Cranston said.

Another key, he said, is an agreement by a group of five influential senators and representatives to support the production of 21 MX missiles in a series of votes this month but to link continued support of the program to signs of American "good faith" in the Geneva talks.

Cranston, who in the past had questioned Reagan's desire to curb the arms race, said he now believes that "things the President has done and said" in recent months show "he is sincerely committed to an arms control agreement."

In his first term, Reagan "was really not making policy" on arms control and "nobody was in charge" of setting a strategy, even when the Soviets walked out of two sets of arms negotiations, Cranston asserted. But now, he said, Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz are "much more intimately involved" in such policy-making.

Social Security Spending

On another issue, Cranston said he would consider lowering the amount of the annual cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security recipients as part of an overall spending freeze if it also includes a freeze on defense spending. But he said he remains opposed to a freeze on the cost-of-living adjustment itself.

Cranston said he is in "pretty good political shape" as he prepares for next year's reelection campaign and is much further ahead in fund-raising than at any time since he was first elected to the Senate in 1968.

"Virtually all of the party is united behind me," said Cranston, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, who added that he expects "no significant opposition" in California's Democratic primary. Several persons who have been publicly mentioned as possible challengers in the primary, he said, already have privately assured him they will not run. He declined to identify them, however.

Cranston suggested that San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who has been mentioned as one possible primary opponent, has several options, including running for governor next year or for the seat of Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) in 1988.

He has "no idea" whom the Democrats will nominate to oppose Gov. George Deukmejian, Cranston said, but he contended Deukmejian is also "in pretty good shape, with polls similar to mine."

Cranston noted that Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who was narrowly defeated by Deukmejian three years ago, has not ruled out running again for governor next year. But he said he thinks Bradley would face an even tougher race against Deukmejian in 1986 than he did in 1982.

"He has to be concerned about whether he could win--he undoubtedly has that concern," said Cranston. "The road is not as clear for him this time."

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