WASHINGTON — Heavy-handed lobbying by defense contractors may have backfired and cost the Reagan Administration its top budget priority, a 3% after-inflation increase in defense spending, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) said Thursday.
"We made the best effort we could," he said of last week's 51-48 Senate vote rejecting any increase in Pentagon spending. "I think we could have won, but there were overeager phone calls made by some that cost us a couple of votes."
The Senate vote to freeze fiscal 1986 defense spending to the 1985 level plus about 4% inflation was incorporated Thursday in a revised GOP compromise that won President Reagan's support. It is unlikely that the Democratic-controlled House will be any more generous with the Pentagon.
Declines to Be Specific
Dole refused to specify whose votes he lost as a result of the lobbying by defense contractors, who reportedly had been asked by Senate Armed Services Committee staff members to put pressure on senators representing states with large defense facilities.
But several Republican congressional sources said that Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) had been outraged by a suggestion from a top officer of McDonnell Douglas Corp. that a freeze on defense spending could jeopardize funds for the F-15E fighter.
The fighter, which the company hopes to begin producing in St. Louis next year, is expected to provide employment for thousands of Danforth's constituents.
Danforth refused Thursday to discuss any calls he had received about the budget. But he said that he had voted for a defense-spending freeze when the issue was before the Budget Committee. "I voted for (the freeze) because I thought it was the right way to vote," he said.
A spokesman for McDonnell Douglas said that he had no knowledge of any lobbying efforts by the company.