WASHINGTON — While the government lived hand-to-mouth without credit in what President Reagan called an "emergency situation," the Senate tried again today to break its deadlock over a balanced-budget plan that has stalled legislation to increase federal borrowing authority.
"We have to do something," Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) said. But there was no indication of a quick end to the tangle that kept the Senate in session over the weekend and delayed action on increasing the national debt limit to a landmark $2 trillion.
At the White House, Reagan urged a gathering of Republican supporters to work for passage of the plan to set statutory limits on federal budget deficits in order to achieve a balanced budget by 1991.
"That's one proposal that is worth fighting for," Reagan said in his fifth pitch in four days for the plan.
'Need Increase Passed'
He also complained that the proposal was "being held hostage for wrangling over the debt ceiling, putting the federal government in an emergency situation. The business of our nation must go forward. We need the debt ceiling increase passed."
The government operated normally today.
However, John J. Niehenke, acting assistant Treasury secretary for domestic finance, said that the government had a cash balance of $6.2 billion at the close of business Friday and that this was likely to be exhausted today.
The Reagan Administration has requested an increase in the national debt limit from its current $1.824 trillion to $2.078 trillion.
House Increased Limit
The House increased the debt limit on Aug. 1 as part of the budget outline it passed. But a separate vote is needed in the Senate.
Reagan blamed Democrats for the necessity of increasing the debt ceiling, saying, "I know it's true that we Republicans have swallowed hard and we have regretted every time we have had to sign an increase in that.
"But we weren't responsible for the 50 years of deficit spending that was a matter of policy on the part of our opponents and that brought this all about," Reagan added.
Democrats have frequently noted that the national debt has doubled since Reagan took office.
Supporters of the balanced budget plan offered by Sens. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.) and Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), with the blessing of GOP leaders, have seized the debt limit legislation to force action on their proposal.
"If we had put this on the floor a month ago or a month later, everybody would go, 'Ho hum,' " Rudman said.
But some Democrats have argued that Republicans are trying to grab the initiative on the deficit issue in advance of the 1986 congressional elections.
"Nobody has a copyright on concern about the deficit," said Rep. Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), the assistant House majority leader.