WASHINGTON — President Reagan's $994-billion fiscal 1987 budget ran into predictable trouble on Capitol Hill Thursday, as top White House aides tried to minimize the Administration's proposed cuts in social programs and congressmen sought to maximize the proposed spending increases for defense and foreign aid.
Reagan himself, noting that Democrats had dismissed his budget as "dead before arrival" even prior to its unveiling Wednesday, conceded in an aside to reporters at an Oval Office ceremony that he might have to "give it artificial respiration."
Although most of the opposition came from Democrats defending pet domestic programs whose spending increases would be cut back, criticism was bipartisan.
One key House Republican, Assistant Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), said that his party would repudiate the President's program for fiscal 1987 and come up with one of its own. Democratic leaders, meanwhile, said they would stage nationwide hearings on the budget next week in an attempt to discredit it.
But Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), anticipating the annual ritual of public congressional anguish over the budget, said he expects several weeks to pass before Congress gets down to the serious business of rewriting a workable budget for next year.
"I think we ought to have the rain dances for a while and let all the people howl and scream," he told reporters. "Nobody makes any sense right now."
Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III and Budget Director James C. Miller III sought to minimize the political confrontation by presenting the proposed cuts in domestic programs as "only $23 billion," an amount Baker said is equivalent to 5% of all domestic spending.
The rest of the proposed deficit reductions, they explained, would come from added revenues from sales of federal assets and from proposed user fees, reduced interest on the total debt, and a small cutback in defense.
But committee Democrats indicated that they would have none of that. In a series of prepared statements, Reps. Edward P. Boland (D-Mass.), William H. Natcher (D-Ky.), Joseph P. Addabbo (D-N.Y.) and David R. Obey (D-Wis.) accused the Administration of drastic cuts in public housing, health research, health insurance and a host of other programs their various Appropriations subcommittees oversee.
By citing proposed budget authority, rather than the actual spending outlays in the budget, they calculated that defense spending would increase 12% to 13%, rather than the more modest amount the Administration claims. Miller explained that defense spending, measured by outlays, would expand 6.2%, or 3% in "real" terms after inflation--the Administration's current growth target.
Obey, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee through which foreign aid outlays must pass, denounced as an "outrage" plans to increase that category 16%.
"If you think there's a snowball's chance in hell of my committee approving that, you're crazy," he said. "You won't get more than 20% support for this in the whole House when you are savaging what is going on in our own districts."
In his defense of the budget, Baker explained that the alternatives to the proposed program cuts are the automatic cuts mandated by the Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction law, "or else higher taxes, cuts in defense or take a hit out of Social Security."
"You would make a mistake to say we can't cut spending further," Baker said, noting that at 6% of gross national product defense spending today is "lower than any peace-time year during the presidencies of John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson."
Reagan Signs Message
Reagan, meanwhile, as he signed his annual economic message Thursday, told congressional leaders: "Gramm-Rudman-Hollings will be used as a shovel to dig us out of the results of deficit spending. But we will not allow it to be used as a cannon pointed on our real and legitimate defense needs."
During a brief ceremony, Reagan called the document "a blueprint" that builds on the themes he set forth in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Reagan's message is basically an exhaustive wish list that covers both domestic and foreign policy concerns. It includes dozens of initiatives, such as a youth subminimum wage and tuition tax credits, that the Administration has proposed in the past but has been unable to get passed in Congress.