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House Democrats Reject Reagan Budget

March 14, 1986|KAREN TUMULTY and BOB SECTER | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — House Democrats rejected the proposed White House fiscal 1987 budget Thursday in a heated debate that Republicans said was staged to embarrass President Reagan.

Meanwhile, Senate Budget Committee negotiations aimed at producing a fiscal 1987 budget package stalled as Democrats and Republicans were unable to resolve differences over defense spending.

In the House, President Reagan's budget failed on a strictly partisan 312-12 vote, an outcome that was never in doubt because of Democratic control over that chamber. Moreover, the budget's overall support on Capitol Hill has been so weak that it failed overwhelmingly last week in the Republican-controlled Senate Budget Committee.

Seen as Symbolic

Neither house is required by law to consider the President's plan, which is seen largely as a symbolic outline of Administration spending priorities.

House Republicans, who had been less than enthusiastic about the deep domestic cuts and military spending growth in the plan, testily criticized the afternoon of debate as a time-consuming "flimflam sham."

Seventy-eight Republicans--about half of those voting--were recorded only as "present" on the advice of their leadership, which had urged them to avoid taking a stand favoring or opposing the controversial White House plan. Among the 12 Republicans voting for the President's plan were three Californians, Robert E. Badham of Newport Beach, Carlos J. Moorhead of Glendale and Norman D. Shumway of Stockton.

And in a show of party solidarity, not a single Democrat voted to back Reagan, though Earl Hutto of Florida voted "present."

Discarding normal standards of rhetorical civility, Republican Whip Trent Lott of Mississippi accused Democrats of trying to toss a "rotten egg" at Republicans by forcing a vote. Rep. W. G. (Bill) Hefner (D-N.C.), taking liberties with an old saying, argued however that Democrats saw the votes as a way to "separate the wheat from the crap."

'Trying to Find Chink'

"There's just so much frustration over there on the Democratic side of the aisle because they have a (Republican) President who is so popular, and they're trying to find a chink in his armor," House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois said.

But Michel's Democratic counterpart, Majority Leader Jim Wright of Texas, pointed out that conservative groups have been running a "high-priced, slick" nationwide television advertising campaign asking citizens to write their congressmen and urge support for the President's budget.

"Don't you think that we ought to give him a vote and see how much support he has?" Wright asked sarcastically.

As the Senate Budget Committee continued its efforts to piece together its own spending plan, Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) told reporters that he is "guardedly optimistic" that he can reach an accord with Democrats, although the two sides remained about $10 billion apart over how much new spending authority to give the Pentagon.

However, Domenici cautioned that defense "is not the only remaining issue. . . . It could take a long time even if we agreed on (defense) to get the rest." He said he still hopes that the committee will produce a budget that the Senate can consider before it leaves for its Easter recess at the end of the month.

Would Allow for Inflation

The chairman's own recommendation, which he put forward Thursday, would allow defense spending next year to grow only enough to keep pace with projected inflation of 3.4%. It also would include $10 billion in "unspecified taxes" and allow spending on most domestic programs to grow enough to account for inflation, he said.

Reagan has firmly opposed additional taxes, had asked 8% growth in defense spending beyond inflation and requested that many domestic programs be cut sharply or eliminated.

"Today's spectacle is ample evidence that the House leadership has abandoned its responsibility to produce an alternative to the President's budget," White House Budget Director James C. Miller III said in a statement. "The House Democrats can beef about the President's budget, but where's their own?"

In another budget-related controversy, House Democrats were unable to resolve a dispute with Senate Republicans over the size and shape of a deficit-reduction package mandated by Congress when it approved its fiscal 1986 budget resolution more than seven months ago.

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