WASHINGTON — President Reagan resorted to football idiom Saturday to tell the nation he feels "just fine" after Monday's surgery and will soon be "suited up and back on the playing field" for a fourth-quarter defense of his program and the record $1.024-trillion budget for 1988 he has submitted to Congress.
"With just two years to go in our Administration, that makes this the beginning of the fourth quarter," Reagan said as he opened his weekly radio talk. "So take it from an old sportscaster: Don't leave your seats; the game ain't over."
The President used his first broadcast since the Democratic-run 100th Congress convened to praise his Administration's "sound financial management" and to upbraid the legislators for moving the $18-billion clean water bill toward certain re-enactment. Reagan killed the measure with a pocket veto last November after adjournment of the 99th Congress, which had passed it without a dissenting vote.
Responding for the Democrats, New Jersey Rep. James J. Howard took up the challenge after noting the "big environmental victory" scored Thursday when the House passed the water bill 406 to 8 and sent it on to the Senate.
Predicting that Congress "will send you the same bill" that was vetoed in the fall, Howard urged Reagan not to "further isolate yourself and the presidency by once again vetoing the clean water act," because "this time we'll vote to override your veto."
Observing that Reagan's budget proposes to spend $6 billion for "just the study of the 'Star Wars' program" and $19.4 billion for foreign aid, Howard chided the Administration for lack of concern for the future and absence of plans "except in the field of armaments."
"Good roads, clean water and adequate sewage treatment may seem like mundane issues," Howard said, "but they're the support systems for our society. . . . It requires money and it must be done." He urged Reagan to reconsider his approach to the bill.
If the President has any such plan, he kept it to himself as he denounced Congress for reviving "a huge budget-busting water and sewage treatment bill."
"Our Administration remains ready to work with Congress in fashioning this budget, in particular to consider any budget proposal that meets the three basic requirements of a strong national defense, a shrinking federal deficit and no tax increase," Reagan said.
"But if the big spenders want to fight on the budget, they'd better strap on their helmets and shoulder pads," he continued. "In this fourth and final quarter, I'm determined to go out there and win one for the American people; well, and yes, one for the Gipper."
This fade-out line was adapted from a 1940 film, "Knute Rockne, All-American," in which Reagan played George Gipp, a dying football player, and Pat O'Brien, playing the late Notre Dame coach, urged his players to "win one for the Gipper."