WASHINGTON — The Senate voted today to restrict tests of President Reagan's "Star Wars" anti-missile defense system and a key senator said that if Reagan carries out a threat to veto the measure, Congress will likely cut spending on the program more deeply.
The 58-38 vote in the Democratic-run Senate went generally along party lines and ended a four-month partisan fight that had blocked the Senate from acting on a bill authorizing defense spending for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.
Reagan had threatened to veto the Pentagon bill if the Star Wars restriction was attached, but Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chief author of the restriction, said a veto could mean even more reductions for the Strategic Defense Initiative, as Star Wars is formally known.
"If he vetoes this, my own vote would be to give them less SDI money," Nunn said after the vote. "I'm not playing games here."
Nunn is chairman of the Armed Services Committee and one of the Senate's strongest supporters of SDI spending.
Under the amendment, the Administration would require new congressional approval to go ahead with SDI tests that would violate the existing interpretation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
'Broad' View Asserted
Reagan has asserted that the executive branch can unilaterally move to a "broad" view of the ABM pact, an interpretation that would allow more wide-ranging SDI tests.
Nunn and other Democrats dispute that contention. The United States still complies with the existing, "narrow" view of the ABM pact.
The Senate version of the Pentagon bill totals $302 billion, including $4.5 billion for Star Wars. By contrast, a companion bill passed by the House last May proposes only $3.1 billion for Star Wars, which has a current budget of $3.55 billion. Reagan had sought $5.7 billion.
The measure that eventually clears the Senate, probably in several weeks, will have to be reconciled with the $288-billion House-passed version before it goes to Reagan.
In the fight over Nunn's SDI amendment, Republicans renewed their argument that the measure would hurt U.S.-Soviet arms control talks and would infringe on the constitutional authority of the White House.
Nunn disagreed, saying "it is a power-of-the-purse question."