WASHINGTON — President Reagan's chief of staff today denied charges by Democrats that Reagan has derailed the talks between White House and congressional negotiators on cutting the U.S. budget deficit by making new demands.
Amid partisan political bickering, White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. appeared to be trying to get the talks back on track after a Thursday negotiating session in which Reagan was accused of blocking final agreement on a plan. (Story, Page 23.)
The negotiators conferred for less than two hours today in a meeting that "put a little optimism back in the air," said Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), ranking Republican on the Senate Budget committee. The negotiators were trying to untangle the snagged talks and complete a plan to cut about $30 billion from the deficit before a deadline of next Friday. They agreed to resume their talks Monday.
Domenici said the negotiators moved closer in several areas today, but he conceded that "there were plenty of disagreements."
Unless they can reach an accord by Friday, an automatic, arbitrary, across-the-board $23-billion spending cut--half in defense, half in domestic programs--will be triggered.
'Has Been No Change'
As today's meeting started, Baker said there have been no changes in Reagan's position that caused the setback in the talks, which some negotiators thought might have been concluded on Thursday.
Asked specifically by Reuters whether Reagan made new demands after the negotiations were on the edge of an accord on Wednesday night, Baker said:
"No, the President's only instruction was to continue to negotiate. There has been no change. There has been no alteration in the White House position that everything is on the table except Social Security."
The negotiators had appeared on the verge of an agreement Wednesday with some negotiators predicting that a package to cut the deficit could be completed this week.
'Now We're Far Apart'
House Budget Committee Chairman William H. Gray renewed his allegation today that something happened at the White House on Wednesday night between Reagan and his negotiators that resulted in his White House team, led by Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III and White House chief Baker, to ask for more defense spending and less domestic spending the next day.
"Two days ago, we were on the verge of an agreement, now we're far apart," Gray said as today's meeting started.
At the White House, presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater today blamed the Democrats for refusing to adopt specific provisions during meetings Thursday.
"We agreed to a framework of revenue increases and spending cuts that we asked for specifics on, and the Democrats didn't want to give them, . . . " Fitzwater said.
"We don't think a fill-in-the-blank plan will hold up to public scrutiny or market approval."