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Letter Urges Quick Action to Complete 'Vital Task' : Reagan Presses Congress on Deficit Cuts

November 28, 1987|Associated Press

SANTA BARBARA — President Reagan urged members of Congress on Friday to move quickly on "the vital task" of implementing the $75-billion budget-cutting deal he struck a week ago with their leaders.

"We must join together in a bipartisan way to preserve our economic gains and keep our nation strong," Reagan said in a letter sent to all 535 members of Congress.

The President noted that on Nov. 20 he and congressional leaders had reached agreement on a two-year program of budget deficit cuts totaling $75 billion.

Indiscriminate Cuts

In his letter, he said the agreement "is our best hope for achieving deficit reduction without resorting to indiscriminate across-the-board cuts that would devastate essential services."

On Nov. 20, Reagan signed an executive order authorizing an automatic $23-billion budget cut under a provision of the Gramm-Rudman law, saying then that he wanted action immediately to attack the red-ink problem.

But Reagan and congressional leaders said at the time that they hoped an agreement could be reached which would avert full implementation of the Gramm-Rudman cuts, which would slash $11.5 billion from domestic programs and $11.5 billion from Defense Department operations.

Congress has until 10 working days after Reagan's order to enact the $75-billion deficit-reduction program. Otherwise, the Gramm-Rudman cuts will take full effect. Congress' weeklong Thanksgiving holiday began just after Reagan signed the order.

'A Bipartisan Commitment'

"The agreement reflects a bipartisan commitment to reduce the deficit substantially over the next two years," Reagan said. "It maintains vital government services, upholds our national security and preserves the integrity and fairness embodied in last year's tax reform legislation.

"I pledge to continue working with the Congress to complete this vital task begun by our negotiation teams," the President said.

House Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) predicted Friday that the bipartisan proposal, which he helped to craft, will gain congressional approval, saying it is an alternative to even more painful Gramm-Rudman cuts.

However, the national budget will not be approved without a fight, Foley said in Spokane, Wash. Floor debate on inclusion of funds for the Nicaraguan Contras, the Clean Air Act and even broadcasting's fairness doctrine could affect the final product, he said.

Exempting 'Star Wars'

Earlier this week, Reagan, using discretionary authority given him under Gramm-Rudman, asked Congress to adopt a joint resolution exempting his "Star Wars" missile defense program from the automatic cuts imposed on the Defense Department.

The President plans a series of meetings in Washington next week to follow up on the budget-cutting agreement put together by Administration officials and congressional leaders in the wake of the 508-point plunge in the Dow Jones stock average on Oct. 19.

Reagan will also address the issue of budget deficits and taxes in a speech Monday to Heritage Foundation scholars.

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