US budget debate sports a new species--the 'yellow jackets'
A chided Congress comes back to the Capitol this week like school pupils who failed to complete an assignment.Skip to next paragraph
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Constituents have complained, the American Association Manufacturers declares itself ''fed up,'' and President Reagan himself has denounced the failure of the House to pass a budget resolution.
Already Congress has fallen two weeks behind its own deadline for passing a federal budget. And though the Senate has completed its work, the House appears hopelessly splintered after turning down a host of proposals last week.
Not all of the lawmakers have such a gloomy outlook, however. A group of conservative Republicans, christened the ''yellow jackets,'' emerged as a newly visible bloc last week during the House budget vote.
For months these conservatives have been working behind the closed doors of Republican meetings, trying to persuade their party's leadership to take a sharper right turn. Now they have come out publicly as a force to be reckoned with, and they are certain to play a big role as the House rewrites its budget proposal.
What these conservative lawmakers want most is to balance the federal budget, and they want to do it without raising taxes or cutting into weapons systems.
''There is tremendous appeal in this country for a balanced budget,'' says US Rep. Bill Archer of Texas, a member of the conservative Republican group. Representative Archer and others in his group argue that their Republican leadership compromised too much by accepting a budget plan that carries a $100 billion-plus deficit for next year.
He argues that the House can cut the deficit much more, and ''now we're going to find out.''
Although details have yet to be worked out, Archer and his fellow conservatives will probably call for freezing all federal benefit and pay levels at Oct. 1 levels, a proposal that he estimates would save $26 billion.
Coupled with other savings, Archer says, the freeze could pull the deficit down to about $75 billion, which he calls the ''magic number'' that will cause the financial markets to cut interest rates for loans and open a floodgate of business activity in the housing and auto industries.
Archer concedes he has no proof that the plan would work. But he notes that even his own boom town of Houston is now seeing layoffs and unemployment. ''We've got to do something of drastic proportions,'' he says.
Election years are unlikely times for drastic action, but the House is sure to feel the effects of the GOP conservatives. Budget Committee chairman James R. Jones (D) of Oklahoma, has conceded that his panel will have to produce a more conservative budget plan. That means more money for defense, about $2 billion in savings from domestic programs, and lower taxes, he says.
Passing any budget will call for laying down philosophies and voting for a consensus. Among seven choices last week, ranging from very liberal budgets with high domestic spending and high taxes to a conservative budget that would have attempted to balance the budget next year, not one could win the 218 votes needed.
''We have every reason to believe that we'll get a budget resolution,'' says Archer, voicing optimism that is not shared by all on Capitol Hill.
However, Archer maintains that passing a budget itself is not that vital. If the House fails to agree, he says, ''it's not the end of the world and it doesn't mean we're going to stop cutting spending.''