Now that Republicans have the budget they wanted
If anyone in Washington really believed that President Reagan's legislative coalition of Republicans and ''boll weevil'' conservative Democrats was shattered, last week's House approval of a fiscal year 1983 budget resolution should dispel all doubts. Here, after all, were lawmakers scrambling aboard a GOP budget plan by a 219-to-206 vote - sparked by the defection of 63 Democrats, mainly from the South.Skip to next paragraph
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And all that was occurring while the President was thousands of miles away in Bonn - though still able to prod recalcitrant lawmakers into line thanks to international telephone hookups.
In adopting what turned out to be an essentially conservative resolution after rejecting some eight proposed budgets two weeks ago, the House has completed the first step in what is still a long and difficult fiscal process.
This first phase merely defines the broad budget goals. In the case of the House, that means a tentative budget of $765 billion, with a projected deficit of $99.3 billion.
The House plan must now be reconciled with a proposed Senate version of $784 billion that, while also conservative in approach, envisions a larger deficit of compromise, individual congressional committee must reconcile their individual spending programs with the overall budget.
The praise - or blame - for finally getting both branches of Congress to enact budget resolutions now clearly falls on the White House and the Republican Party as they look toward the November midterm elections.
The House budget, after all, provides for the largest peacetime hike in defense spending by making deep cuts in social programs, particularly medicare and medicaid. How such a rightward course by Congress is finally perceived by the American people will to a large extent be determined by economic conditions during the remainder of the year.
The lack of a federal budget and resulting high deficits have been considered primary factors explaining high interest rates. The fact that bond prices rallied late last Thursday after passage of the House GOP plan seems to suggest that Wall Street concerns about the economy may now ease. If that proves to be the case the nation as a whole should benefit.
Precisely because the Senate and House budget versions are different, with the Senate taking less money from social programs, the GOP leadership should consider carefully the extent to which it wants to place the burden of supporting large defense increases on the backs of the nation's poorest persons.
Given the fact that many Americans are now facing economic difficulty, conferees would seem to have ample justification in hewing more closely to the Senate numbers.
Despite the euphoria now being expressed by GOP chieftains, House Democratic Budget Committee Chairman James Jones made perhaps the most realistic assessment of last week's action.
''The American people,'' said Mr. Jones, ''are going to be pleased that a House budget resolution has been passed.'' But, he added, ''now it will be up to the Republicans to enforce those deep cuts.''
Enforcing those cuts will prove particularly challenging yet must be done if deficits are to be held to tolerable levels.