Congress has options if Gramm-Rudman fails

If the United States Supreme Court upholds a lower-court ruling that a key section of the Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction law is unconstitutional, Congress will still be able to use an alternative budget-cutting procedure contained in the act. But there is considerable doubt in Washington, on the part of both legislators and other observers, that Congress has the will or fortitude to make spending cuts equal to those the US comptroller general is impowered to in the section being challenged.

Gramm-Rudman mandates reductions in the federal budget deficit in large increments each year until fiscal 1991, when the budget would be balanced. In the event that Congress fails to make the cuts, the law provides automatic cuts which would slice across 42 percent of the federal budget and bring the fiscal 1987 deficit down to $144 billion.

The lower court also invalidated the first $11.7 billion automatic spending-cut order, issued Feb. 1.

The fall-back position, written into the law just in case a court challenge succeeded, would require that the House and Senate approve, and the President sign, a special budget resolution containing deep, across-the-board cuts in all but a few spending programs.

Some lawmakers maintain that Congress and President Reagan would respond constructively to Supreme Court affirmation of the lower court's decision.

They see the possibility of a Congress-White House budgetary compromise. They reason that although lawmakers may shy from voting deep budget cuts in an election year, many will not want to be seen as dodging the Gramm-Rudman mandate for purely political purposes.

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