Reagan may find political gain in budget snag
Washington — President Reagan, suggested House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., should be able to make political hay out of Congress's inability, thus far, to come up with a budget.
And Mr. Reagan is proving the Speaker right. He made the budget the subject of his weekly presidential radio speech on Saturday, May 29, accusing the Democratic House leadership of playing politics and characterizing the congressional budget process as ''ridiculous.''
From now on, until the Congress finally passes a budget - if, indeed, it's able to--Mr. Reagan will not have to deal with such nuances as why House Republicans failed to unite behind a resolution roughly equivalent to the Reagan-endorsed plan accepted by the Senate.
Instead, the President can point to the House's Democratic majority and Democratic leadership. He can tell the public that the Democratic-controlled House failed to give the nation the budget it so badly needs.
Furthermore, the President can blame Speaker O'Neill and the Democrats for the turmoil in the House, resulting from its inability to pass a budget proposal.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are seeking to put the blame on the President, with Congressman Tony Coelho (D) of California charging that the Republicans now ''are in a panic'' and ''looking for a scapegoat.''
White House Chief of Staff James Baker III told the Monitor before the May 27 voting that the President felt he had a pretty good chance of winning on the Michel-Latta budget proposal, a plan that he favored.
But Mr. Baker said that he saw the strong possibility that the coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats that gave Reagan victories in the House last year might not come together behind the Michel-Latta plan. Baker's misgivings turned out to be correct.
Some conservative Democrats, who would have liked to support Reagan, simply didn't believe that Michel-Latta went far enough in reducing the budget deficit. And some moderate Republicans wanted more defense cuts and fewer reductions in social programs than Michel-Latta provided. So the Reagan-backed budget was defeated by a 235-to-192 vote in the House.
Political implications, as seen by observers here, include:
* New polls that show that the President's personal job-performance rating is holding firm at 43 percent and that a majority of the public still like him and will give him more time to make his program work.
Thus, Reagan is positioned to make political points by berating the House Democratic majority, even though this criticism may be seen by some as an oversimplified and subjective point of view.
* The further delay in putting a budget into place does nothing to shore up the economy. This, of itself, has negative political implications for all Republicans running for office this year.
The President has emphasized that a budget containing what will be generally regarded as a manageable deficit must be passed immediately to give needed confidence to the business community. He has said this is the route to lower interest rates and higher employment.