Congress maps its list of goals for '84
The United States Congress reopened this week amid few expectations for election-year accomplishments and a new warning to the President on weakening support for keeping troops in Lebanon.
''I would have to say the votes are there to go against the President'' on Lebanon, House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. said as he arrived Monday for the new session.
Only three weeks ago the Speaker announced that he would oppose the Reagan policy in Lebanon unless there was some positive development.
''I don't think there's much progress out there,'' the Massachusetts Democrat told reporters. He said he expected the House to take up a Lebanon resolution in late February.
Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. predicted that his party could hold the line on Lebanon in the upper chamber.
''Barring unforeseen circumstances,'' the Tennessee Republican said, ''we're not likely to change the resolution'' passed last year permitting the US Marines troops to stay in Lebanon for up to 18 months.
''It would be seen as America in retreat from an obligation,'' Senator Baker said of removing the troops.
The second major issue facing the lawmakers - the growing federal deficit - may escape any action this year.
''We ought to make a down payment'' on solving the nation's budget problems, Baker said.
''It's not clear what's possible this session, '' he said, adding that he's ''not content'' to ignore the $200 billion US deficit.
Democratic leaders wasted no time in assigning the blame to the President Reagan for inaction on the deficit.
''I'd like to see the captain of the team get off the bench, mingle with the players, and lead the charge,'' said Senate minority leader Robert C. Byrd (D) of West Virginia. The American public does not yet understand the need to slash deficits, he maintained. ''The only one who can get their attention is the President. The President has to lead.''
Speaker O'Neill made a similar charge against the President's adamant refusal to increase taxes: ''He's looking more at elections than at the future of our country.''
The congressional leaders outlined a basic session, which would include little legislation beyond the required spending bills.
''I don't look for a raft of new legislation out there,'' said O'Neill, while a Senate GOP aide observed that ''it takes five minutes to lay out the agenda for the year.''
Among the issues that will come before Congress:
Immigration reform. Despite a long controversy, prospects look bright for early action to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants, while legalizing some foreigners now living illegally in the US. A bill has already passed the Senate, and O'Neill affirmed Monday that he will bring the matter to the House floor.
Aid to Central America. The Kissinger Commission report, outlining plans for increased economic and military aid to Central America, now faces hearings and debates on Capitol Hill. Already O'Neill has drawn the battle line, saying he will oppose military aid for El Salvador and citing the continued violence by right-wing death squads that have been linked to leaders there.