Byrd dismisses President's `economic bill of rights'. Says Reagan is trying to deflect Iran-contra heat by attacking Congress
Washington — For the past month, President Reagan has toured the country, promoting an ``economic bill of rights'' and depicting the Democratic-controlled Congress as bent on raising taxes and swelling the size of the federal government. All of which has been too much for some Democrats, who fear that the President's continued attacks on Congress may strike a resonant chord with the American public. Yesterday, Senate majority leader Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia said he felt ``compelled to speak in defense of Congress'' and accused President Reagan of pursuing ``the reckless politics of confrontation.''
The President, Senator Byrd said, ``has the clear intention of vetoing almost every piece of legislation sent to him for his signature.''
At the same time, Byrd added, Reagan ``has been traveling around the country blaming the Congress for the basic ills of a nation.
Because of the Iran-contra affair and an early-starting presidential campaign season, Byrd said, Reagan's strategy ``will lead to an untimely and unhealthy polarization of our political process well before the 1988 election - a polarization that by its nature is destructive to the spirit of bipartisanship....''
Byrd's remarks, delivered on the Senate floor from a prepared text, seemed calculated to blunt the impact of Reagan's rhetoric on economic issues and link the President's political strategy to the damage the administration has sustained in the wake of the Iran-contra affair.
Byrd also directly attacked the President and his administration for permitting ``a culture of lying'' to take hold in the White House. ``The President may believe that the lack of a `smoking gun' will lead to an early restoration of his presidency,'' Byrd added. ``The President should not jump to such a conclusion. Both the American people and the Congress as a body have yet to be fully convinced that the President did not in some way countenance and authorize the secret arms-for-hostage policy.''
In a surprisingly low-key, extemporaneous rebuttal to Byrd's remarks, Senate minority leader Robert Dole (R) of Kansas said ``I understand the majority leader's frustration'' over Republican success at stalling several pieces of Democratic legislation. But, Senator Dole added, ``Don't expect the President to play dead just because the Congress is Democratic.''