White House threatens veto of delay in spending cuts

September 25, 1990|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The White House, raising the pressure on Congress for a budget deal, threatened yesterday to veto Democratic-sponsored legislation that would delay about $100 billion in spending cuts due to start Oct. 1 if there is no agreement.

Marlin Fitzwater, spokesman for President Bush, said that the chief executive opposed any move to relax the Gramm-Rudman law's provisions for massive automatic reductions in most federal programs because they are "an important discipline."

Democrats charged that it would be a "national disaster" to allow the cutbacks to take effect and House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash., said that he expected "an agreement in principle" on major parts of a deficit-cutting package to be achieved this week.

Mr. Foley's optimism was not widely shared, and sources close to the budget summit negotiations said that the thorny issues of capital gains tax cuts and offsetting tax increases on upper-income Americans were unresolved.

"It will be a miracle of our time if there is an agreement tonight [Monday]," said Representative Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Another session of the eight-member budget super-summit was scheduled last evening in Mr. Foley's office in hopes of narrowing the wide gap that has separated the White House and top Democratic leaders.

Mr. Bush's budget director, Richard G. Darman, said: "We're getting closer but we're not there, that's for sure."

Taking note of Democratic plans to postpone the Oct. 1 deadline until Oct. 20 to keep the government running as usual while White House and Congressional negotiators work, Mr. Fitzwater said: "We don't agree it should be extended."

But the White House spokesman said that the negotiators were "sticking with it" and said that Mr. Bush would sit in on the talks "pretty close to the end. . . . When it's necessary, we'll be there."

Mr. Foley said that the current talks were coming to a climax.

"We believe they will lead us to an agreement in principle on all the general areas and categories of the agreement," he told reporters. "It might actually take us a couple more days to work out the language, but that is what we are aiming at."

The House Appropriations committee was scheduled to approve a resolution today to continue spending at current levels until Oct. 20. The resolution would waive the Gramm-Rudman targets for deficit reduction for about three weeks. Senate leaders indicated they preferred an extension of the deadline only to Oct. 13.

Representative Jamie L. Whitten, D-Miss., chairman of the panel, said that failure to approve an extension would "destroy the country" by allowing $100 billion to be cut from the budget, divided equally between the Pentagon and domestic spending. Some programs -- such as Social Security benefits -- would be exempted from the reductions, but nearly everyone agrees the cuts would be severe.

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