President Tangles With Congress Over Budget
Washington--President Reagan threatened to bring the federal government to a standstill last week if the Congress failed to cut out a $5.5-billion jobs program from a key budget bill.
The measure, a "continuing resolution" that would provide temporary funding for the Education Department (ed) and most other federal agencies, was passed by the House shortly after midnight on Dec. 15 with an amendment creating the jobs program.
Late Wednesday night the Senate Appropriations Committee cut back the cost of the jobs program to $1.2 billion.
The full Senate was expected to consider the temporary funding bill on Thursday.
Congressional passage and Presidential approval of the funding bill, which would keep the government operating until March 15, was considered crucial because the Congress has completed action on only four of its 13 regular appropriations bills for the fiscal year 1983. Most federal agencies were due to run out of money on Dec. 17.
That was the expiration date of an earlier continuing resolution that was passed by the Congress before its mid-term election recess. It was also the date that the Congress has set to adjourn its "lame-duck" session.
Senator Howard H. Baker Jr., the majority leader, concerned about the possibility of a Presidential veto of the continuing resolution and the Congress's inability to pass its other appropriations bills, warned his colleagues to be "on notice" for yet another lame-duck session.
"We're all going to be in here singing 'Jingle Bells' on Dec. 24," said Representative Silvio O. Conte, Republican of Massachusetts, after the House Appropriations Committee cleared the temporary funding bill last Monday.
Later in the week, Representative Conte said that President Reagan told him he was irrevocably opposed to the bill in its current form and that he "didn't give a damn" if his veto of it forced the government to shut down.
The House version of the temporary spending bill would fund the ed at approximately $14.3 billion. That is the same amount that the House approved on Dec. 1 when it passed the regular appropriations bill for the the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
The Senate Appropriations Committee added about $700 million to the Labor-hhs-ed bill a week later and cleared it for action by the full Senate. As of late last week, however, no action had been taken.
Last Wednesday, both chambers approved, and cleared the way for President Reagan to sign, a spending bill that would provide $3.2 billion for child-nutrition programs, including $2.3 billion for school-lunch reimbursements.--tm