Remarks to Reporters Announcing the Veto of the Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 1982 Appropriations
November 23, 1981
The President. Good morning, and I do mean morning. [Laughter] It's funny how much scanter the audience is this early in the morning.
Well, I just wanted to tell you I am returning to the Congress without my signature House Joint Resolution 357, the continuing resolution providing appropriations for fiscal year 1982.
This resolution presented me with a difficult choice: either to sign a budget-busting appropriations bill that would finance the entire government at levels well above my recommendations -- and thus set back our efforts to halt the excessive Government spending that has fueled inflation and high interest rates, and destroyed investments for new jobs -- or to hold the line on spending with a veto but risk interruption of government activities and services.
I have chosen the latter. The failure to provide a reasonable resolution means that some citizens may be inconvenienced and that there is a possibility of some temporary hardship. Nevertheless a far greater threat to all Americans is the sustained hardship they will suffer by continuing the past budget-busting policies of big spending and big deficits.
When reports came to us in September that spending and the deficit for fiscal year 1982 were rising, we took action to stem the tide.
On September 24th I asked for a reduction of 12 percent in the appropriations for nearly all nondefense discretionary programs and a modest reduction in our planned program to strengthen the national defense. The 12-percent cut would have saved $8\1/2\ billion -- a significant contribution to reducing the deficit, but a modest sum in a budget which will total more than $700 billion.
By refusing to make even this small saving to protect the American people against overspending, the Congress has paved the way for higher interest rates and inflation, and a continued loss of investment, jobs, and economic growth. At the same time, the continuing resolution fails to provide sufficient security assistance to allow America to meet its obligations.
The practice of loading the budget with unnecessary spending and then waiting until after the eleventh hour to pass a continuing resolution, on the assumption that it was safe from a Presidential veto, has gone on much too long. It's one of the principal reasons why the growth of government spending is still not under control.
For much of the past fiscal year, most of the domestic budget was funded in this manner -- through a continuing resolution, without regular appropriations bills subject to Presidential approval or disapproval. These so-called stopgap resolutions are actually budgetbusters that can last for an entire year and create the kind of economic mess we inherited last year.
A few days ago I offered to meet the Congress halfway. But the continuing resolution the Congress has now passed provides less than one-quarter of the savings that I requested. This represents neither fair compromise nor responsible budget policy.
In the hours ahead the Congress has the opportunity to reconsider, and I urgently request that it do so. In the meantime we are making every effort to avoid unnecessary dislocations and personal hardship.
I can give assurance that social security and most other benefit checks will be paid on schedule. The national security will be protected. Government activities essential to the protection of life and property, such as the treatment of patients in veterans hospitals, air traffic control, and the function of the Nation's banks, will also continue. But in order to prevent unnecessary inconvenience and hardship as Thanksgiving approaches, I must urge the Congress to act promptly and responsibly.
Now, that's the end of the veto message. But I can't take any of your questions, because I have the Cabinet waiting for me over there so that we can begin discussions.
Q. What do you want Congress to do now, Mr. President? What do you think the best thing to do in the next few days?
The President. They can do one of two things: They could continue -- and then this is all I can take -- they could continue a brief continuing resolution until after the holidays -- continuing the present continuing resolution -- extension is what I should say -- of that and then come back and take this up and arrive at a settlement. Or they could come in and pass what I said in the first place, that I would split the difference with them between our request for help and their budget figure, instead of doing what they did.
Q. You won't take less than that, is that true? You won't take less than that? You won't reconsider?
The President. I don't think the people should take less than that.
Q. You don't think this is theatrics?
The President. What?
Q. You've been accused of putting on a stage show here by Wright, [House of Representatives Majority Leader Jim Wright] that it's theatrics.
The President. No, I just think that it is time that we recognize we have been -- we're into the second year without a budget with the government running on continuing resolutions, which heretofore a President has felt -- and it's very difficult for me to see how you could veto that with all the ramifications. And now here we go again. And I think it's time someplace along the line that we've got to say let's quit this and do what 50 States manage to do on time every year, and that is have a budget.
Q. So, it's Congress fault, sir?
The President. I'm not going to get challenged by a statement like that. That would be writing a lead for you, Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News], and I'm not going to do that.
Note: The President spoke at 8:03 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. His remarks were broadcast live on radio and television.