Question-and-Answer Session in Santa Barbara, California, With Reporters on the Federal Budget and the Dispute Between the United Kingdom and Argentina in the Falkland Islands

May 28, 1982

Q. Well, Mr. President, what are you going to do about the budget?

Q. Is that what we're supposed to ask? [Laughter]

Q. Sir, the House won't pass any budget, and the Democrats say it's because you're too stubborn.

The President. Because I'm too stubborn? I submitted a budget in February which the House refused to even consider and yet it's called ``the President's budget.''

We spent, then, 4 months on that budget. We spent 4 weeks or more trying to negotiate a bipartisan agreement. The biggest dream I had was that for once maybe the leadership, both Houses of the Congress and the President, could come before the American people like this and say, ``Together we have come forth with a budget which we think will help in the economic situation that we're in today.''

Q. Well, why didn't they?

The President. They refused to negotiate in any way, as far as I was concerned. I sat for 3 hours, and there was never one effort at finding agreement any place on any one of the subjects.

Q. Who do you blame for this, Mr. President? Is it Tip O'Neill?

The President. Well, I have to say that the leadership of the House has made it plain. We're halfway there. The Senate did adopt a budget that contained, probably, the bulk of the features that we had asked for in our worked-on budget. But look at the comparison.

We worked for 4 months in compliance with the law to present the President's budget to the Congress. And they spent 6 days going at not our budget but at a half a dozen or more budgets and 68 amendments and finally came up with nothing. And I think that it is an irresponsible action that the American people will condemn, and I think the American people are demanding a budget. It is the one essential that is needed to get interest rates down and get us on the road to recovery.

Q. Are you still willing to go the extra mile, as you said the other day?

The President. I'd like to see them go the first mile.

Q. What can you do so that the Republicans are no longer voting against you as they just did?

The President. Well, there was a little handful that voted against me. But I'd like to point out the budget I supported, the Latta budget that had been worked out by the -- in cooperation with responsible Democrats and the leadership, minority leadership, the Republican leadership, that plus even the Rousselot balance-the-budget measure that he proposed -- both of those received more votes than any of the Democratic proposals in this recent session.

Q. Finally, sir, about 65 Republicans deserted you, inserting an amendment which would have reduced defense spending, recouped the Medicaid spending. That's a repudiation of you, is it not?

The President. No, I don't think so. But I will tell you one thing that I think has been made very clear, and I've been aware of since before I became President: The United States Government's program for presenting a budget, or arriving at a budget, is about the most irresponsible, Mickey Mouse arrangement that any governmental body has ever practiced. It's called the President's budget, and yet there is nothing binding about it. It is submitted to the Congress, and they don't even have to consider it. Then, when they finally come up with a budget resolution -- which the President has no ability to veto if he isn't approving of it -- it is not binding on them. And then they go back to the committee process through the year of introducing appropriation measures which will or will not pass and which will or will not be signed by the President.

Q. Sir, you want a budget that you can take overseas and then point out to the others that you're going to reduce the deficit. What are you going to do to get it?

The President. Well, now they have to come back into their budget committee and try again to come forth with something they think their colleagues on the floor will pass.

Q. Aren't you going to make a suggestion to them?

The President. I could suggest they take another look at the February budget. It was better than anything they were considering on the floor.

Q. What about the supplemental appropriations? If they come forward with the housing bail-out still on it, would you have to veto it?

The President. Well, I have taken a general position that I will veto attempts to bust the budget. But I also, as far as specifics are concerned, if anything is passed I'm going to fall back on something I observed for 8 years as Governor: I will wait until it is on my desk before I announce -- --

Q. But Bill's [Bill Plante, CBS News] question is a good one. You're going overseas and you're not going to be able to tell the allies that you have the right signal.

The President. Yes, I'll hope to change the subject because I wouldn't want to tell them that the Congress acted irresponsibly.

Q. Mr. President, could we ask you a little bit about the Falkland Islands? There are reports that the British, once they have taken the Falkland Islands, would like us to establish a military air base on the Falklands. How do you respond to that? Do you think it's a good idea for the United States to have that kind of presence?

The President. I don't know of any such proposal. I do know that in a proposal being considered for a cease-fire, that there has been a suggestion of a neutral peace-keeping force there while both sides withdraw and continue to negotiate, of which one of the participants would be the United States, just as we're one of the participants in the Sinai border force now.

Q. Do you favor that?

The President. Yes. We've volunteered we would be very happy to do anything we could to help in that way to stop the killing and to get at a peaceful solution.

Q. Would you like to see a cease-fire in place right now?

The President. I'd like to see an end to the killing; in fact, I wish it had never had to start.

Q. Well, now the OAS is already preparing to vote against us again, apparently, and say that we should withdraw our support from England.

The President. The only thing that we have to face here is the issue, and the issue is not really those lonely little islands down there. The issue is whether we can allow armed aggression to succeed with regard to such territorial claims. There are 50 places in the world right now where, if this succeeds, could be opened to the same thing happening. And the armed aggression, I'm sorry, did start by the action of one of our neighbors here in the Americas. That principle must not be allowed to fail.

Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. Thank you.

Q. You once said you thought the Democrats just wanted an issue for November. Do you think that's what they were doing yesterday, just trying to create an issue?

The President. Let me just repeat, Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News], I think it was irresponsible. And I think that some real, solid thinking should be given now to a budgetary process that befits the great government of a great nation.

Mr. Speakes. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, what happens to the economy while the budget is dragging on like this?

The President. Well, I think there are signs, indices that the economy is recovering, that it has bottomed out. I think some of them are due for release today, but I've come down from the mountaintop; I haven't seen them as yet. Maybe I'll get to them before the day is over.

But you only have to look at inflation -- where it has come down to. You have to look at the drop in the interest rates, and there's been some, again, instability of dropping with those a little more just recently, the last few days. But I think that the thing that now is delaying further definite recovery is the action of the House with regard to the budget.

Mr. Speakes. Thank you.

Q. How is it up there in the fog? What do you do up in the fog up there?

The President. Oh, well, it's lifted now. It's above us.

Q. Are you going riding today?

The President. You bet, yes. Did yesterday, too.

Q. Don't fall off. [Laughter]

The President. Thank you, Sam. I needed that. [Laughter]

Reporters. Thank you.

Note: The exchange began at approximately 10:45 a.m. as the President was leaving the Biltmore Hotel, after addressing the Mexico-United States Interparliamentary Conference. Following the session with reporters, the President returned to Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara.