Remarks at a Senate Republican Policy Committee Luncheon

March 19, 1985

Thank you very much. Thank you all for inviting me here today. And my greetings to Bill Armstrong, your chairman, to Bob Dole, your leader. And, Bob, I don't suppose I could begin to count the times that I've relied on your efforts and counsel, and I want you to know that you have my heartfelt thanks. And before I forget, you called this morning to make sure I'd bring something with me. Here it is -- 15 percent for the tip. [Laughter]

And it's good to see Jake here. I know that all of us wish him luck on the upcoming space shuttle. To all of you, it's a pleasure to be here. Your reception has been so warm that I might even say you have made my day. [Laughter]

But after lunch I'd like us to have a give-and-take. But before we eat, permit me to touch briefly on two issues: the budget and the Peacekeeper missiles. You knew I'd mention a couple of things like that.

On the budget, all of us agree, I think, that the Government has spent too much, borrowed too much for too long. And this year the deficit must be cut, and there are three options for doing it.

Option one is a tax increase. Throughout the seventies, however, it was, in a large part, rising taxes that punished savings and investment and dragged our economy down. Then when our cuts in personal income tax rates restored simple economic incentives, the economy recovered, began the strongest expansion in more than three decades. And last year Federal revenues actually rose 11 percent.

The tax hike would squander our hard-won progress. The American people know it, and on November 6th they said so, I think, in 49 States. So, higher taxes are out.

Option two is a radical cut in defense spending. Yet already during the past 4 years, defense spending has been reduced by more than $150 billion below the 5-year plan that we produced in 1981. Indeed, our projected defense expenditures for 1985 are already almost $16 billion less than the figure the last administration had projected for 1985.

National security is not just another category on the budget; it's the first duty of the Federal Government to the American people. We must see through to completion our carefully laid plans to strengthen the national defense.

And that brings us to option three -- the cuts in domestic spending. And it's here that I think we must meet the needed reductions. It will be tough, yes. The record suggests that in a democracy the scaling back of domestic spending may well be the most politically difficult act a government can undertake. Yet when we succeed, we'll know that we fought the good fight with intelligence and skill and that we put our nation on a course of prosperity for decades to come.

We Republicans have not been entrusted with the White House and the Senate to make easy decisions but because the American people want us to wean our nation away from decades of growing dependency and political quick fixes. Together we can make the GOP the true majority party, the centerpiece for decades to come of a governing coalition based on liberty, limited government, and economic growth. To do so, however, this spring we must prove to the country that we can produce a sound and responsible budget, one that cuts the deficit and fosters continued economic vitality. So let us not shrink from this task or be seen to approach it with doubts and hesitations. Let us, instead, unite and rise to the challenge with vigor.

On the Peacekeeper missile, the votes cast this week will bear directly on the outcome of the arms talks in Geneva and, hence, on the prospects for peace throughout the world.

In 1981, as you know, I announced our strategic modernization program. This program was designed to redress the strategic imbalance that had been created during the 1970's, when our defense efforts went slack while the Soviets conducted the biggest military buildup in the history of mankind.

Although far from complete, the strategic modernization program is proving effective. The development of our new bomber, the B - 1B, is on track. Our new submarines, the Tridents, are on patrol in growing numbers. Before the decade ends, the Tridents will have improved missiles.

Despite these advances in the air and on the sea, however, there remains one important step: our strategic forces on the land. And today our land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBM's, are technologically out of date. They're older, in many cases, than the Air Force men and women who are attending them. So, the Ford administrations -- four administrations, I should say, both Republican and Democrat, have proposed replacing our obsolete missiles with the MX. But political controversy has held up the actual installation of MX missiles for more than a decade.

While we debated, the Soviets deployed. Indeed, the number of MX-caliber missiles they have already in place is now higher than 600. Deployment of the Peacekeeper at this point, I believe, represents a simple necessity.

Our proposal calls for the deployment of a hundred Peacekeeper missiles. It was made in consultation with the bipartisan Scowcroft commission, and it has the support of Members of the Congress on both sides of the aisle. Just last month, as prominent a Democrat as former Defense Secretary Harold Brown argued, ``We have to proceed with the modernization program of offensive forces, including the MX.''

There's another point I must add here. Some of your colleagues have come up with the idea of simply putting a hold or a limit on MX production. Well, I strongly oppose those ideas, as the Soviets will see them for just what they are -- a collapse of American resolve.

On the Peacekeeper you have a clear choice. A no vote will gravely weaken our national defenses, waste the billions already spent on the Peacekeeper program, undercut our allies who have already stood firm in accepting new Pershing and cruise missiles, cripple the position of our negotiators in Geneva, and show the Soviets that, despite the progress our country has made, at a moment of historical importance, a majority in the Congress of the United States still lacks resolve. In the wake of world peace, that must not happen.

If you vote yes, you'll show the Soviets that America today is united and resolute and, thereby, advance the cause of the peace for us and our children. With all my heart, I ask for your support.

I thank you all very much. And now the two words you've really been waiting for for about the last six pages: Let's eat.

Note: The President spoke at 12:36 p.m. in Room S - 207 at the Capitol. In his remarks, the President referred to Senator Jake Garn of Utah, who was selected to be a crewmember on the space shuttle mission scheduled for mid-April.