Radio Address to the Nation on the Federal Budget

June 22, 1985

My fellow Americans:

Later today, Nancy and I will be going to Andrews Air Force Base to be with the families and friends of four American marines, four young men whose bodies are being returned after they were murdered by Communist guerrillas in El Salvador last Wednesday night. We will carry with us all of the grief and sorrow and rising anger of a nation whose patience has been stretched to its limit.

I will speak to the country and to the loved ones of those brave men who defended our freedom. But before we go, I must also speak to you about important deliberations that are now taking place in Congress.

We've made considerable progress this year in achieving the spending reductions needed to bring down the budget deficit and keep our economy growing and producing new jobs. The Senate has passed a plan for $56 billion of budget savings, which would also allow us to keep most of our defense-rebuilding program on track. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Senate for their courage.

Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the plan passed by the House. It is not a true budget savings plan. Many of its so-called savings are simply phantom cuts. Further, the House makes no meaningful effort to shrink this gargantuan Federal spending machine that gobbles up your taxes and divvies them out to a multitude of special interests.

Unlike the Senate, which has proposed real, substantial, and permanent reforms, the cuts of the House budgeteers are not enough and certainly not permanent. The freezes and other one-time measures the House proposes are not solutions that would permit us to get a handle on Federal overspending, they would only postpone the inevitable. And what's even worse in these perilous times, the House budget would send a signal of weakness by cutting purchasing power for vital defense needs.

All of us know that there's been waste in defense spending. But after years of others closing their eyes to this problem, it's our administration that has begun uncovering and rooting out that waste and going after the defense contractors who shamelessly cheat America. And this is why we've taken an additional step.

This week I appointed a special bipartisan blue ribbon commission to review defense management and procurement. So, yes, we can and must eliminate waste. But it is sheer folly to blindly weaken ourselves when our adversaries are conspiring and working so hard to bleed and cripple America. It is time to stop treating our Defense Establishment and intelligence agencies like enemies and concentrate our attention and anger on the true enemies of freedom and democracy in the world.

For the past 2 weeks, the House and Senate have been meeting in a conference committee trying to come up with a final budget for the next fiscal year. I'm sorry to report that they haven't made much progress. So far, the House has turned away from realism on defense and refused to accept the many program reforms and permanent savings in domestic spending that are proposed in the Senate version.

And, as is predictable, whenever sufficient will is lacking to make the tough decisions on spending, calls are raised for tax increases. Well, if I must, I'll repeat it until I'm blue in the face: I will veto any tax increase the Congress sends me. And I'm pleased to say I have been promised the votes to sustain that veto.

All of us have a great deal at stake in the outcome of these Senate-House negotiations for the sake of both our national security and our economic well-being. If the conference committee reports a budget that achieves substantial and permanent changes, it will pave the way for continuing the low inflation and falling interest rates that will keep our economy growing and keep Americans working.

If, on the other hand, the process breaks down and the Congress can't do what's right on defense or on controlling domestic spending, then the consequences will be very bad. America will be seen as too weak to respond to threats, and all the progress we've made in our economy will be placed at risk.

I'm asking for your support to make Congress understand this is a moment in our history when all of us should pull together and put our national interest above partisan politics. The challenges we face are big, but not too big if we Republicans and Democrats unite for a stronger and safer America. We still have time. So, let's get started.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.