While the Republican Party has generally maintained a Reagan-era shift to the right, some of its members have marched in less than lock-step fashion. On the central domestic crisis of the Reagan presidency, for example -- budget deficits of unprecedented magnitude that threaten to triple the national debt by the end of the decade -- at least four GOP senators seeking reelection this year have set themselves off by their rather independent stands. Three of them, Slade Gorton, Mark Andrews and Charles Grassley, are freshmen who took office as part of the supposedly Reaganite Class of 1980 and now serve as bipartisan-minded members of the Senate Budget Committee.
Slade Gorton came to the Senate in 1980 after 12 years as a consumer-oriented, pro-environment attorney general in Washington state after defeating Appropriations Committee Chairman Wayne Magnuson. Gorton, who combines a laissez-faire orientation with an appreciation for the need to correct for market failures, successfully attacked Magnuson's penchant for pork-barrel politicking en route to his upset.
As a senator, Gorton has rejected supply-side ideology in favor of more pragmatic solutions. For example, he joined last year with the Budget Committee's ranking Democrat, Lawton Chiles of Florida, in offering a deficit- paring budget package that would have spared no sacred cows. The proposal, presented in the aftermath of the 1984 anti-tax Reagan landslide, coupled revenue hikes with measures to restrain both defense and nondefense spending, including entitlements. It proved too practi- cal for administration and congressional tastes, however, and was rejected in a Senate-House budget conference.
Mark Andrews, who reached the Senate after serving nine terms in the House, has dispelled an early reputation as a Republican loyalist by battling both the administration and the New Right and has emerged as possibly the bluntest member of the GOP Class of 1980 in his criticism of the president's budget priorities. Reagan's refusal to consider mid-course fiscal policy corrections, for example, moved Andrews to remark to The Post's Helen Dewar in 1983 that "instead of being innovative, we saw (Reagan) with his feet frozen in concrete, his head in the sand."
As a defender of North Dakota's interests, Andrews has tried to shift funds from the military budget into agriculture, transportation and other domestic programs. On the Budget Committee, he has teamed with Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings in proposing an inflation- adjusted defense freeze and a one-year freeze on most entitlements, including Social Security. And joined by Democrat James Exon, Andrews and Hollings have offered a series of three-year budget-freeze proposals. Andrews also had the audacity to proclaim in the wake of the 1984 election that Walter Mondale had been right in his call for a tax increase to reduce the budget deficit.
Charles Grassley entered Congress in 1974 with strong support from his Iowa district's most conservative factions. After three House terms, he reactivated this constituency, relying on the Moral Majority, the National Conservative Political Action Committee and other like-minded groups to help him oust John Culver, the liberal Democratic incumbent. To this day, Grassley's social conservatism and anticommunism remain unassailable. His renown, however, stems from a crusade that the senator's New Right backers probably hadn't anticipated -- an all-but-declared war on Pentagon profligacy.
Grassley's attack on the Pentagon underbelly has improved the prospect for a defense-spending freeze, which he has proposed yearly since 1982, teaming at times with Democratic Sens. Joseph Biden and Max Baucus and with moderate Republican Nancy Landon Kassebaum. Grassley's 1986 offering resuscitates the Gorton-Chiles concept with its vision of a tax hike, a defense-spending freeze and a small cut in nondefense spending as an alternative to the automatic Gramm-Rudman process.
Some politicians defy simple ideological labeling. Gorton, an inherently cautious man, and Andrews, a fierce home-state protector, might both be classified as moderate conservatives who oppose New Right social dogmatism and supply-side extremism. Grassley's brand of politics is even more unusual, combining social conservatism, staunch anticommunism and a continuing assault on the Pentagon, which is in fact legitimized by his right- wing credentials. Along with Majority Leader Robert Dole of Kansas, whose abhorrence of deficits has led him to become perhaps the spiritual leader of anti-supply- side Republicans, they stand before the electorate this year as fighters for bipartisan fiscal sanity and as symbols of surprisingly independent Republicanism.