Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va) warned President Carter yesterday against using Congress as a political whipping boy on the spending issue.
"The administration has no monopoly of fiscal restraint," declared Byrd. "Congress has a good record on fiscal restraint."
Byrd told reporters at his regular Saturday morning press conference that Congress "has bent over backwards" to cooperate with the president on spending issues and on legislation generally, sometimes "at great risk" politically to members who went along with Carter despite criticism for it at home.
"I hope there will be no them-against-us syndrome," Byrd said.
"The record of Congress speaks for itself. I don't think the president can ever run against Congress again."
Byrd said he wants to "debunk any suggestion this Congress has been a spendthrift Congress or fiscally irresponsible."
The Senate leader said Congress wrote a national budget resolution providing for a budget deficit "something like $21 billion" under the $80 billion deficit first projected by Carter at the start of the year.
Byrd defended Congress on spending when asked about the $10.2 billion public works funding bill, which the president vetoed as fiscally irresponsible, and the pending tax bill, which the White House has criticized as giving too many cuts.
The House sustained the president's veto of the public works bill and negotiations are under way for a cut down version. Byrd said the Senate would have overriden the veto if the issue had reached it. Needing a two-thirds vote to override, Byrd said, "We had 64 commitments to override, four senators (expected to be) absent . . . 17 known supporters of sustaining the veto and 15 question marks."
Byrd said it is too early to discuss the possibility of a veto of the tax bill, because by the time it gets to the president it may be the "moderate" measure envisioned by the congressional budget resolution.
But if it or an appropriation bill were vetoed after the scheduled Oct. 14 adjournment, he said, "Congress would come back" and seek to override or take other action. The adjournment resolution will contain language allowing the leaders to call Congress back into session.
Byrd said Congress won't go home until the tax bill, energy bills and appropriations bills are finished, and "it is conceivable" the Senate might also stay later than Oct. 14 to work on the Humphrey-Hawkins employment bill on which "I'm going to try to get a vote before we go out."
Byrd said Congress has given Carter excellent co-operation on Mideast arms, the Panama Canal treaties, minimum wage, creation of an Energy Department, restoring Social Security to fiscal soundness, civil service revision tax matters, the Equal Rights Amendment, economic stimulus and D.C. representation in Congress. "I hope the record will be focused on these examples of congressional courage and responsibility," he said. An administration spokesman said, "He doesn't have to worry. We have no intention of running against Congress."