Amid all the talk that the Senate has lurched to the right, the Republican chairman-to-be of the dollar-disbursing Appropriations Committee was an early Vietnam dove and remains a moderate, a frequent critic of the Pentagon's new weapons ideas and a supporter of many federal social programs.
Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) says he will not play Republican dog in the manger when he becomes Senate Appropriations chairman in January, but neither will he abandon the beliefs he has deeply held and advocated to the point of filibuster during his 14 years in the Senate.
One of these beliefs is that conventional Republican views on defense policy are a wrong-headed approach to the task of strengthening the national security. Armed Services chairman-to-be John Tower (R-Tex.) said just this week that the military budget should be increased by $20 billion a year or more for additional weapons that may or may not work or invite retaliation. Hatfield plainly disagrees.
"There is sort of a Maginot Line mentality" pervading the entire government, said Hatfield in an interview, "that views defense pretty much in terms of megations and hardware. All of that is important, but does not give enough attention to the other components of national security, such as a strong economy and less dependence on imported energy. I don't buy the proposition that national security is exclusively a military question."
Over the years Hatfield has strongly opposed a new main battle tank, the neutron bomb, the MX missile and this year's renewal of draft registration.
He thinks missile-equipped submarines make more sense than land-based MX missiles: "My concept is a moving target instead of a fixed target buys you more defense than some of those big elephantine kind of projects we seem bent on that cost so much and I don't think bring us that much security." s
Hatfield said he will be arguing instead to increase military pay to retain the skilled technicians who are needed to operate complicated weapons but are now leaving because of low pay.
Hatfield was asked if he could support an annual military budget increase on the order of $20 billion to $30 billion.
"No . . . not unless there is a tradeoff to get an increase in military pay.
I can conceive of some increase for catching up, to strengthen the reserve program and for operation and maintenance."
He was asked if these views won't put him at odds with the new Republican president and many fellow Republicans in Senate.
"It could, but I don't look at it that way. There are areas where we have common views and I will seek to work closely and cooperatively in those areas. I don't find that differences of opinion necessarily create difficulties in working relationships."
But he added: "I will hold to my positions. I'm not about to compromise to accomodate to the new status we occupy up here. In fact I feel this is a time when such viewpoints and voices have to be raised more effectively than in the past . . . some of those speaking now for military escalation are going to try to make it fiscally responsible by sponsoring cuts in social programs." This means that those who support social programs, as he has, must speak up louder, he said.
Hatfield said he could have taken the chairmanship of the Appropiations subcommittee on defense but will not do so because to "play the dog in the manager role" would lessen his effectiveness as full committee chairman on a whole range of issues. "I won't put myself in that place to be rolled on every vote and lose influence," he said. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will chair the defense subcommittee and Hatfield will be an ex-officio voting member of that and all other subcommittees.
Hatfield said he has not decided whether he will chair any subcommittee. He wants to run a tightly integrated committee and be free to become involved in the whole gamut of issues that comprise the federal budget.
He has supported many social programs that consume a great deal of federal money but concedes that many of them could and should be handled by private industry. Manpower training is one such area, said Hatfield.
"I would much rather see private industry given tax incentives, as Gov. Reagan proposes, to rebuild the inner cities and provide jobs, than to have massive programs promised but not delivered by the federal government. I'm not locked into the idea that only government can solve social problems, but you can't just abolish them, there must be a transition period."
Hatfield thinks the 2 percent spending cut proposed by Reagan is feasible and can be done by tighter administration, but should be done selectively, not arbitrarily across-the-board.
He considers food stamps one of the most overfed federal programs, though he supports the basic principle to help the poor buy food.It has become "bloated" -- he is not persuaded it should be extended to college students, for example -- and needs to be cut back, he said.
Hatfield believes Ronald Reagan to be the best hope of any recent president to achieve a balanced budget -- which Hatfield considers a real weapon against inflation if achieved by cutting spending -- "because he has said he will act like a one-term president. He has more possibility of making the tough decisions than any president I can recall."