The Reagan administration, plunging into the latest congressional budget battle, is arming House Republicans with ammunition against what it regards as unrealistic, deceptive and punitive spending cuts drafted by Democratic-dominated House committees.
Working through the weekend, the Office of Management and Budget came up with what amounts to a 10-page indictment of the committee-proposed cut -- moving the administration closer to a formal embrace of a Republican across-the-board substitute for the committees' proposals.
Although it was the administration started the heavy budget-cutting in social programs, it focused its point-by-point critique on Democratic proposals in those areas, saying the Democratic either went too far or were deceptive.
OMB takes the Democrats to task for proposing cuts that could lead to elimination of everything from "30 million hot meals for the elderly" to monthly mailout of Social Security and veterans benefits checks, according to the administration.
It accuses the Democrats of "draconian" cuts in the bureaucracy, including the Department of Education, which President Reagan proposed to abolish during the campaign. In some cases, it says, the Democrats are proposing cuts that will actually add to spending.
The administration took sharp aim at some particularly severe proposals that committees appeared to have included in an attempt to prompt support for more liberal amendements on the floor -- from Republicans as well as Democrats. But administration officials have agreed to restore some money for social programs in the GOP substitute in hopes of holding ranks.
The administration has not formally accepted the substitute strategy, but OMB Director David A. Stockman has been working closely on it with House Minority Leader Robert H. Michael B. (R-Ill.), and an OMB official said yesterday the administration is "leaning" toward advocating a substitute.
"It is regarded here [at OMB] as a very strong likelihood," said the official, who asked not to be named and added that the decision ultimately will be made by House GOP leaders after Democratic strategy becomes clearer.
Democratic are sharply divided over whether to open the committees' recommendations to floor amendments aimed at restoring at least are allowed, as Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr.(D-Mass.) has promised some disgruntled committee chairmen who complain they were cutting only duress, it may not be easy to decide who will get amendments and who won't.
The Republicans can be expected to capitalize on Democratic disarray as well as the argument that a House-Senate conference on the bill will be chaotic unless the House bill is brought closer into alignment with the version drafted by Republican-controlled Senate committees. But they run the risk of being accused of sabotaging the committee system -- "unmitigated arrogance," Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.) called it last week.
In addition to hot meals for the elderly, the administration accuses the committees of proposing to eliminate 16,000 jobs for old people, along with cutting their nutrition support by 25 percent and funding for their centers by 11 percent.
It asserts that 68,000 children would be knocked off Head Start rolls and says that, by proposing to cut federal impact aid to schools serving children of federal workers, the House plan would "close the doors" on 32,900 children in schools serving only military dependents. Another 35,000 children, including Indians, would also be severely affected, the administration contends.
Its targets of criticism also included the proposed closing of up to 10,000 small post offices, a delay in ending the Social Security earnings test and an end to "double-dipping" by military retirees who take civilian jobs and still get pensions, which OMB says could cut their income by up to 30 percent.
Proposed cuts in the Export-Import Bank "would have the effect of shutting down all new lending operations . . . with severe consequences for U.S. foreign trade," the document asserted.
As for bureaucratic reductions, it said a 19 percent reduction in Department of Education management funds could impede the college loan and handicapped children programs, among others.
For the Department of Agriculture, it said a 15 percent salary and expense reduction jeopardizes 13,000 jobs and services to farmers and consumers. At Treasury, a 23 percent salary and expense reduction could mean quarterly rather than monthly mail-out of government checks. At Housing and Urban Development, a 27 percent cut could have implications for everything from mortgage insurance to housing discrimination.
The administration also said "false savings" totaling billions of dollars over the next three years were claimed for food stamps, dairy price supports, housing rehabilition loans, subsidizing housing bonds, federal pay and other programs.