Buoyed by a series of unexpected procedural victories in the Democratic-controlled House, a triumphant President Reagan today looked forward to "a new coalition" dedicated to further reductions in the size and scope of government.
"The simple truth is that Congress heard the voice of the people and acted to carry out the will of the people," Reagan said in a speech to the California Taxpayers Association.
Reagan aides who had been maneuvering to cushion the impact of an anticipated defeat said that the action in the House, plus a vote of the Senate Finance Committee favoring the administration tax bill, presaged likely passage of the president's entire economic program. Reagan went even further, suggesting that a bipartisan majority devoted to conservative economic principles had come into being.
Referring to the congressional actions in a hastily written insert to his prepared speech, the president said:
"It means that in the crunch of heavy pressure from all sides the Congress of the United States seems ready and eager to join in the fight to curb runaway spending. It means that in both houses of the Congress and indeed on both sides of the aisle there are enough members who have the wisdom to cast their votes in favor of America's overall economic interest and not just our special interest.
"It means that for the first time in many years we have the opportunity to forge a new coalition in this country, a coalition built upon people from all parties and from every background who will work together for the good of the nation."
Reagan arrived here Wednesday after a speech in San Antonio in an angry and pessimistic mood over the House Rules Committee's attempt to deny him an up-or-down vote on the budget-cutting bill. After telephone consultations with Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-Ill.) and White House legislative liaison Max Friedersdorf, Reagan and his aides believed that they were 12 votes short.
White House aides were so downcast about the prospects of the vote today that they told members of the traveling press that the administration probably would have to salvage its budget cuts in a House-Senate conference committee. w
Nevertheless, the president worked the phones, concentrating on 16 conservative Democrats who had voted for the original Reagan budget but were now believed to be the hardest to keep in camp on the key procedural issue. Budget Director David Stockman and Friedersdorf phone Democrats considered more favorable.
When the votes were counted today, 29 Democrats had joined the Republican minority to give the White House a seven-vote victory. Reagan himself had provided the margin, gaining the support of 11 of the 16 Democrats whom he personally asked for a vote. His last call was made at 12:45 p.m. EDT, just before the voting started.
Looking back at his triumph, Reagan called the 29 Democrats "courageous" and said: "24 hours ago our defeat seemed almost certain. It was being predicted by the other side." Watching in the audience, deputy press secretary Larry Speakes added: "Not to mention this side."
Speakes was criticizing Congress during the mourning briefing when a radio reporter informed him of the House vote. The deputy press secretary, asked if there were any comments he wanted to withdraw, smiled and said, "I think Congress is a fine group of men and women."
Upstairs, in the penthouse suite where Reagan spent the night, speech-writers and the president were hastily redrafting a speech which an aide said was in its original form "a stinging rebuke of Congress."
The new version, delivered by Reagan to an applauding audience, generally praised the Congress for taking his budget seriously. It also celebrated the "new coalition" of Republicans and conservative Democrats which Reagan believes has been waiting in the wings for a long time and is now ready to take over center stage.