A pugnacious President Reagan assailed the House of Representatives today for failing to adopt a fiscal 1983 budget resolution and went on to condemn the entire federal budget process as "the most irresponsible, Mickey Mouse arrangement that any governmental body has ever practiced."
Reagan threatened again to veto a $5.1 billion federal subsidy to aid the depressed housing industry that was approved Thursday night by the Republican-controlled Senate, although aides here were at a loss to explain how he might do that and still fulfill his pledge to get Social Security checks out on time. Additional funds for Social Security and income tax rebates are included in the supplemental appropriation bill along with the housing subsidy.
Seizing on the House defeat of the GOP-drafted budget plan he had lobbied for, Reagan said:
"I think it is an irresponsible action that the American people will condemn, and I think the American people are demanding a budget. It is the one essential that is needed to get interest rates down and get us on the road to recovery."
Reagan's remarks came in a brief question-and-answer session with reporters after he addressed the opening session of the Mexican-U.S. Interparliamentary Conference. The address provided the one occasion in which Reagan has come down from his mountaintop ranch near here since he began a working vacation Wednesday. He and Mrs. Reagan are to return to Washington on Sunday.
For the most part, Reagan appeared relaxed and jovial, mentioning in his speech and later to reporters how eager he was to get back to the ranch so he could ride his horses. But his mood turned combative in discussing the budget, and his face flushed when a reporter said Democrats blamed the budget passage problem on his stubbornness.
"Because I'm too stubborn?" Reagan asked testily. "I submitted a budget in February which the House refused to even consider."
Reagan, brushing aside observations that many House Republicans had joined with Democrats Thursday night and this morning in defeating the budget plan he had endorsed, said he did not regard that as a repudiation.
"There was a little handful that voted against me," he said. He noted that there appeared to be more support for the plan he endorsed and another calling for a balanced budget than any of the alternatives sponsored by the Democrats.
These plans and others to set congressionally binding revenue and spending targets for fiscal 1983 were defeated by the House. The House was working on the first budget resolution, which, when agreed to by the Senate, does not go to the White House for signature or veto.
But, it was the entire budget process for which Reagan reserved his sharpest condemnation.
"It's called the president's budget and yet there is nothing binding about it," he said. "It is submitted to the Congress and they don't even have to consider it. Then when they finally come up with a budget resolution . . .the president has no ability to veto if he isn't approving of it."
Asked what course he would suggest the House now follow, Reagan said members should look again at the budget proposal he submitted in February. "It was better than anything they were considering on the floor."
On the housing subsidy, which Republican sponsors in the Senate portrayed as an anti-recession weapon, he reminded reporters that, "I have taken a general position that I will veto attempts to bust the budget." But he said he will reserve judgment until the legislation reaches his desk.
Earlier this week aides said Reagan had hoped that the housing subsidy would be stripped from the supplemental appropriation bill for Social Security and income tax rebates so he could veto the former and sign the latter.
Asked today how Reagan will now handle the dilemma, deputy press secretary Peter Roussel said, "We will work to see that those tax rebate checks continue to go out some way."