Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.) didn't vote for the Democratic budget resolution yesterday. Nor did he vote for the Republican budget resolution. Nor did he vote for any of the three major spending plans that came to the House floor two weeks ago.
The financial markets may be nervous, the House leadership frustrated and President Reagan impatient to end the budget paralysis. But not Dellums, nor Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Calif.) nor Rep. Norman E. D'Amours (D-N.H.) nor Marty Russo (D-Ill.).
They are among the congressmen who have become the naysayers of the budget debate, voting thumbs down on each of the leading spending outlines brought to the floor by Democrats and Republicans.
The House has been polarized this year to the point of near-paralysis by recession and the election. That was brought into sharp relief two weeks ago when 55 members decided not to vote for any of the major budget alternatives, which prevented any of them from getting a 218-vote majority.
Yesterday, House leaders pleaded with them not to sit on the sidelines again. To vote against all budgets is a "copout," a "retreat from responsibility," warned Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.).
In an earlier time, they would have been written off as just another isolated faction in the House, angry members letting off some steam. Most certainly they wouldn't have brought things to a halt, as they did two weeks ago.
And yesterday, while the House finally passed a budget resolution, it was by the narrowest of margins that didn't conceal the chamber's deep divisions.
Rep. Leon E. Panetta (D-Calif.), who helped craft the budget process last year, worries that the negative votes may foreshadow a larger breakdown. The naysayers "can be effective spoilers," said Panetta.
"If their object is to kill the budget process, they win."
All told, 46 Democrats and nine Republicans went on record against all the major budget alternatives in the voting on May 27-28. Yesterday, nine of those Democrats and four Republicans voted against both budgets.
Many were frustrated that earlier spending blueprints had been defeated, so they decided it was better to vote for nothing--and easier to explain back home.
"There was a lot I didn't like," said D'Amours, who objected to the big deficits in the Democratic version and the social program cuts in the GOP plan.
No single political or ideological thread binds the naysayers together. There are liberals like Dellums and conservatives like Dannemeyer, united only in their thinking that nothing was better than what they were offered.
Before yesterday's roll call, they were told by the House leadership, and in some cases by President Reagan, that any budget resolution would be better than none at all. They were warned that a budget impasse would bring chaos in the financial markets and bitter political recriminations this fall.
Some didn't believe it.
"If we don't have a budget, the sun is coming up tomorrow," Dannemeyer said. And others who eventually voted for the GOP budget said they lacked confidence it would do much to help the economy anyway.
The budget track laid down in 1974 was supposed to bring some discipline to the way Congress makes spending decisions, but fear and confusion over the economy has reached such a pitch that the "process" is wearing thin.
"It's very difficult to explain how you could vote 'no' on everything," says Panetta. "They're confused. They don't want to make the tough decisions."
Of course, many House members ducked those decisions in earlier years, but there was still a majority to carry the day for a budget resolution.
That was before Reagan got to the White House and the ideological foundation of Congress was splintered.
Dannemeyer and other conservatives staged their revolt two weeks ago over big deficits projected in all the budget outlines. "I didn't come here to vote for $100 billion deficits," he said. "If it means we have to walk to the edge of having no budget, then I'm prepared to walk."
So was D'Amours. "These were Hobson's choices," he said.
Some walked close to the edge, then changed their mind. Reps. Fortney H. (Pete) Stark Jr. and Phillip Burton, both California Democrats, voted against all the budgets two weeks ago, but supported the Democratic version yesterday.
Majority Leader Wright said the experience of last year's budget reconciliation left some members bitter. "Some think the process was prostituted by reconciliation," he said. "A lot of them have given up on the process. They've become so frustrated they just threw up their hands."
Typical was Stark, a liberal who'd like to scale back corporate tax breaks and cut defense spending, but found no such alternatives in the final round of voting. "I don't know as I need the budget process," he said.