The conference agreement, negotiated over two days by House and Senate GOP budget leaders, calls in fiscal 1983 for increases of $22 billion in taxes and user fees, cuts of $13.9 billion in domestic appropriations and entitlement programs, a $5.5 billion trim off the administration's huge military expansion program and a 4 percent "cap" on cost-of-living increases for federal workers' pay and pensions.
While the proposed compromise represented the second year of domestic spending retrenchment and military buildup sought by President Reagan, assorted adjustments were made to ease final passage. Included was restoration of funds to keep down charities' mailing rates.
As an added incentive for passage, conferees late yesterday whittled back their earlier deficit by recomputing projected interest costs, and did away with limits proposed earlier for some veterans' benefits.
But then, at the urging of House Budget Committee Chairman James R. Jones (D-Okla.), they restored $200 million for space programs and $410 million for programs for the poor. However, they rejected a proposal to restore $600 million for foreign aid, as Reagan had asked them to do.
The foreign aid restoration was rejected by a tie vote of Senate conferees. Rep. Delbert L. Latta (R-Ohio) warned that the added money would kill chances for House passage of the budget compromise, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) said Reagan was willing to forgo the extra foreign aid money, if necessary, to get a budget through Congress. The conferees left the foreign aid figure at $11.5 billion.
Although senators had earlier demanded and won some softening of House-approved cuts in programs for the poor, including nearly $1.5 billion more in spending for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing, the Republican compromise leans heavily toward the leaner House version of the budget.
This was largely because of jitters about whether the House could swallow a compromise that differed much from the budget it finally adopted after rejecting eight separate alternatives. That budget claimed a deficit of slightly less than $100 billion.
As it was, some conservative Republicans were reportedly complaining about the conferees' deficit projection, which was closer to the original House figure of $99.3 billion than it was to the Senate's original deficit of $116 billion.
The Senate figure was chopped back largely by accepting House cost estimates about $10 billion lower than spending, revenue and interest cost estimates by the nonpartisan CBO.
While conceding that some Republicans would suffer "real heartburn" over the deficit, House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) said he believes the budget compromise will pass the House. "I think we can do it . . . I think we can sell people on swallowing hard . . . and passing it," he added.
Democrats complained bitterly about specific program cuts and charged that next year's real deficit will probably soar far beyond the Republicans' budget estimates. They vowed to try restoring some spending but indicated they would probably not block a conference agreement, meaning both houses could have their final say on budget targets for fiscal 1983 next week.
Both in the conference and outside of it, Democrats were saying, in effect, that Republicans have won the budget battle and must bear responsibility for its results.
On taxes, House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) told reporters that, aside from attempting to close some business tax loopholes, the Democrats will defer to the Republicans in devising tax increases to meet revenue targets in the budget.
"We expect it will be the voice of the Republicans" that is heard on the issue of raising taxes, he said.
"Democrats are saying to the Republicans, 'It's your budget, it's your deficit . . . admit paternity, give it your name,' " House Majority Leader James C. Wright (D-Tex.) said.
That did not stop the Democrats from making sharp attacks on President Reagan and his budget backers on Capitol Hill.
Noting that Reagan once referred to the congressional budget process as a "Mickey Mouse" operation, Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) snapped, "If that's true, then the president is Walt Disney and budget director David Stockman is the chief Mouseketeer."
No "safety net" remains, except the one that protects special-interest lobbies such as tobacco, Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) claimed.
Domenici shot back that this year's budget was no less credible than budgets approved earlier by Democrats.
In a surprise to some conferees, who have been preoccupied with taxes and domestic spending cuts, foreign aid flared as a late-blooming issue, with the administration exerting heavy pressure on conferees to accept the Senate's higher outlay instead of a proposed compromise of $11.5 billion closer to the House figure.
Some Democrats, led by Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (N.Y.), also complained that the proposed compromise would jeopardize aid to Israel, Egypt and other countries deemed important to U.S. strategic interests.
In benefit programs for the poor, the conferees, after restoring some cuts approved by the House, agreed to cuts of $900 million in food stamps and child nutrition, $3.6 billion in Medicare, $700 million in Medicaid, about $400 million in Aid to Families with Dependent Children, $200 million from Supplemental Security Income and $250 million in subsidized housing which means the housing program will not be ended immediately, as Reagan wanted.
Although figures were not final, overall cuts totaled about $6 billion for benefit entitlement programs and $7 billion for domestic programs financed through annual appropriations, plus additional savings from limitations on cost-of-living increases for retirement and other programs.
To enforce the cuts, the conferees agreed to require that legislative committees draft actual program cuts and tax increases to meet budget targets by designated dates over the next six weeks, although in some cases not all anticipated savings would be mandated through this "reconciliation" process.
Spending cuts of $25 billion to $35 billion were under consideration for the next three years, starting with $6.7 billion next year, along with tax increases of $20.9 billion for next year. In addition, the Senate, but not the House, would require additional tax increases for 1984 and 1985.
Many lawmakers, especially Democrats, have questioned whether Congress, especially as fall elections approach, will approve these actual savings.
This budget resolution sets only spending and revenue targets but, in a departure from previous practice, the conferees agreed to make it binding if Congress has not adopted a second budget resolution setting actual ceilings by Oct. 1.