Joseph P. Addabbo, the portly Democratic congressman from Queens, is not an everyday peacenik.
For one thing, he is chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, which hands out billions of dollars a year to the Pentagon.
But yesterday this unfailingly cheerful politician with the little white mustache, scuffed shoes and polyester suit went eyeball to eyeball with the president of the United States and just about the entire U.S. military establishment over the MX missile.
And he won. The House last night voted, 245 to 176, against funding the controversial weapon.
Addabbo also would like to see his colleagues cut more than $3 billion in MX research and development funds and in money for Pershing missiles, B1 bombers and two nuclear aircraft carriers.
Blinking in the bright television lights after the MX vote, Addabbo was clearly pleased. "The public wants the Congress to have control, not just the president and the White House -- that's the message," he said.
Noting that the House is unlikely to kill MX research and development money, he added that the fight "is far from finished. We won the battle, but not the war. If not this time, we'll win in the next Congress ."
Such heretical behavior is unique among the half-dozen men in Congress who mold the destiny of the nation's military and who, from leadership posts on Armed Services and Appropriations committees, work hand-in-hand with the military. Among hawks who dominate his subcommittee, Addabbo is an incongruous dove, raised to seniority by virtue of 22 years in office.
Last week, the full Appropriations committee had failed, on a 26-to-26 tie vote, to approve Addabbo's motion to cut $988 million in production money for the MX. "I want to cry every time I think about what we're spending" on arms, Addabbo had told his colleagues.
Addabbo, 57, son of Italian-born garment workers and a product of the machine-dominated political clubs of Queens, still lives in Ozone Park, the same lower-middle income neighborhood where he grew up. His wife and three children never moved here, and he goes home every weekend.
It is true that, after supporting the Vietnam war, he sponsored the first antiwar resolution to pass the House--a cutoff of funds for the bombing of Cambodia in 1973.
But he will quickly deny being a liberal, insisting, "I'm for a strong defense, but I don't take the Pentagon at their word.
"I don't like the attitude of some members: 'Well, let's give 'em $20 million to play around with this year. Let's give 'em $40 million next year.' Three years later, the weapon doesn't work, and there's $100 million down the drain."
Some say that if Addabbo is the No. 1 trimmer, his scissors stop at the Hudson River. "The only thing Mr. Addabbo is for is defense production in New York," fellow New York Democrat Samuel S. Stratton said. "If we could only get the MX and the Pershing built in New York, we'd have no problems."
Addabbo says that is unfair, pointing to his opposition to the B1 bomber despite the presence of important subcontractors in his area. Nonetheless, he boasts that defense spending directed toward New York has increased about 30 percent since he became subcommittee chairman four years ago.
Earlier this year, when the Navy decided to send the $500 million refitting contract for the battleship Iowa to Mississippi rather than to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Addabbo retaliated by slashing $546 million from the Navy's shipbuilding program.
Some of those on Addabbo's side on Appropriations wish he were not such a nice guy. "He doesn't know how to count and build coalitions," one western Democrat said.
Bo Ginn (D-Ga.), who retired to make an unsuccessful bid for the Georgia governorship this year, said, "I've never seen him twist arms. He's never said, 'I've got to have your vote.' "
Other members, such as Democratic Reps. Nicholas Mavroules (D-Mass.) and Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.), took charge of coordinating anti-MX lobbyists, talking to members and taking head counts.
"I'm not going to pound on 'em," Addabbo said of his House colleagues. "I'm not going to say, 'Hey, I'll make a deal with you.' I'll tell 'em the facts as they are . . . and Tuesday, we'll get 'em."