House Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.) accused President Reagan yesterday of "falsehood" in blaming Congress for adding to deficits by exceeding White House spending requests, and figures compiled by Senate Republicans showed that Congress approved little more than Reagan proposed in the last four years.
According to records of GOP-controlled Senate committees, Congress appropriated a net of about $5 billion more than Reagan requested during his first term, a difference of about 0.2 percent.
In total spending, which includes not only programs subject to the annual approprations process but large benefit programs that vary mainly with economic conditions, the final figure for the first three Reagan years exceeded his requests about $65 billion, 3 percent.
The fourth-year amount is not available, but these are relatively small sums alongside the budget deficits for the period, which exceeded $100 billion a year.
Wright's counterattack on the deficit was a sharp departure from the conciliatory approach that House Democratic leaders have been taking since Reagan's landslide reelection in November.
"It's a blatant misrepresentation of fact," Wright told the Woman's National Democratic Club in reference to an interview Saturday in which Reagan appeared to be trying out two new themes to justify deficits in the fiscal 1986 budget that he is scheduled to send to Congress next week.
One theme suggested that increased defense spending is dictated by "people outside the United States . . . possible adversaries," presumably meaning the Soviet Union.
The other put the blame for total spending on Congress. "The Constitution doesn't give the president the right to spend a nickel," Reagan said. "That's up there on the Hill. And every budget that we have submitted since I've been here has been smaller than the one the Congress would finally agree to, so in fixing the blame for why we haven't done more than we've done in reducing spending seems to be pretty evident."
Wright contended that Congress approved a three-year budget last year that included more deficit reductions than Reagan had proposed. Moreover, he said, Congress appropriated $551 billion for the current fiscal year, $17 billion less than Reagan requested.
"The president has uttered a great number of factual inaccuracies that have not been challenged . . . the truth is he does it repeatedly," Wright said. "You just can't have any semblance of understanding when you perpetuate myths."
On defense spending, Wright attacked as "outrageous" an assertion by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger that military spending cuts would not help reduce deficits.
In remarks on ABC's "Good Morning America," Weinberger said the administration has trimmed its proposed defense expenditures by $36 billion for next year and added: "You don't make a major impact on the deficit by cutting defense spending because when you do, you lose all the taxes generated by the people who are employed in defense industries and you incur some unemployment costs because a lot don't have jobs."
However, Wright said: "Mr. Weinberger seems to be under the impression that defense spending does not contribute to the deficit. That's a preposterous statement to make. If you spend a dollar on a bomb, it counts as much as if you spend it on a school book."
Wright also challenged an assertion by a Weinberger spokesman that proposed cuts in the administration's military buildup would harm national security. "He shouldn't have said it," Wright said. "It is far too reminiscent of the McCarthy era."
Although Congress did not add much to Reagan's total budgets over the last four years, it did shift priorities, trimming the president's defense requests and adding to his domestic spending proposals.
In appropriations over the four years, Congress cut a total of $57 billion from his defense requests and added $52 billion to his domestic proposals.
Key committee chairmen in the Republican-controlled Senate also disagreed with the president yesterday on whom is to blame for budget deficits, although they did so in tones far softer than Wright's.
There is "no significant difference between what has been requested by the president and what was approved by Congress," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.). "The facts don't bear Reagan out," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.).
Hatfield also took issue with Weinberger's argument that defense spending does not adversely affect deficits, which he attributed to what he called "weirdo" economics on the part of the Reagan administration.
Contending that the administration thinks only in terms of domestic spending cuts when it proposes deficit reductions, Hatfield said, "You couldn't pass a course in Economics 101 on that theory." The administration, he said, will have spent about $1 trillion on defense over five years and "that's a pretty big hunk of cash."