Friction between Senate Republicans and the White House intensified yesterday as Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) described budget concessions embraced by President Reagan as "surrendering to the deficit" and questioned whether the GOP-controlled Senate will accept them.
Dole also accused Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger of not having "leveled with the Senate" on military spending needs and said he does not see "much evidence" that White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan cares deeply about cutting deficits.
The senator said he will be consulting less with the White House and more with fellow Republicans as he attempts to work out a compromise, and he raised the possibility of scuttling the whole budget if it includes no meaningful deficit restraint.
"We're discouraged but we're not defeatist," said Dole, who led the charge for deficit reduction six months ago when both the White House and House were holding back, only to find them now cutting a deal that leaves the Senate feeling shut out.
Dole's sharply worded criticism came in the wake of angry charges from other GOP senators that Reagan, bending to pressure from both House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) and House Republicans, abandoned a Senate-proposed freeze on Social Security payments without obtaining anything in return.
The concession was made in an agreement this week to try to write a budget compromise in which both Social Security and defense spending authority would grow with inflation, with efforts being made to find offsetting cuts in other programs. Tax increases would be ruled out.
In a brief interview with reporters after a meeting with Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) and Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman on targets for domestic spending cuts, Dole was asked about prospects for Senate approval of a budget compromise under the current conditions.
"I think it's pretty much up in the air," Dole responded.
"There are a lot of mad Republicans. The president says no taxes. Tip says no COLAs [no cutback in cost-of-living increases for Social Security]. They're saying they got a deal. I don't know if it's a deal. I think it's surrendering to the deficit."
Dole also included some unnamed House Republicans in his criticism, in apparent reference to reports that the Social Security deal stemmed at least in part from meetings earlier between Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and Regan.
"Democrats and a few noisy House Republicans want to play politics," he said. "They never made a hard choice in their lives." Kemp and Dole have long been at odds over fiscal policy, including the importance of deficits, and are possible rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988.
As for further consultations with the White House, Dole said in an interview for Reporters' Roundup on the Mutual Radio Network that "we've about come to the conclusion maybe we ought to just handle the budget up here. I don't think Don Regan is too anxious to do much about it anyway."
And he put the Pentagon on notice to expect trouble next year. It misled the Senate about spending needs for next year, he said. "That's not fair, that's deception. And we're going to be looking very carefully when those people come back to the Hill next year . . . . "
The House-Senate budget conference is scheduled to resume late Monday. House Budget Committee Chairman William H. Gray III (D-Pa.) said he plans to propose some additional spending cuts, although he has indicated he will not go as far as the Senate wants: $28 billion in new savings over three years to offset the loss of Social Security savings. He indicated, however, that he thinks a compromise in the area of $270 billion in total deficit reductions over three years is possible.
Meanwhile, the White House ran into more trouble from Senate Republicans as Appropriations Committee Chairman Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) served notice he will try to "filibuster to death" Reagan's proposal for line-item veto power in dealing with appropriations bills.
Reagan gave the idea top-priority treatment in his State of the Union message, and legislation cosponsored by about half the Senate is expected to reach the floor next week.
It is rare for a senior Republican who ranks high in the Senate leadership to filibuster a bill, but Hatfield is fiercely opposed to the idea, both as a threat to his committee's powers and an abdication of legislative responsibility.