White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan denounced the congressional budget stalemate as "ridiculous" yesterday, while House-Senate negotiators indicated they will try again, possibly next week, to agree on deficit reductions for the next three years.
But there was no movement toward an agreement yesterday, and congressional leaders agreed that the outlook for a settlement was not encouraging.
In a podium-pounding outburst that matched the angry recriminations of congressional negotiators as their talks broke down Wednesday, Regan urged the House-Senate conferees to return to the talks and "cut federal spending, cut federal spending, cut federal spending."
Regan's remarks at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast came as all the major parties to the budget dispute maneuvered to deflect blame from themselves and to gain the upper hand when the next phase of the budget battle opens.
In the House, Budget Committee Chairman William H. Gray III (D-Pa.), while contending the Senate was wrong in characterizing a House-proposed compromise on domestic and defense spending as inadequate, indicated the House might be willing to compromise further.
"I've left the door open that we perhaps could make some more movement," he said.
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) called on the Senate to return to the negotiating table, saying it was "kind of childish to be walking out."
In the Senate, where Republicans were still licking their wounds from White House abandonment of their proposal to freeze Social Security benefits, a GOP caucus gave a "hang-tough" vote of confidence to the Senate negotiators, led by Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.).
Many senators continued to accuse House members of offering "phony" savings in their latest deficit-reduction offer and anguished aloud over whether the talks should continue without new concessions from the House. But both Domenici and Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) indicated that the Senate would probably make a new offer to get the talks going again.
White House intervention continued to be an irritant for the Senate Republicans, who felt slighted by President Reagan and treated unfairly by his chief of staff, Regan, whom some of them blame in part for the negotiating snarl.
As Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.) saw it, the Republicans were mad at the White House and House Democrats for rejection of the Social Security freeze. But, with Reagan in the hospital, where he is recovering from surgery, "you don't dump on him so you dump twice" on the House Democrats, Chiles said.
And yesterday they dumped a little on Regan, too. His remarks at the breakfast meeting got "something less than rave reviews" at the GOP caucus, Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) said. "We love our leaders. We are upset at people who don't agree with us, and that includes Don Regan," Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) said.
Dole, who earlier suggested that Regan underestimates the seriousness of big deficits, declined to criticize him again but suggested tartly that Regan might have exempted the GOP-controlled Senate from his criticism.
But Regan made no distinction between the two chambers in condemning the delay in passing a congressional budget resolution.
"Every municipality in this country . . . has a budget. Every state of the union has a budget," Regan said. "The federal government, the world's largest economy, the strength of the free world, is about to go into its new fiscal year Oct. 1 without a budget. How ridiculous can you be?"
Raising his voice and pounding the lectern, Regan said the president will be accused of "racking up deficits" although Reagan proposed a budget six months ago and Congress has yet to act on it.
"Why not?" Regan asked rhetorically. "They Congress cannot come to grips with the fact that we're overspending . . . and we must cut federal spending. They are afraid to come to grips with it, and I challenge them to do it."
Regan said that "at the current rate, we will have no budget at all," an outcome he called "disgraceful."
Among Senate Republicans, there was renewed talk of tax increases to help reduce deficits, although Dole continued to try to suppress it. There were also strong suggestions in the closed-door GOP caucus that failure to enact a budget would jeopardize passage of the president's tax-overhaul bill. Among those suggesting this was Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), whose committee handles tax legislation.