House and Senate critics of President Reagan's decision to abandon the SALT II limits on long-range nuclear weapons say they are working on a three-step legislative plan to reverse that policy.
The first measures to be introduced would limit funds for weapons exceeding the SALT II limits. Sponsored by Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) in the House and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) in the Senate, the proposals are intended to unite the opposition by attracting cosponsors for future votes.
The second measures will be nonbinding resolutions expressing the view of Congress that SALT II limits should be maintained. Such measures are likely to have broad appeal, thereby providing leaders of both houses with an estimate of how many votes they could expect for a subsequent bill -- the third step in the strategy -- that would be attached to next year's defense authorization bill and require adherence to SALT II limits.
The House resolution will be drafted by Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It is scheduled to be discussed at a hearing Thursday, with Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) Director Kenneth L. Adelman, former ACDA director Paul Warnke and retired SALT negotiator Gerard Smith expected to appear.
Congressional strategists expect the Fascell resolution to be approved Thursday. It will probably call upon the president to remain within the SALT II limits this fall.
In the Senate, one source said a resolution is "brewing" and that moderate Republicans in the Senate "want to give the president a chance to overrule his advisers."
The resolutions "will have an educational purpose," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) said yesterday. The resolutions would give pro-SALT members a chance to explain their positions to their colleagues and the public.
Although bipartisan majorities in both houses -- 221 House members and 54 senators -- signed letters to Reagan before his decision urging him to maintain the SALT II limits, "there is no guarantee they would vote to make him live within those limits," a Senate aide said yesterday.
Asked yesterday what Reagan thought of the congressional criticism, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said: "We don't like it. The president will take the congressional views in consideration, but his decision has been made."
The real political battle on Capitol Hill is likely to be fought on amendments to next year's defense spending authorization that is expected to come before both houses in July. Other opponents would like to "hold hostage" some military program dear to the president, by refusing to finance the Strategic Defense Initiative, for example.
A more likely strategy is contained in the Dicks and Biden bills, which would prohibit funds for deploying or maintaining more than 820 land-based intercontinental missiles with more than a single warhead; more than 1,200 land- and sea-based multiple warhead ICBMs; and more than 1,320 multiple-warhead ICBMs and bombers capable of carrying cruise missiles.
The measures contain waivers permitting Reagan to exceed the limits if the Soviets breach them.