White House and congressional budget negotiators yesterday agreed to an ambitious timetable setting Sept. 10 as the deadline for agreement in their budget talks on spending cuts and tax increases that would save $500 billion over five years.
Congressional leaders sought House and Senate approval of the schedule, requested by President Bush, in legislation that would not have had the force of law, but House Republicans blocked consideration.
The talks, which faltered late last month amid partisan sniping, could resume as early as Sept. 5 with bargaining sessions stretching into the night, congressional negotiators said.
The meetings are likely to be held somewhere other than their usual location on Capitol Hill, according to the bargainers.
The agreement lays out an agressive step-by-step schedule for implementing a hoped-for budget accord by Oct. 2, one day after the beginning of fiscal 1991.
"If we come back and serious offers are made, and we do it in a concentrated fashion, we can make the deadlines," said House Budget Committee Chairman Leon E. Panetta (D-Calif.).
Negotiators hope that moving the talks will sharpen their focus in trying to devise a five-year, $500-billion deficit-reduction package that would save $50 billion the first year.
Meeting in the Capitol, lawmakers are often interrupted by House and Senate votes, aides and visiting constituents. The press of other congressional business has often limited the sessions to only two or three hours a day.
Richard G. Darman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, suggested going to Camp David, the presidential retreat, and staying there until either agreement is reached or the talks fail. But lawmakers complained that the facility does not have enough accommodations for staff.
Other options under discussion include Wye Plantation, a conference center on Maryland's Eastern Shore, and Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
The eventual site, to be decided later this month, is expected to be a federal facility either in or close to the District. Many congressional negotiators have said they would like to be able to return home each night.
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said he thought moving the talks from the Capitol would be a good idea because lawmakers' "attention is constantly being sought by other events if they are not in some more secluded environment."
Foley denied that the real purpose was to avoid reporters, but added: "It might be a side benefit."
Panetta said the site was unimportant. "It's not the physical location. It's the will of the people who are participating that counts," he said.
The full negotiating group last met on July 24.
Meanwhile, the Senate early today gave final congressional approval by a voice vote to legislation that would raise the federal government's borrowing limit to $3.19 trillion through Oct. 2. The House vote yesterday on the same bill was 247 to 172.
The current debt limit of $3.12 trillion will be exhausted Aug. 15 when $20 billion of government notes mature and $21 billion of interest payments fall due, according to the Treasury Department.
The short-term bill is designed to give lawmakers time to deal with a longer-term measure, which the House passed on Tuesday. Because debt-ceiling legislation must be enacted in order to avoid government default, it annually attracts a wide range of contentious amendments.