Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Fiscal Year 1987 Appropriations Bills

September 27, 1986

My fellow Americans:

It's getting on close to the end of the month, and I bet many of you'll be spending part of this Saturday or the next hunkered down at your desk, calculator in hand, balancing your checkbook, and making sure your family's finances are in order. There are probably a hundred things you'd rather be doing on a fall weekend, but you know that it's important to your family's security and happiness.

Well, this basic responsibility, which millions of Americans successfully perform every month, appears to be just too much for the United States Congress. September 30th is the final deadline for Congress to pass our nation's budget, the appropriations that will allow the Government to continue to function. Once again, the budget deadline finds Congress unable to produce a responsible budget. They let it come right down to the wire. I say once again because this is nothing new. It's been many years since Congress has passed its appropriations on time. Instead, they throw together what they call a continuing resolution, at the last moment—a kind of Christmas tree hung with pet projects and wasteful spending programs that never could have made it into a real budget.

For 6 months Congress has dragged its feet, refusing to send me the appropriations bills that I need to keep the Government running. In all that time, the one appropriations bill that has made the most progress is—not surprisingly—the spending bill that would fund the legislative branch. I suppose that's what's called taking care of number one. All the other spending bills that directly help the people and run the Government are stalled. So, without a real budget, we are once again facing a continuing resolution which, this year, lumps every single spending allocation for the entire Government into one huge omnibus bill.

But that isn't the worst of it. The House of Representatives is trying to use this bill to force through policies that they know could not pass otherwise—policies that do not belong in an appropriations bill and are simply unacceptable. Provisions passed in the Democratically controlled House would pull the rug out from under our negotiators at the arms control talks with the Soviets in Geneva, endangering the real progress we are making toward meaningful arms reductions. Others would hurt programs vital to our defense needs. And while all sorts of wasteful boondoggles are included, they want to cut essential pay raises for our military personnel. And I'm sorry, but that's just plain wrong.

After delaying so long, some in Congress say I should just sign this spending-spree bill because otherwise the Government will be forced to shut down. Well, I hope they know where the keys to the building are, because if they don't act responsibly, I won't have any choice but to shut it down. If they want to put a real budget together by candlelight, it's okay by me. Now it's up to the Senate to remove the most objectionable parts of the House bill so we can keep operating. My friends, this is no way to run a government. The breakdown of the congressional budget process is one of the primary reasons why spending is out of control and deficits are so large.

Some Democrats believe that you, the taxpayers, caused the deficit because you pay too little in taxes. Well, that's hogwash. We don't have deficits because you're undertaxed; we have deficits because Congress overspends. It's time Congress cut the Federal budget and left your family budgets alone. For all their talk about the deficit, the liberal Democrats in Congress have not been able to control their big spending ways. Last February 1 proposed eliminating 44 wasteful programs, but Congress cut only 2. Now, instead of reducing spending, some in Congress want to break faith with the American people and turn tax reform into a tax hike. Well, that really touches my temperature control.

It seems to me that if we can't convince the liberals in Congress to cut spending, maybe we should cut the number of liberals in the Congress. This yearly budget fiasco illustrates clearly that the process simply doesn't work, but there is a solution. If Congress can't control spending, they should give me what 43 State Governors have: the line-item veto. Then, each spending item could be judged on its own merits, and Congress couldn't sneak through spending programs they know would never survive the light of day. And isn't it time we had a balanced budget amendment? Earlier this year that amendment lost by only one vote. The American people want a balanced budget amendment. In this election year, isn't it time that we make sure our elected representatives do, too? Let's vote for a Congress that will pass the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment and, once and for all, get Federal spending under control. I can tell you one thing, it would really make my day.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on the Fiscal Year 1987 Appropriations Bills Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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