Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the Congressional Elections
The President. We've just decided that some of you must be sleeping late, because your ranks seem to have diminished here after the long night. But we've been through the long night and just wanted to say to you that we're very pleased with the results.
Our target in the one House had been, as we said, somewhere between 17 and 27. Well, apparently it's turned out between 17 and 27 that we've lost in the House, but the main point is, and we're gratified, that we have not only maintained control of the Senate but that when we started 2 years ago we had 53, and we now have 54 Republican Senators. And we look forward to working with this Congress now in a bipartisan fashion to solving the major problems that still have to be solved.
Q. Senator Dole said that you're going to have trouble getting your programs through.
Q. Mr. President, what about a midcourse correction?
The President. What? 1
Q. Should there be a midcourse correction, Mr. President? They did vote 25 seats fewer for your party.
1 Airplane noise from Washington National Airport made hearing the reporters' questions difficult.
The President. That fellow out there. I've heard his. You're saying that Senator Dole said that we had our—we would have trouble—
Q. You'd have trouble getting your programs through, given the new makeup of the House.
The President. Well, Bill [Bill Plante, CBS News], we've had trouble for 22 months. It's been a struggle every foot of the way. But we approach this—there have been concessions and compromises in both directions on all of the major issues, and we expect to continue to work with the Congress in that way.
Q. [Inaudible]—do you think the message, Mr. President, was that there should be a midcourse correction, that you should moderate somewhat the fundamentals of your program?
The President. Well, I heard all of that, and I think some of that is rhetoric of the campaign season which is now over, because the truth of the matter is, we've had some midseason course changes. We never achieved all that we had asked in budget reductions. We compromised very broadly in the tax program. We started asking for a 30-percent cut across the board retroactive to January 1st, '81. We settled for 25 percent beginning in October of 1981. And we then further, in order to get further budget cuts, we were willing to compromise on the tax package in which we agreed to certain tax increases.
So, I think there has been a fair exchange and a willingness to meet other people's views.
Q. Sir, do you expect to have a—
Q. Are you willing to compromise on the defense budget, Mr. President?
The President. What's that?
Q. Are you willing to compromise on the defense budget and, also, on the third year of the tax cut? Tip O'Neill says you have to compromise more now, and you sound more conciliatory.
The President. Well, as I've said, we will work with them in a bipartisan fashion in an attempt to solve these problems. We won't compromise on principle—of what we absolutely believe is essential to the recovery. And we go into this session with the awareness that everyone must have, and that is that what has been done so far is apparently working very successfully.
The President. Sarah [Sarah McClendon, McClendon News Service]?
Q.—do you plan to have some conferences with the leaders of both parties, not just those in Congress but others—a coalition of conferences here to plan programs for the Nation on agriculture and housing and international finance?
The President. Well, Sarah, we've done that regularly throughout these past 22 months. I meet in that Cabinet Room with bipartisan leadership groups. And I meet—
Q. But I mean outside of Congress. I mean bringing the two political parties together for the good of the Nation.
The President. Well, we have met with leaders, both Democrat and Republican, in the various fields that you've mentioned-whether it's business, finance, agriculture. We've done that as a regular matter of course.
Q. Are the Republicans in a weaker position for 1984?
The President. I don't think so at all.
Q. How about your own candidacy?
The President. What?
Q. How about your own possible candidacy?
The President. Well, it's not time to talk about such a thing yet. I've said that many times.
But let me just say, first of all, there's a smile on our faces, and intentionally so. If you look traditionally at what has happened in a situation of this kind, we have every reason to feel good. A President, newly elected and who has brought in with him one house of the legislature-or the Congress in his election—this is the first time since 1928 that he has not lost, 2 years later, that House majority that he brought in with him. The average in times of economic stress—the average loss in this 2-year election is 46. We feel very good about what's happened. Sure, we'd like to have won everything, but we knew we weren't going to.
Q. Now that this election's over, could you give us your assessment of what sort of a campaign it was? Many have charged it's one of the most backstabbing ones we've ever had. There were some tough words between you and Speaker O'Neill, particularly on unemployment and social security. Give us your assessment of the election and the campaign, how it was run.
The President. All in all, I think it was a very good campaign. But you can't make a blanket assessment. Individual campaigns are run by candidates. Their own personalities and beliefs set the tone for their campaigns. But out in those States that I went to, the campaigning was on a positive basis that I saw and observed. And the Vice President here has gone much farther than I have in traveling around the country and in seeing this. George, have you seen too much of—
Q. Well, what about social security and unemployment? They said a number of things about that. How do you think that worked out?
The President. Well, yes, I think that seizing upon both of those—I said before and I will repeat—the charges that were made in order to try and frighten voters into voting one way, the charges that were made with regard to social security were absolutely without any foundation whatsoever. There was no truth behind them. There never was any secret plan written by us. And we're waiting for the Commission to come in with its recommendations on the needed reforms that must be made if that program is to remain fiscally sound.
Q. Mr. President, 2 years ago—18 months ago, you were hoping to try to regain—or gain control of the House. Now you've had a 25-seat loss. I was wondering why you are so optimistic today, why you think that's a good result.
The President. Well, partly, I go by history. I gave you what the average was— or the average loss for when the economy was in the condition that the economy is today, but even the overall average loss is 31. So, we beat the odds.
Q. Mr. President, what are the two or three issues that you think will dominate this Congress that was just elected last night?
The President. What are the issues that will dominate it? They will continue to be the economy, to continue doing the things that will reduce unemployment, the resolving of the issue we just talked before, that there has been a long-time postponement.
The first time that I ever made a speech pointing out that social security was actuarially out of balance—and at that time by $300 billion—was in 1964. And in all the years since, nothing has been done to do anything about that. And now the imbalance has caught up with us, and within the next several months, we're going to have to actually face the issue of where the money's coming from. So, I think that's an issue that can no longer be swept under the rug.
Q. Are you going to stay the course with high deficits?
Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. Last question, please.
The President. Are we going to stay the course with high deficits? We're going to stay the course, because the best way to reduce the high deficits is to continue the reduction of unnecessary Federal spending and the necessity of restoring the economic base, because the high deficits have come about through several factors. But one of the most important is the high unemployment, which has taken people off the tax rolls and at the same time has increased the output for subsistence for those people who are penalized by unemployment. So, when we can get the economy back working again, that will take care of the revenues that are necessary to help us reduce those deficits.
Mr. Speakes. Thank you, sir.
Q. [Inaudible]—have to wait for the economy to get going—
The President. He said that—
Q. —again in order to get back to work, is that it?
Mr. Speakes. That's the last question.
The President. What's that?
Q. The ones who aren't working, they have to wait for the economy to get going again to get back to work?
The President. No, Bill, if you really analyze the unemployment situation, there is a constant returning to work and others—this is not a steady pool of individuals who have formed that unemployment. I'm trying to remember exactly the figure here, but I can tell you that it is a third or better of the people that are unemployed, are unemployed for less than 6 weeks and a figure that gets up to around 60 percent are unemployed for less than 16 weeks. And so, there are—part of the present increase in unemployment was not additional people losing jobs, although some did. But a portion of the increase in unemployment was new people entering the work force for the first time.
Q. So, you don't think unemployment will go up any further?
The President. It may; it may go up a few fractions of a percentage point. But what I am saying is that the unemployment problem is one of an ever-shifting pool of unemployed, and what we have to do is get the economy going, creating the new jobs to meet the increase in the work force—that the work force is constantly increasing in size.
Q. Are you going to miss making fun of [California senatorial candidate] Jerry Brown? [Laughter]
The President. I am just smiling broadly. California, as you might know, was one of the happier moments in the evening for me last night.
Q. Did you put [Nevada senatorial candidate] Chic Hecht over the top? Are you taking credit for that?
The President. No, he's a good candidate. Chic Hecht won. I wouldn't take that credit.
Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. He was accompanied by the Vice President.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the Congressional Elections Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245174