Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch

November 25, 1966



THE PRESIDENT. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

[1.] I have had the pleasure the latter part of this afternoon of visiting with these gentlemen here with me this evening, the Vice President and the leadership of the Congress.

Earlier today I met with Secretary Weaver and Mr. Schultze. I think Mr. Moyers 1 gave you a report on that, but we would be glad to take any questions you may have if you care to make any inquiries in connection with their presence here.

1 Bill D. Moyers, Special Assistant to the President.

Today I reviewed with the leadership the military situation in Vietnam and the most recent reports from General Westmoreland and General Wheeler.

I reviewed the diplomatic situation as reported in the weekly report from Ambassador Lodge.

I presented a report from the economic advisers to the leadership. We had a general discussion about the economy.

We reviewed the congressional increases in the 1967 budget recommendation. The NOA is about $3 billion 202 million and the expenditures are between $2 1/2 and $3 billion.

I discussed in very general terms with the Director of the Budget this morning the possibilities of certain deferrals, postponements, stretch-outs, and reductions in both program reductions and expenditure reductions for this fiscal year which ends June 30, 1967.

As you recall, back in early September I stated it would be our purpose to effect Federal program reductions in the area of $3 billion. I outlined what some of our hopes were in the field of housing and urban development, health, education, and welfare, the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the General Services Administration, Atomic Energy Commission, AID, the Department of Commerce, the Federal Aviation Agency, Small Business, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, Veterans Administration, NASA, the Office of Economic Opportunity, and others with the leadership, and discussed the specific possibilities of program reduction with them.

The exact amounts of the funds authorized by Congress for which we do not plan to request appropriations this year was also reviewed in some detail. The Congress authorized almost $1 billion that we planned to have a program deferral on. We will have an expenditure reduction on that congressional authorization in excess of probably half a billion dollars. Our goal is to have in excess of $3 billion of program reductions.

Mr. Schultze is returning to Washington tonight after reviewing this matter with me in some detail today. He will meet with the individual Cabinet members and perhaps collectively with them the early part of the week, and will submit to me further recommendations. At that time I will take prompt action.

I think that pretty well covers it.

We also reviewed with the leadership some specific items, such as impacted areas in the education appropriations, school lunch and milk increases that were put in over the President's recommendations. I received their advice and suggestions in connection with some of these matters.

Generally, I thought it was a very pleasant afternoon. I believe it was a fruitful one.

Because some of the gentlemen concerned felt that they had to return to Washington this evening, we thought that if you were to see them, we would have to ask your presence here even at this late hour.

Secretary Weaver has talked to me today about the possibility of providing some special assistance funds to help the homebuilding industry. He is going to return and make certain studies and report back to me over the weekend. We will take some action probably early in the week in that connection.

I think that is all that has happened today. I will be glad to take your questions, or if you prefer, I will give you a chance to hear from each individual present and let them make any comments they want to. Then you can ask questions of anybody you choose.

Senator Dirksen or Senator Mansfield, would you like to say something?

SENATOR MANSFIELD. You have covered it pretty well.

SENATOR DIRKSEN. I have nothing to add.



[2.] Q. Did you ask the Republican leadership to support your Great Society program next year?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not as such. I discussed with them primarily today not what we would recommend in the State of the Union Message next year, but what we would recommend in the way of reductions as promised in our September message.


[3.] Q. Mr. President, Mr. Schultze mentioned earlier today a prospective increase of $4 1/2 billion to $5 billion as the level of Federal expenditures due to this tight money situation. I had understood you mentioned that before, but how does this figure in now with your $3 billion? Wouldn't that throw things out of whack, so to speak?

THE PRESIDENT. They are two different items--just as Vietnam is different from the AID bill. What we are doing now is reviewing the entire budget to see what we can defer. We cannot defer our interest payments. We are having to defer some of our sales of Government securities. We do not know to what extent we will have to defer them. If the money market indicates that we can sell some of them, of course, we will do that.

Up to the moment, because of anticipated sales that we have not made due to the monetary situation, and because of rising interest costs on the Federal debt, there will be an item of $4 1/2 billion or $5 billion that has occurred since the monetary change.

What we are doing here is to comb every item we can to see what we can postpone, what we can defer, what we can reduce, what we can set back. Those are not only the items we listed today, but there are many other items that may come up. We will be constantly reviewing them. We will set them aside if we think they can be done better tomorrow than they can today in the light of the war situation and in the light of the other demands being made on the Government.


[4.] Q. Mr. President, is this the first time you have had bipartisan leadership of the Congress here at the ranch?



[5.] Q. In the review of the economic situation, did you discuss the possibility of a tax increase with the congressional leadership?


Q. I think we know what your views are. I was wondering if you could summarize or they could tell us what their views were on it, the Republicans and the Democrats?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe they expressed their views. It was not the basis of the meeting today at all. It is purely a matter incidental to this.

As we have told you, and as you observed, there will be a lot of discussion about it. But there won't be any decisions until the facts are in and we have the figures upon which decisions can be made. They can't be made in November.


[6.] Q. Mr. President, do you have a budget goal at this stage of the game?

THE PRESIDENT. No. There is the $3 billion reduction. That is all.

Q. I mean for the coming budget recommendation. Is it under $100 billion? You aren't going back to that?

THE PRESIDENT. We never did go back to that. I don't want to claim credit for some of your thoughts.

Q. Mr. President, could you tell us how close you are to this goal of the $3 billion reduction?

THE PRESIDENT. We think we are going to make it.

Q. Will you be over or under?

THE PRESIDENT. We think it will be decided the early part of the week. It is our judgment that the program reductions will be $3 billion or better, and I think probably substantially more. We hope so. The expenditures will be a lesser figure, of course.


[7.] Q. Mr. President, could we ask Mr. Ford if he still feels, after this meeting, and hearing the reports from your economic advisers, that a tax boost in January would push the country into a recession?

THE PRESIDENT. If Mr. Ford desires to answer that question, or comment on it, he


CONGRESSMAN FORD. I think my views are still much the same as they were. Until we have an opportunity to get more information, there is still no firm decision.


[8.] Q. Mr. President, would you say that at this point, all things considered, a bigger budget and a deficit are inescapable for fiscal 1968?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I wouldn't say that you could be that prophetic unless you have considered the requests of the departments. They haven't come to us yet. We know generally the military requests, or the range in which they are being considered. But they haven't been decided.

I will meet with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the other Chiefs of Staff probably the first 10 or 12 days in December. That is half of the budget. Until that is decided, you can't determine what the whole goal will be.

We do know that we estimated early in the year, before we had the monetary change, with its increases, that we would have expenditures of approximately $113 billion this year. We do know that we will have a supplemental. We don't have that figure. We won't have it for several weeks. It will be in the neighborhood of somewhere between $5 billion and $15 billion.

When you take the monetary change, you take the supplemental, and you take the $113 billion, you can have a general idea that the budget is going to be much more than it was in January.

We also know our revenues are more, but I have reviewed all of that with you before. Until we get the departmental recommendations, we just don't know. We don't have them. They are going over them. I have had four meetings with Mr. McNamara, but they haven't gotten down to finalizing them. We will be doing that right up to the State of the Union Message.


[9.] Q. Mr. President, could you give us the high points of your appraisal of the military situation in Vietnam?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think there is nothing startling. It is just an up-to-date report. I think generally it is classified information that we review with the leadership from time to time. I think some of the conclusions can be given to you.

The summary is that the military operations continue to be successful. Our forces maintain the initiative. Our losses are light. U.S. forces are now engaged in x number of operations of battalion or larger size. There were contacts yesterday. The enemy made certain attacks.

First you analyze where our forces are engaged, what they are doing, what the enemy is doing, what the results have been, what the losses have been. The summary is that the operation generally continues to be successful. Our forces maintain the initiative. The losses as of this report are light.


[10.] Q. Mr. President, is one of the reasons that you asked the Republican leadership to come here today because you will need Republican support in your next Congress to get some of your program through?

THE PRESIDENT. That is one reason why I meet with the leadership at all times.

Q. Excuse me, sir, but did you ask the Republican leaders?

THE PRESIDENT. The first day I met them, and I am very appreciative for such support as I have received. I think, generally speaking, they have always given it to me when they could in good conscience. I expect them to do it in the future.

It is not a matter of personal support for me, or individual support. If it were, I am sure I would have it more than I do, because we have been good friends through the years.

But this is a question of what best serves the Nation. Men differ about that sometimes. The purpose of this meeting is to try to bring those differences to a minimum and to get their suggestions before decisions are made.

You have heard a lot about folks saying, "If they want me in on the landing, I want to be in on the takeoff." Well, this is the takeoff.


[11.] Q. Mr. President, could you explain why you think this meeting was fruitful?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, because we discussed with them the whole area of the subject that all of the leadership has been very insistent that the administration consider all year; namely, the reduction of all possible nonessential expenditures and the deferring and postponing of any expenditures that could await the settlement of the conflict in Vietnam.

Senator Mansfield, the Speaker, Congressman Albert, and Mr. Boggs have in many meetings said that they hoped we would review each appropriation bill as it came to us. Senator Dirksen offered amendments throughout the year. Congressman Ford offered a number of motions that would put his views into effect on reducing expenditures they thought could be reduced.

Before I took this action, I asked them to come here. I told them certain plans that we had in connection with the $3 billion program and asked for their suggestions or their criticisms. We have exchanged viewpoints back and forth since 12:30.


[12.] Q. In your discussions, sir, did you break away long enough to take the leadership on a tour of your ranch?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We didn't break away. We took the two together.


[13.] Q. Since this is Mr. Dirksen's first trip to the ranch, I believe, I wonder if it would be possible for him to give us some of his impressions?

THE PRESIDENT. They are going to insist upon a performance of Senator Dirksen. I yield to the Senator from Illinois.

SENATOR DIRKSEN. Well, long ago our distinguished President invited me to come here. On that occasion, he said, "If you will come, I will give you a bull calf." Perhaps I should not tell this.

But on other occasions he invited me, and I said, "You never did give me that bull calf."

He said, "You come, and I will give him to you."

I said, "I have no place to keep him; so you slaughter him, get the best butcher in Johnson City to do the job, and when I get him in my refrigerator, I will come down and see you."

I still haven't gotten the calf, either iced or hot. But I am here, and I am delighted. So maybe I will modify that request a little bit. If he will get me that ten-prong buck Clarence that eats cigarettes and does not care whether they are filtered or not, and cuts him up so that I get him in my freezer, I will call it square.

It has been a delightful occasion to be here and to enjoy the clean, cool air, to see such a sample of wildlife in Texas--buffalo and deer, and some kind of goat or sheep, and wild turkeys that look for all of the world as if they would qualify for any store on Thanksgiving Day.

So for me it has been a most enjoyable outdoor occasion. I have enjoyed it to the full, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to come and see this section of Texas--but, very particularly, to see the LBJ Ranch; and more especially, to see the distinguished President and his very gracious and very lovable spouse, Lady Bird.

Q. Senator Dirksen, you announced a few days ago that you might submit an alternative budget if the President's did not meet your satisfaction. What are your thoughts on that right now?

SENATOR DIRKSEN. If you did not know, that is John Averell of the Los Angeles Times. You probably know it. He is one of my nemeses in Washington. [Laughter]

Well, the fact of the matter is, John, if you listened very carefully to the President, you would have heard him say that in addition to the things that we discussed today, and the nonfinalized conclusions that we reached, the matter was open for any other suggestions that anyone might make.

So it could well be that somebody, when the time comes, would in the Congress make other suggestions. That does not come particularly as a legislative budget, but as a postscript to what we discussed today.

When I discussed this question of the legislative budget, I think that I was careful to cite the fact that we could not quite make that operate because at the first meeting we had of the 107 Members of the House and Senate, representing both the money committees and the appropriations committees, it was unwieldy.

As I recall, we made Senator Taft 2 the chairman of the meeting, but we were up against a peculiar deadline in the statute itself that you simply could not meet. I am not so sure that the eye difficulty I developed in those days did not stem from the 18 or 20 hours a day I spent on the fine print of the budget.

2 Robert A. Taft, Senator from Ohio 1939-1953.

It is still a very enticing thing to think about. I am not so sure but that perhaps the language of the statute can be dressed up, and made practical, and to that I will give some attention.

Q. Senator Dirksen, could you or Mr. Ford tell us if you are now generally happy with the effort the President is making to cut nonessential spending?

SENATOR DIRKSEN. Any effort in that direction, and particularly when it is substantial, ought to make anybody who embraces a reasonably moderate or conservative view quite happy, as you know. Now, we are not precluded one moment from looking at others items in the budget. There might be as many as 2,500, but I am not insensible to the fact that you can take literally hundreds of those and never quite effectuate a real economy or a real saving. But moving in that direction certainly does make us happy. It will have a very definite impact on the inflationary picture that obtains to some extent in the country.

Now, my good friend and associate, Congressman Ford, can speak for himself on that subject, so I will ask him to come up on the podium.


[14.] CONGRESSMAN FORD. Well, I have found that the meeting here today was extremely productive. It was extremely pleasant. I am in accord with the aims and objectives that were discussed, that will be finalized between now and the first part of the week. It seems to me that we are moving exactly in the right direction.


[15.] SENATOR MANSFIELD. Mr. President, if I may, I would like to go on record as being in accord with what you have said, with what the distinguished Minority Leader has said, and what the distinguished Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Ford, has said.

This is about the 57th or 58th meeting of the bipartisan leadership with the President in his 3 years in office. So it is nothing unusual to meet and discuss matters, as we did this time, having to do with reduction in nonessential expenditures.

I agree with the President and my colleagues that the meeting was most worthwhile. It was a give-and-take meeting. We advanced our ideas, the President advanced his, and we hope out of this meeting will come, with bipartisan support, a substantial reduction in nonessential expenditures to the end that those expenditures which are necessary will be forthcoming, and those which can be postponed, canceled, or set aside for the time being can be so put into effect.

Q. Senator Mansfield, would you take a question, please?


Q. We were told earlier today by the White House Press Secretary that you were coming down here to discuss in addition to these reductions, the talks on the legislative program for next year, and also the legislative outlook. Was that discussed?

SENATOR MANSFIELD. Just briefly. And incidentally, we became so interested in trying to bring about ideas, or to advance ideas relative to reductions in expenditures, that we just touched on that in passing.



[16.] THE PRESIDENT. Are there any other questions?

We will not be able to review next year's program, except as it pertains to these items I reviewed with you, until we make it up. We will be doing that right up to the hour when we deliver the State of the Union Message.

Between now and January here--and if I am in Washington any, in Washington, too-most of my time will be spent in making up the budget. In making that up, you make up your program, which will be outlined in the State of the Union Message.

So far as the budget this year is concerned, and the effect it will have on next year's budget, we went into it in discussions which ranged, I would say, 3 or 4 hours. Actually we spent the entire day on it. We are in general agreement.

All of these expenditures are very essential to some groups, and very desirable to some groups. What we have done is try to take the items that we think are in the lower priority group and hold them back and defer them and postpone them until other higher priority items are taken care of.

That has been the desire of the administration, and the desire of both sides of the aisle, as expressed many, many times.

I committed myself in September to do that if they would give me the tax bill, the investment credit bill, just as soon as the appropriation bills came to me and we could conclude our study. We are about to conclude it. We expect to have an announcement for you after Mr. Schultze returns in the next few days.3

3 See Item 631.


[17.] Q. Mr. President, how do you feel today? Does talking make your throat hurt very much?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I feel fine.

Reporter: Thank you, sir.

Note: President Johnson's eighty-eighth news conference was had at the LBJ Ranch, Johnson City, Texas, at 6 p.m. on Friday, November 25, 1966.

The official White House transcript noted that the news conference was held with the following persons present: Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Robert C. Weaver, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Charles L. Schultze, Director, Bureau of the Budget, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, Senate Majority Leader, Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, Senate Minority Leader, Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma, House Majority Leader, Representative Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, House Minority Leader, Representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana, House Majority Whip, and Representative George H. Mahon of Texas, Chairman, House Appropriations Committee.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference at the LBJ Ranch Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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