WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Thomas Foley said yesterday he opposes a major rewrite of last year's budget agreement, despite the reduced need for defense spending in light of developments in the Soviet Union.
His comments came after House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., and other House Democrats said they favor renegotiating the agreement to attempt getting deeper cuts in the defense budget.
They say the money saved in defense could then be funneled either into domestic spending or into peace-time assistance to help the Soviet Union and Eastern European states implement democratic reforms. The agreement, which divides spending programs into three categories -- defense, domestic, and international -- does not allow money to be transferred between them.
But Rep. Foley, D-Wash., who was the chief budget negotiator for the House, said that some shuffling of funds from defense accounts into peace-time uses may be possible even without a "wholesale revision" of the agreement. "That is not in the immediate offing," he said, adding, "I have literally no plans to revise the budget act at this time."
His comments echo those of President Bush last week, who also said he is reluctant to rewrite the agreement less than a year after it was negotiated. but left the door open to shifting some money around from defense into other areas.
Neither of the leaders specified how this could be done, though they suggested they could use emergency procedures established by the agreement. But Rep. Foley said the administration and Congress could "cooperate" -- without rewriting the budget -- in shifting about $1 billion of defense spending slated for fiscal 1992 into food aid and other urgently needed assistance for the Soviet Union.