WASHINGTON -- President Reagan, borrowing a threat from Hollywood's 'Dirty Harry,' challenged Congress Wednesday to 'go ahead - make my day' by passing a tax increase bill so he could have the pleasure of vetoing it.
In a belligerent broadside against Congress, particularly members of the Senate Budget Committee, Reagan told about 100 businessmen that the Republican-dominated panel seemed to be 'in full-scale retreat from spending cuts and are talking about raising people's taxes again.'
'When push comes to shove,' he said, 'I guess it's always easier to let the taxpayer take the fall.'
But he warned, 'No matter how well-intentioned they might be, no matter what their illusions might be, I have my veto pen drawn and ready for any tax increase that Congress might even think of sending up.
'And I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers, 'Go ahead - make my day,'' he told the applauding members of the American Business Council, a group of medium-sized, high technology entrepreneurs.
The oft-quoted line comes from the popular movie 'Sudden Impact,' starring Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry Callahan, a police inspector who bends the law in battling crime. In the movie's opening, Eastwood delivers the line while brandishing a Smith and Wesson .45 pistol at a black hostage-taker.
Reagan also pitched the MX missile and his hefty increases in defense spending, which he said have become 'a convenient scapegoat for those in Congress who aren't willing to face up to the tough budget decisions.'
He said cutting out the 10-warhead missile on budgetary grounds is 'shortsighted in the extreme,' and he lambasted the legislative branch for 'carrying on its old pork barreling politics as usual.'
'Somebody's got to stop this spending splurge,' he said, 'and I'm willing to take the political heat. To tell you the truth, I'll enjoy it.'
Reagan said he was thinking of forming a group in Congress along the lines of 'Overeaters Anonymyous' and calling it 'Big Spenders Anonymous.'
'Try as they might, they just can't stop squandering the people's money,' he declared.
Reagan was responding to Senate Budget Committee votes this week against much of his package of domestic spending cut -- and suggestions from both Democrats and Republicans on the panel that it might have to look at tax increases as a way of cutting the deficit.
The president said his program of tax reform, budget cuts and trade liberalization 'can produce an economic renaissance in this country' and make the economy 'grow stronger and faster than even the most opt)mistic economists are predicting.'
Afterwards, the group's chairman, Arthur Levitt, told Reagan his words were 'music to our ears.'