President Carter may not get the full tripling of the present Council on Wage and Price Stability that he asked for as part of his March 14 anti-inflation program, according to new indications on Capitol Hill.
Sources on the House Banking Committee hinted that that panel's economic stabilization subcommittee may freeze the wage-price agency at its current levels rather than adding 400 new price monitors, as Carter wants.
And insiders say the Senate Banking Committee is apt to approve no more than a doubling of the agency's current 233-member staff, with orders to beef up monitoring of wage increases as well as new price hikes.
Senate Banking Committee chairman William Proxmire (D-Wis.) warned administration officials at a hearing that the bill renewing the wage-price council's authority would be "very-hard" to push through even at current levels.
Capitol Hill sources say the new doubts about the previously routine legislation reflects a dissatisfaction among many members both with the wage-price agency itself and with Carter's current economic policies.
The uncertainty in the Senate Banking Committee also is linked to questions over whether the panel's Republicans will oppose approval of Carter's nomination of Lyle Gramley to the Federal Reserve Board.
Gramley, a former Fed staffer who now is a member of Carter's Council of Economic Advisers, ran into criticism last week from midwestern senators angry about the impact of high interest rates on farmers.
At the same time, some liberal Democrats have expressed dissatisfaction with wage-price council chairman Alfred E. Kahn. Sen. Donald Riegle (D-Mich.) has publicly called for Kahn's resignation.
Kahn told the Senate Banking panel yesterday he is certain the steel industry's new contract settlement, giving workers a 40 percent raise over three years, "will be within the [government's wage] standard."
He also asserted that "the time has come. . . to reconsider" the use of special tax incentives to encourage workers to hold their wage demands within the pay guidelines. Congress scrapped such a plan last year.
And he denied that the administration is "deliberately trying to drive this economy into a recession as a means for controlling inflation," even though top policymakers repeatedly have confirmed in private that a recession is necessary.
Kahn told the Banking panel the steelworkers' pay settlement actually will come closer to 32.5 percent than to 40 percent using the wage-price council's method of calculating pay contracts.
The tripling of the wage-price council staff was a major element in Carter's March 14 anti-inflation plan. The agency now has 233 staffers and spends $8.9 million a year. Carter asked for $25 million and 400 more staffers.