IF THE REAGAN REVOLUTION has been a shift in national priorities, the message that the Senate Budget Committee sent last week is that the revolution is about over. The budget resolution the committee voted 13 to 9 to send to the floor would:
* Level off the defense buildup; defense spending authority would rise only about enough to cover inflation.
* Cut domestic spending, but not rip up basic programs -- health, housing, student aid -- the way the president proposed. The cuts are manageable.
* You probably should not read this aloud to your children, but RAISE TAXES. The increase would not be heroic, but enough in combination with the military and civilian spending decisions to reduce next year's deficit to about $144 billion. This year, for the second year in a row, it will be above $200 billion.
You have here a sensible compromise. Committee Chairman Pete Domenici says it will pass the Senate. We hope he is right, and that something like it will then quickly be passed by the House as well. The Democrats there will have to nerve themselves to vote for a tax increase. Surely they can do it if the Republican Senate goes first. It will be a triumph of common sense over knee-jerk politics. The republic needs one of those every once in a while.
The White House had no role in working out the committee budget; the president said he wouldn't play. In past years when that happened, the committee Republicans tried and tried to entice him outside, to strike a deal with him, to have him legitimize their work. This year they left him indoors. That in itself is a commentary.
The votes were 7 to 5 for the budget among Republicans, 6 to 4 among the Democrats. The Republicans who voted no are all conservatives, and conservatives -- Reaganites -- are likely again to provide the stiffest opposition on the floor. But this is symbolism. National security will not be jeopardized by the defense pause in this budget, nor is the tax increase a threat to economic growth. Quite the contrary. For the most part the proposed domestic spending cuts also leave room for maneuver. The president proposed killing off a fairly long list of domestic programs. The only one that the committee took him up on is the Work Incentive or WIN program, which gives funds to states to move welfare mothers into jobs. That was the wrong choice.
But that is fixable. It is a good budget. Wish it luck.