THE CHAIRMAN of the House Budget Committee, Mr. Jones, is a man of some experience in congressional folkways. He has now offered a grim warning to his friends and colleagues: If they vote for Mr. Reagan's budget resolution next week, they are not to come wheedling back to him in the summer for a little help in restoring the cherished projects that have been deleted. The budget vote, according to Mr. Jones, is to be regarded as binding.
The White House, in contrast, takes a more tolerant and permissive view. Congressmen who vote for the Reagan budget now, the White House says, will certainly not be committing themselves to abide by it rigorously in the later votes on the appropriations. As the House minority leader, Mr. Michel, put it, a friendly vote on the budget resolution certainly does not "foreclose them from voting their districts on other things." Those "other things" are all the things that, put together, make up the budget.
Mr. Jones wondered whether there was not a certain inconsistency in the administration's position. He has a point. This budget resolution does not enforce itself. It has to be enforced by repeated votes on the floor of the House.
Or the Senate. The openhanded generosity, not to say liberality, of the Senate Agriculture Committee continues to provide ample notice of the temptations ahead. It is not as though the committee were in the hands of irresponsible do-gooders and the enemies of a sound currency. The chairman is, after all, the same Jesse Helms who has been attempting to block most of Mr. Reagan's appointments to the State Department on grounds that they are not sufficiently Reaganite. The committee is now busily rewriting the country's basic agriculture law for the next four years. For the next four years the bill, as the committee now has it, would spend many billions of dollars more than the Reagan budget allows. Chairman Helm's devotion to fiscal rigor is, it turns out, selective. As Mr. Michel would put it, he is voting his district.