With the House having pointed the way, the Senate is putting finishing touches on what is known as the first budget resolution for next fiscal year; it is this resolution that has preoccupied Congress in recent weeks.

But for all the breast-beating and tooth-gnashing that has accompanied it, this resolution is, as some lawmakers have observed, the easy part of the budget game.

It sets spending targets for the 12 months beginning next Oct. 1, but it makes no actual spending cuts.

When the Senate completes action on its budget targets next week and a House-Senate conference irons out relatively minor differences in the two versions, the authorizing and appropriating committees will begin the real work of cutting programs -- by more than $36 billion if the goals are to be met.

Questions remain, however.

Will the committees, which largely created the programs they are now to cut, go along? If not, will the promised cuts be insisted upon by the two houses?

Will Reagan's popularity, so important in the votes on spending targets, continue at a high enough level to offset the temptation to spend?

Will the committees, which largely created the programs they are now to cut, go along? If not, will the promised cuts be insisted upon by the two houses?

Will Reagan's popularity, so important in the votes on spending targets, continue at a high enough level to offset the temptation to spend?

Will the pain of surgery be too much for a mortal politician to bear?

Equally important, what specific cuts will be made to meet the rather broad categorical reductions that have been ordered?

The so-called first budget resolution not only sets spending goals for fiscal 1982, starting Oct. 1, but, under a process known as "reconciliation," orders committees to make program cuts within general categories of spending, such as health, energy and income supplements.

The House-approved resolution would have committees draft $36.6 billion worth of specific cuts by June 15. The Senate, in a set of "reconciliation" instructions approved last month even before it began consideration of its budget resolution, called for $36.9 billion worth of cuts by committees, presumably to be made this month.

When the committees have drafted their proposed cuts, they will be packaged by the budget committees into a catch-all savings bill. Each house will then act on the package, in effect changing the basic laws underlying the programs that are to be cut.

If committees fail to meet their targets for cuts, the budget committees and party leaders of the two houses, or an individual member for that matter, can propose an amendment to make up the difference.If the leadership wants full compliance, it can exert its influence to see that the full cuts are approved. But if Congress wants to approve smaller cuts than it promised at first, it can do that, too, and often has in the past.