The White House, never shy about sharing its budget preferences with Congress, is circulating on Capitol Hill a 74-page list of recommended compromises for the House-Senate conference on President Reagan's nearly $40 billion in recommended spending cuts.
"It was assumed our friends up there would want to know our position," said a White House budget official, adding that administration views had been solicited by congressional Republicans.
Aside from a willingness to compromise on the president's controversial proposal to "cap" Medicaid spending, there were few surprises in the document, although some Republicans grumbled privately that the Office of Management and Budget can "never leave well enough alone," as one of them put it.
An aide to Repubilcans on the House Budget Committee said James B. Hedlund, their staff director, had requested the position paper. Senate Budget Committee staffers said they had asked informally for some information but never expected such a formal, detailed exposition.
Circulation of the document, covering nearly every major point of dispute in the conference and many minor ones, is the latest example of OMB Director David A. Stockman's fastidious pursuit of Reagan's budget priorities in Congress.
First, Reagan and Stockman got the Democratic-controlled House to accept their budget targets and their point-by-point prescription for spending cuts. Then they tried, but without success, to get the Republican-controlled Senate to buy the House-approved spending cuts without amendment in order to avoid any pitfalls in conference.
More recently, Stockman has been lobbying lawmakers on details of appropriations bills, in an exercise that drew the legislative equivalent of a warning shot across the bow yesterday from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.).
Noting that White House officials have been dropping hints about presidential vetoes of money bills, Whitten warned that any vetoed appropriations bill could be "rewritten from A to Z." By this, he apparently meant that the administration could lose as well as gain if it forced Congress to start rewriting appropriations bills.
"We've got to stand up, too," said Whitten. "We have cooperated," he added, observing that the appropriations bills approved so far have complied with overall budget targets, including the president's.
Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.), ranking Republican on the committee, said he conveyed similar thoughts to Stockman at a meeting Wednesday, but stressed that Stockman's concern was that actual outlays may nevertheless exceed the targets by $10 billion or more.
"There's no way . . . short of a miracle that they'll balance the budget in 1984," Conte contended. "They're in a helluva mess down there."
Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) challenged Stockman's prediction that there will be spending overruns, saying that defense outlays may fall short of spending targets by even more than domestic programs exceed them
The committee wound up its meeting by approving two more money bills -- $11.1 billion for Transportation and $8.7 billion for the State, Justice and Commerce departments -- that fall within overall budget targets but contain specific allocations that exceed Reagan's wishes.
For instance, the committee provided $288.5 million for the Economic Development Administration for which Reagan proposed only $50 million in phase-out money. It provided $70 million in law enforcement assistance grants, for which the administration requested no money. Its $4 billion allocation for urban mass transit programs exceeded the administration's request by $56.9 million.
The administration's proposals conflict in nearly every detail with a wish list from 24 House Republicans from the Northeast and Midwest, who said they consider it essential to reject the Medicaid cap, continue urban development grants as a separate program, provide as much low-income energy assistance as possible and continue operating subsidies for mass transit. An aide said some of these Republicans are undecided as to how they will vote on the conference agreement.