House Democratic strategists, while deploring President Reagan's projected deficits, said yesterday they intend to make Republicans take the lead in any effort to reduce deficits by raising taxes.
While not committing himself, Rep. Dan. Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he could envisage his panel passing "a small revenue enhancement bill and then letting Dole do all the big stuff." Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) is chairman of the Republican-controlled Finance Committee.
"I want to put this economy on their the administration's feet," Rostenkowski said. In an effort to maintain the pressure on the GOP, Rostenkowski said that if he is to put out any tax increases, "I need, in order to keep my Democrats in a pleasant frame of mind, at least nine" of the 12 committee Republicans supporting the legislation.
"They Republicans decided how large the tax cut would be last year; now they can decide how big the tax increase will be this year," an aide to the House leadership said.
This posture is fully expected by the Senate Republican leadership. Yesterday, Dole said he met recently with Rostenkowski and "he's willing that we proceed on the Senate side" with a tax bill.
"You can't expect him to be the point man for the administration," Dole said.
Outlining a likely scenario, one Ways and Means Committee source described the following:
The Democratic-controlled panel will take up the assortment of tax increases, loophole closings and other shifts Reagan has proposed to raise $31.7 billion in 1983 and 1984 and alter them considerably.
"The administration will not get what it asked for, but it will get its revenue goal." And as the committee frames its alternatives, "it is not going to be a nice spring for the oil industry," the source said, echoing repeated threats by Democrats to try to take back some of the $11.2 billion the 1981 tax bill gave the oil industry last year. These breaks grew out of a bidding war between the administration and House Democratic leaders for the votes of southern Democratic conservatives.
In addition, House Democrats and Senate Republicans are expected to try either to eliminate or to restrict significantly the controversial "leasing" provisions of the 1981 bill, under which corporations have been allowed to buy and sell tax breaks.
Under this scenario, the House bill, while differing in content from the Reagan proposals, would not raise any more revenue than the administration's measures provide for. Instead, any increase would require either the active support of a majority of House Republicans along with the president, or additional increases would be left to the Senate.
In the Senate, Dole and Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Budget Committee, are considering an effort to try to increase taxes by at least $5 billion more than Reagan has proposed. Dole warned, however, that in an election year, "we won't have much success without him [the president] aboard."