White House counselor Edwin Meese III called yesterday for major changes in the budget process that would, in effect, transfer power from Congress to the executive branch and limit the extent to which administration officials have to answer congressional inquiries.
Speaking at a conference on the budget at the Brookings Institution, Meese proposed:
* A line-item veto for the president. Congress now can make spending decisions "almost veto-proof," Meese said, by linking spending that the president may want to veto with budget decisions he may be unwilling to veto.
* A two-year budget cycle. This would cut the amount of time congressmen and officials spend on the budget process and free them to pursue particular issues in greater depth, he said.
* A reexamination of the relationship between Congress and the executive branch, aimed at limiting the amount of time officials must spend responding to congressional inquiries. These were often initiated by congressional staffers rather than congressmen, Meese said.
Meese said the ideas for changing the budget process were his own, not necessarly those of the administration.
However, President Reagan and Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman have supported the line-item veto as a means of exerting more control over federal spending. The proposed constitutional amendment to balance the budget and limit federal taxes would also involve a shift of power from Congress to the executive, analysts believe.
Meese defended at length Reagan's proposed cuts in social programs. He said that the administration has a different way of approaching "people issues" that had led to "comment and fervor," but that it is determined to look after the neediest in society.
Meese did not respond directly to a questioner who asked him to name three or four programs under which Reagan's changes had helped the poor. While looking after the "truly needy," he said, Reagan is attempting to reduce benefits going to the "truly ineligible."
Reagan's proposed shift of federal programs and responsibilities to state and local governments was not an abdication of leadership, Meese said. "We feel the president was not elected to be a national mayor."