THE WHITE HOUSE has been angrily denouncing the Senate Budget Committee for its disobedience in failing to follow the Reagan non-plan. A "gross disservice," huffed the president's spokesman. On the contrary, the president has steered his budget into a place from which nothing is visible but $200 billion-a- year deficits as far as the eye can see. Over the president's objections, Congress is trying to find a way out. The chairman of the Senate committee, Sen. Pete Domenici, is setting a remarkable example of realistic and responsible initiative that contrasts favorably with the performance at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mr. Domenici has repeatedly told the White House he will work with it to pass the best possible budget resolution. But he is determined to pass a resolution, and he is not inclined to let presidential intransigence block it. The resolution is already behind schedule. First Mr. Reagan pressed the committee to hold off its votes on defense spending to enable him to round up support; the committee gave him several weeks' delay, but it didn't do him any visible good. Then Mr. Reagan objected vehemently to the committee's provision for a tax increase. Because several of the committee's Republicans refused to support any new revenues at all, Mr. Domenici had no choice but to work with the Democrats. When the resolution comes to the floor, he will try to scale back the requirement for tax increases in 1984. But he is determined to get a resolution enacted--and he is absolutely right on that.
Mr. Reagan is now being pulled by three clearly discernible factions among his own staff. One of them is chiefly interested in maintaining the very rapid increases in defense spending. One is adamant about holding down taxes. The third is worried about his large deficits and the high interest rates that they perpetuate. To do anything about the deficits will require modifying the defense plans and raising taxes. Sen. Domenici has been warning him about that, with absolute consistency, for a year and a half. The president's budget director, David Stockman, made much the same point in the very candid memorandum that leaked last week. But Mr. Reagan so far is giving priority to defense spending and low taxes--to the dismay of many of his own party.
That seems to be Mr. Reagan's style on budgets. He strikes a posture, and waits for Congress to intervene on the side of reality and necessity. He did it last year, and he is doing it again this year. Congress is rising to the challenge remarkably effectively. And when the White House attacks senators for departing from the presidential position, perhaps it is not to be taken entirely seriously.