HOW SERIOUSLY DOES Congress take its responsibility for airport policy-making? Some indication is due today, when the House is scheduled to act on an important question of balanced air traffic throughout the national capital area. At stake is a modest but forward-looking proposal by Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole for orderly growth and limitation of air traffic at National Airport. A provision has been inserted in the appropriations bill for the department that would kill Mrs. Dole's plan--and it is this provision that the House should reject.

The chief opponents of Mrs. Dole's plan are those airlines interested in whatever the traffic will bear, and those members of Congress who have been led to believe--wrongly--that the DOT proposal would somehow eliminate their favorite flight home. Not so. Mrs. Dole's policy, supported by a bipartisan House coalition led by Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, would not affect a single flight now in operation at National. It is merely a logical follow-up to an important earlier agreement to strike a better balance between the uses of National and Dulles International. It calls for a future ceiling on passenger traffic that still is above today's level.

That this is an issue of concern throughout the national capital area is set forth strongly in a letter to the House members that is signed by every top locally elected executive and legislative officeholder in the District, Maryland and Virginia. They are merely asking the House to drop language that would prohibit outright Mrs. Dole's plan for controlled growth at National. That, and not anybody's current arrangements in and out of town, is what members should consider--and what should lead them to strike the prohibition now in the bill.