For the third year running, Congress rejected the Reagan administration's efforts to eliminate the Commerce Department's major grant programs, approving instead a $2.1 billion budget that is 27 percent higher than President Reagan's fiscal 1985 request.

From the administration's perspective, that's an improvement. Last year, Congress gave Commerce 34 percent more money than Reagan had requested.

The White House had hoped to pare about $500 million from Commerce, largely by abolishing the Economic Development Administration and eliminating several other grant programs, including "trade adjustment assistance" for workers idled by import competition.

Congress pumped $200 million back into the politically popular EDA and provided $25 million for trade adjustment aid.

It also approved $39 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant program, which supports university research on marine topics, and $24 million for construction of public broadcasting facilities. The administration had sought to eliminate both programs.

The administration fared better in its efforts to increase spending in some areas. The Census Bureau got $35 million for an early start on the 1990 census, as well as more money for surveys of participants in government benefit programs.

Congress also accepted an increase in funding for the Patent and Trademark Office, which is in the third year of an ambitious modernization program. Commerce also got a $1 million increase -- a third of its request -- for "sector-specific" economic analysis, through which the department hopes to improve its ability to forecast activity in specific business categories.

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration also proved once again to be more popular with Congress than with the administration. Commerce had requested $8.6 million for the division; Congress provided $12 million and told the department to use some of it to open new overseas offices in Italy, the Netherlands and Australia. The appropriations bill did not, however, specify the cities.