CONGRESS is giving President Reagan another chance. Disappointed by his post-election pocket veto of the Clean Water Act, passed unanimously by the 99th Congress, the newly convened House of Representatives of the 100th Congress has already reintroduced and passed, 406-8, the same bill. It is now going to the Senate, where, with 75 cosponsors already, it is expected to pass by a similarly comfortable margin.
And so President Reagan should fairly soon have a second opportunity to show he is in tune with Congress and the public on the environment, and sign the bill. The designation of the bill as HR 1 shows how important the House considers it. HR 1 certainly has broad bipartisan support, including that of leading House Republicans such as Robert Michel of Illinois and Trent Lott of Mississippi.
The President's quarrel with the bill, which he has called a ``budget-buster,'' is over its funding levels, $20 billion over eight years. But, in the words of Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt (R) of Arkansas, those levels are both ``environmentally responsive and fiscally responsible.''
The 99th Congress clearly had the votes to override a veto and would have done so had the timing made it possible: The President waited till after the election to kill the bill.
If he vetoes the new bill, an override seems inevitable.
Environmental protection remains a top concern for Americans in general, and not just the counterculturists and ``alternative'' crowd. Of all the things big government does, environmental protection is probably the area where it is most effective, acting as no other entity can to make a positive difference.
Not to minimize environmental problems in the United States - indeed, HR 1 goes at a number of ``new'' pollution issues that the earlier Clean Water did not. And new environmental concerns arise in almost any place undergoing urbanization and industrialization.
But many Americans can see examples of significant environmental improvement close to home - a river fishable or swimmable once more, or maybe just a river that no longer catches fire.
To repeat our earlier advice to you, Mr. President: Sign the bill.