Reshape the budget and the budget process
With Congress's interminable budget process in the spotlight again, we turn with some relief to recent proposals for improving legislative processes. They will be aired more thoroughly at a hearing of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee scheduled for next Monday. It is to be hoped that this burst of attention for a Senate study group report will not simply once more mark the place where a valuable document sank without trace.
Former senators Abraham Ribicoff and James Pearson have lent their knowledge and prestige to the study. If its recommendations were in place, the budget process would be eased in the following ways:
* There would be a biennial budget and appropriating process. ''The workload is becoming too great for the Congress to pass all of the general appropriation bills in one year, if it is to give each such bill due consideration.''
* Appropriation bills would be divided into two groups, with half to be passed in each year. ''There is nothing in the Consititution that would prohibit or restrict this type of procedure.''
* The role of the present Budget Committees of the two houses would be restored to other existing committees. The Budget Committees were themselves part of a reform effort. But the Senate's study says that its Budget Committee has reached the point of ''taking over the responsibilities and jurisdiction of the other standing committees, a purpose which the Senate did not have in mind when it originally adopted the Congressional Budget Act.''
The present Budget Committee in each house would become a subcommittee linked to the standing committees most closely concerned with governmental spending and revenue. Even if only the Senate were to act, according to the study, it would be a good start. For one thing, the number of senators involved in the budget would be increased, ''giving the whole Senate more knowledge and control of the receipts and expenditures by our government.''
Such a change would be part of an effort to enhance senatorial committee efficiency. At present some senators serve on as many as 16 committees and subcommittees.
Remedy: Consolidate standing committees into 13, divided into three groups. Allow each senator to serve on only one committee in each of the three groups.
Nobody is suggesting that here is the last word on congressional reform, budgetary or general. Yet here are first words that could lead to future legislative business moving less lumberingly than at this moment.