Tax opportunity

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives tomorrow has a chance to unite with the GOP-led Senate in getting the federal budget back on track. Congress seems to have just two things on its mind - leaving for Thanksgiving recess and getting ready for next year's elections. The one thing holding them in the nation's capital is the need to raise the debt ceiling. But they can do better than that.

The House will consider a bill that, with amendments, could reach the $73 billion revenue target over three years, as called for in the first budget resolution. The basic measure would raise $10 billion, a tax-reform package would raise another $31.7 billion, a freeze on parts of the original 1981 tax hikes that haven't gone into effect would raise $11.7 billion, and a $700 cap on the third year of the tax cut (previously passed in the House but stopped in the Senate) to take effect January 1 would add another $19.8 billion.

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that, with an election year coming, and a firm White House ''no'' to tax increases before 1985, Congress should not bother about either the deficit or preserving the budget process.

But House passage and sending of the bill to the Senate would likely bolster the case of Sen. Robert Dole, the Republican finance committee chairman, who is trying to arouse that chamber to the same end.

It's obviously late in the legislative season. Congress wants to go home. Still, if Wall Street also gets into the act, it is not too late to strengthen the hand of those in the White House who want to get started quickly on deficit-slimming revenue adjustments, as well as those who would slow the rate of increase in entitlement benefit spending.

Otherwise the whole issue is off until after next year's elections - a long recess indeed from fiscal responsibility.

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