SENATE Democrats, given a White House blessing to write their own deficit-reduction plan, are trying to shrink President Clinton's proposed energy tax and make it less worrisome to United States exporters.
The tax still would be paid by consumers. Instead of raising the price of gasoline by 8 cents a gallon, the increase might be only 6 cents; the increase in the typical home electric bill might be $1.75 or so a month, rather than $2.25.
"We are talking and we are confident we'll get an agreement" that will pass the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate, majority leader George Mitchell (D) of Maine said Tuesday.
A day earlier, Mr. Clinton acknowledged he could not win his plan and gave the Finance Committee the green light to make changes - within reason. He said any bill must cut the deficit by at least $500 billion over five years, most of the tax must be paid by upper-income people and the plan must include a broad energy tax.
Despite the concession, budget director Leon Panetta said yesterday on Fox TV, "overall, 90 percent of the president's plan is going to be what the Senate is going to have to act on," just as about 90 percent of the original bill was accepted by the House. New Appointments
Former Vice President Walter Mondale has accepted Clinton's offer to become ambassador to Japan, an administration official said yesterday. The administration is eager to install a new ambassador before the July economic summit in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, the White House announced that New Hampshire political consultant J. Joseph Grandmaison will be nominated to be director of the Trade and Development Agency. Mr. Grandmaison, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, endorsed Clinton when his campaign was faltering shortly before the New Hampshire primary.