The measure meets one of the objectives of the Reagan administration: elimination of the construction grant program. After eight years, it will be replaced by a revolving loan fund for new construction. Although the White House wanted only a $6 billion pricetag on the act, $18 billion is not extravagant in light of what needs to be done. Republicans in Congress are quick to point out that Mr. Reagan won't get anything better if Congress has to start over on the bill next session.
The Clean Water Act now sits on President Reagan's desk. Because of White House concern that Congress has earmarked too much money for water projects over too long a time, the bill very well may die there. Not before Tuesday, certainly, for no one wants to be accused of being against clean water - but after the election. That way, nobody can be blamed.
Strangely enough, the prospect of such an ignominious burial has not evinced a howl of protest from members of Congress, even candidates foraging for meaty campaign issues. Democrats, who could accuse the White House of stonewalling one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation to come out of Congress in years, have been quiet. Many Republicans, who could turn enactment of the Clean Water Act into high-value political hay, haven't gone on the offensive with the White House.
Particularly troubling is the silence from some of the congressional players who helped craft the law - Reps. Bob Edgar (D., Pa.), Robert A. Roe (D., N.J.) and James J. Howard (D., N.J). Pennsylvania and New Jersey are due to receive much-needed public-works projects that will be lost if the bill dies on the President's desk.
Every member of Congress who voted for the bill - and that's everybody - ought now to be demanding a presidential signature. The Clean Water Act is a good piece of legislation. By all means, the President should sign it into law.