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Congress returning to tough choices. Trade, farm policy, taxes, deficit all vie for attention in coming session

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At town meetings, in private sessions, and at picnics during the summer break, the nation's lawmakers have heard common themes from constituents. Loss of jobs from foreign competition, the federal deficit, and farm woes are top issues in the countryside. But as members of Congress return to the capital for the fall session, they have found little agreement for action on those fronts.

The one consensus emerging is resistance to key parts of President Reagan's tax reform proposal. Voters showed little to no enthusiasm for overhauling the tax code. Most of the attention came from interest groups and individuals asking their representative to protect favorite tax benefits.

Rep. Robert T. Matsui (D) met with 800 constituents in large groups in his Sacramento, Calif., district and found that only a very few of them said they favored tax reform.

During two days of meetings around his state, a chief sponsor of tax reform Sen. Bob Kasten (R) of Wisconsin concentrated on farm and industrial problems. He was approached by a purposeful constituent during a festival at the Milwaukee zoo and asked, ``Why are you voting for the tax bill?'' The questioner, who explained he was concerned about losing his deduction for state and local taxes, admonished, ``Keep an open mind on that.''

The issue of foreign trade heated to a near boil during the summer. President Reagan's rejection of quotas for shoe imports brought criticism in hard-pressed areas and predictions of fast action as Congress returns.

But a closer look at the issue shows that lawmakers are still divided about how to act on trade.

Sen. Dale Bumpers (D) of Arkansas denounced President Reagan's decision on shoes, a major industry in his state. Republican Rep. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine charged that the quota rejection ``represented blind allegiance to an archaic trade theory at a time when we desperately need a tough, effective trade policy.''


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