The president has vetoed the new atomic aircraft carrier on the novel grounds that it is useless. Utility has never been a criterion for public expenditure and to make it one now is prejudicial to orderly government.

The House has vetoed the next installment on the Senate Office Building, which is already under construction. Heretofore, the most expensive, the costliest building ever constructed pound for pound or square foot for square foot was the Rayburn House Office Building, so it wasn't frugality which made the House put a halt to the Senate construction but apprehension lest its record for opulent extravagance be broken by the upper chamber.

The way out of this three-cornered dilemma is to go ahead with the atomic aircraft carrier but use it as the new Senate Office Building. The appearance of additional economies can be had bu employing the ship to package senatorial junkets. On especially smoggy, muggy Washington days, the Senate might even want to invite the House on board this atomically powered Camp David and take the boys and girls on a cruise down the Potomac.

In election years, Congress is supposed to rein itself in and avoid expensive treats. Otherwise, the voters may rise up and smite the members, but it's been decades since Congress got a good smoting from the electorate. A few Republicans lost seats believed to be safely theirs in the Watergate election of '74, but you have to go all the way back to the early 1950s to find an eaample of one of the parties being massively turned out of control of both houses of Congress.

When incumbents do lose, it seldom seems to have much to do with what kind of a record Congress as a whole has made for itself. The impression among the minority who bother to cast a ballor in the congressional race is that every other congressperson is a rascal, but my guy - neologisms aside, most congresspersons are white men - is okay.

Surveys suggest that members of Congress often have views on issues strikingly at variance with those of the home folks. In most cases, it makes little difference in an election although there are exceptions such as the Second District in Colorado. There the news is that Timothy Wirth, a two-term Democrat, is in trouble because he's too liberal for his conservative district. Wirth still may be able to win in November, however, because incumbents have voted themselves so many advantages over challengers and because whether they're liberal or conservative all effective congressmen and senators vote and serve their districts in the same fashion. The congressman who rails against war expenditures is busy supporting new contracts for the bomb factory in his district; likewise, the conservative who shrieks about federal aid for schooling makes sure his district gets its cut.

Not only are party differences unimportant but even differences in individual members' beliefs and balues can be exaggerated. They don't have as many choices and aren't nearly the free agents we take them to be and they pride themselves in thinking they are. They survive by fitting into a power mosaic, the design of which isn't especially susceptible to their individual wills any more than it is to ours.

In understanding Congress, the similarities are much more important than the differences in party, beliefs, or style of behavior. The system of selection of people to these jobs is such that the same kind get them almost all the time.

Summing it up, sociologist Richard Zweigenhaft writes, "A thumbnail sketch of the 'typical' senator of today would not differ significantly from the 'typical' senator of 1942 . . . Sen. Typical is a 59-year-old, white professional male lawyer; his father was a lawyer-businessman; he received his B.A. from a prestigious East Coast college, then returned home and received his law degree from the state university; prior to entering politics, he was a practicing lawyer. A view of the 'typical' member of the House would not differ except that he would be in his early 50s rather than his late 50s." So for understanding, look not to political parties or to ideology, but to what that kind of person in our society is thinking just now.

When you go to the polls, assuming you still do that, the chances are if you vote against congressman Typical you will be voting for candidate Typical, who upon being sworn in will become congreesman Typical. In any event, we Americans can be proud we have the first sea-born, atomic-powered legislature.