Two housewives from Southern Maryland drove an hour to Washington yesterday to personally deliver to President Carter a petition they said was signed by 2,000 people who, like they, are against the nearly $13,000 pay raise members of Congress are probably going to receive this year.
"We want to be sure he'll see it today," Arlene Walko said to the clerk in the mail room where the petitions were received and routinely examined.
"Well, this will be handled through channels," said clerk Manuel A. Mendoza, "it depends on his schedule . . . they can't just walk in and say 'hey, this just came in for you' . . . but anything that is hand-delivered gets special attention."
The two women thought that sounded encouraging and proceeded on to Capitol Hill where, they reported, they were well received by various congressional and senatorial aides.
Walko and friend Gale Crooks are among what appears to be a sizable number of Washington-area residents who object to the pay increase, which would boost salaries for members of Congress from $44,600 to $57,500 a year.
A survey of 12 Maryland and Virginia senators and House members shows that most have received an unusual number of calls and letters in the past week from people objecting to the proposed pay increase.
"It's nothing compared to the (reaction to the Saturday Night Massacre, which was an avalanche, but it's more than the current energy crisis," said Bobbi Avancena, a senior legislative assistant for Rep. Newton I. Steers (R-Md.) and one who used to work for Rep. Gilbert Gude (R-Md.). "In other words, it's not one of the all time biggies, but it's pretty hot."
The Saturday Night Massacre refers to the time former President Nixon fired two aides for their refusal to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archilbald Cox.
Objections to the pay raise are tied to the process under which it is likely to be enacted as much as to the financial increase, judging from interviews. Under a complicated parliamentary procedure, the pay raise will not be voted on - unless there is a move in either the House or Senate to vote it down. The Senate already has refused to block the increase.
To further complicate matters, the raise for elected officials is tied to a long-awaited raise for some 25,000 high-level civil servants, judges, Cabinet members and the Vice President, Chief Justice, and Speaker of the House, Supporters of the increase argue it is essential in order for government to compete with the salaries offered by the provate sector.
"I think they should get a raise," said Walko, who makes $11,000 a year a secretary. "But not such a big one. The rest of American people get 3 per cent or 5 per cent increases and I think they should come down to that."
Most Washington-are representatives and senators are neither flatly for nor against the increase. It has inspired a flurry of bills submitted by local lawmakers and others - to make the raise for legislators contingent on a code of ethics, to separate pay increases for Congress from civil servants, to prohibit a sitting Congress from enacting a pay raise for itself.
Only three local legislators - Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (Ind-Va.), and Reps. Marjorie S. Holt (R-md.) and Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.) are against any pay raise at all.
And only three, Sens. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.) Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) and William L. Scott (R-Va.) are for it with no strings attached.
"I'm for the pay increase," said Scott. "People don't realize we're talking about mature individuals here, highly educated people - even members of Congress - who were lawyers, or college professors, presidents of corporations befor they came here. The Senate shouldn't deteriorate into a club for millionires."
Several local legislators share President Carter's view that the raise should be tied to enactment of a code of ethcis that would limit a member's sources of outside income, such as lecture fees, and require stringent financial disclosure procedures. Reps. Herbert E. Harris (D-Va.), Joseph L. Fisher (D-Va.), Gladys Noon Spellman (D-Md.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) share this view.
The White House has a special "comment" line for citizens to voice their opinions, 456-2852. White House officials were unable to say yesterday how many calls had been received either supporting or opposing the raise.