You may have heard various statements on television this week about federal salaries that confused you. Unfortunately, as with most things Congress does, the truth frequently is stranger than fiction and nearly always harder to explain and understand. For instance:
On Tuesday, the House was deep into consideration of phase one of a new overall federal budget. The idea was to set goals or targets for spending. Rep. Otis Pike (D.N.Y.) introduced an amendment that would whack $7 million from the upcoming fiscal year funds needed to finance the 29 per cent pay raise members of Congress got in February.
If congress had wanted to refuse the pay raise -- which also went to political appointees, federal judges and nearly 20,000 senior level civil servants -- it could have said so in February. It did not.
But when Pike demanded a record vote on his $7 million pay-cutting resolution, it put the House on the spot. For a moment anyhow. Members voted for the pay cut, and that is what caused some people to think Congress was going to take a pay cut. They should have known better.
When the pay cut news item hit the 11 p.m. news many top-level government employees (judging by calls to The Washington Post) thought they were going to be zapped too.
But, as congress sometimes does when faced with unpleasant bits of legislation, the House changed its mind.The next day it voted to kill the entire tentative budget proposal, including its earlier deletion of the $7 million for congressional salaries.
Congressional experts (sometimes called "cynics") say that even if the House had stuck with its $7 million fund cut, the money to continue the raises through next year -- forever in fact -- would have been found. To be on the safe side, however, the entire again today on another budget cut resolution.
Pike also proposed a budget cut of $130 million from the government salary fund. That, if it had been successful, could conceivably have wiped out the February increases that federal judges, political appointees and supegrade-level civil servants got. But somebody pointed out that it is unconstitutional to cut the salaries of sitting federal judges, and the House judges, political appointees and supervoted down that item along with the entire budget package.
There will be more action on the budget front. And there probably will be new assaults on the congressional-legislative-judicial pay raises.
But the attacking army is too small to get the votes -- so don't lose any sleep over the possibility of a congressional pay cut.
Military Retirees: Two groups --with very different ideas about the 141,000 retired military personnel holding down civil service jobs -- have had separate meetings with top White House officials. President Carter has expressed concern about "double dippers" (military retirees drawing retirement pay and civil service salaries), which is why people are upset, or hopeful, depending on their view of the retirees.
The National Taxpayers Union wants the Carter administration to crack down on double-dippers. It says some retirees are drawing as much as $50,000 or more from Uncle Sam, and that many ex-military people in government operate a buddy system to hire and promote former fellow officers.
A counter group, of military retirees in government, has given the White House statistics arguing that the retirees save Uncle Sam millions of dollars because they take advantage of military medical programs. Insiders say that whatever President Carter does, he will not try to eliminate the current pay, benefits or jobs of military retirees already in government.