The loss of a few bucks normally isn't noticed in a town where billion dollar expenditures are routine, and where the Pentagon light bill is higher than the GNP of some developing nations.

But the time loss of a 42-cents-a-minute government official is important when it centers on a power struggle between Congress and the White House over how the bureaucracy is to be run. Example:

Civil Service Chairman Alan K. Campbell earns just about 42 cents a minute ($52,500 a year for 40-hour week) for heading the federal merit agency. Lately, his main chore has been to sell Congress and the public on the White House plan to modernize the 90-year-old federal personnel system.

Campbell's Wednesday morning assignment was to continue that sales Pitch on the important, controversial reorganization plan to the House. He wa cut off before he got started.

On that Wednesday morning Campbell and his staff and lots of high-priced talent from the media, the government and the unions showed up for day number two of hearings on the civil service "reform" package.

At the appointed hour for the hearings to begin, Post Office-Civil Service Committee Chairman Robert N.C. Nix (D-Pa) announced that there would be no hearings. The reason, he said,was to give up the White House time to clear up a "misunderstanding" over the president's stance on postal reform legislation. Nix and other key members of Congress have been irked by the White House's lukewarn attitude toward the postal bill that AFLCIO union leaders say is necessary to save the mail service.

What happened was that the White House distributed a letter to Rules Committee members that sid, in effect, that Jimmy Carter isn't all that crazy about the postal reform bill now in the committee must clear the bill before the House can vote on it.

Nix and his staff didn't like the tone of the White House letter, the timing of its delivery or anything else about the affair. Realizing that he had a prize "hostage" before him - the president's civil service reform plan - Nix called off the hearings until the matter could be cleared up.

Within minutes of the hearing cancellation, the White House called Nix and asked politely if he could send someone downtown for a talk. Nix did. The emissary liked what he heard, and reported back to Nix that the White House - while not favoring the postal bill - wouldn't try to stop it. Shortly therafter, Nix announced that hearings would be resumed next week on the president's reform plan.

CSC chief Campbell and the others who found they had some time to kill were pawns in a power struggle between the executive and legislative branches. Since the battleground for now is the House, the House won the skirmish.

The White House found that it had gone out to play hardball with Congress minus a protective batting helmet. It got beaned, and apolozied to the pitcher, Chairman Nix, for letting its head get in the way of his fastball.

The Nix committee found that, so long as it has civil service reform under its control, it has a very valuable tool that can be used to keep the White House in line on matters of interest to the committee.

Wayne Horvitz, director of the Federal Medition and Concilliation Service, will be the speaker at a luncheon Wednesday sponsored by the Society of Federal Labor Relations Professionals. Call 525-1914 for time, place and reservations.

Tom Smith has taken over the retiree news column for the American Federation of Government employees newspaper. Smith replaces the late Bob Salyers, who began the column for retired AFGE members and active workers interested in retirement legislation.

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