White House aides sent to clear a congressional path for the president's federal pay reform plan may need helmets, ear plugs and a smile-though - your - heart - is - breaking outlook to survive this summer's Capitol Hill trek.
Key Democrats on the House committee that will okay, or kill, the compensation package greeted it yesterday with the warmth normally reserved for the skunk who upsets a church picnic.
President Carterhs pay proposal would link white collar government civilian salary rates to hometown industry levels; and make federal adjustments each year after comparing Uncle Sam's wages and fringes with similar package in industry. Big business groups already have endorsed the plan. And the White House has already mounted a major public relations campaign similar to the successful blitz that helped win civil service reform.
While Republicans sit back and enjoy the disharmony, Democrats on the Post Office-Civil Service committee are - to varying degrees - ticked off with the White House on a variety of issues:
Chairman James M. Hanley (D-N.Y.) is still stung by what aides characterize as a "rude and crude" handwritten note from Carter following a lengthy explanation from Hanley why he, and most Democrats, voted against stand-by gasoline rationing.
Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.) seems to be in a don't-get-mad-get-even mood because White House officials apparently tried to have her compensation subcommittee cut out of the pay reform act.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) says the pay reform campaign appears headed, like the selling of civil service reform, at convincing the public that federal workers are "over-paid, underworked, lazy, impossible to fire and nonproductive."
On the House floor yesterday Schroeder, who represents a sizable federal constituency in Denver, said she is "sick and tired" of having federal workers used as "scapegoats responsible for all the woes of society."
At the head of the list of federal workers who are "incompetent and overpaid," Schroeder said, she would place Energy Secretary James Schlesinger, Wage and Price Stability director Barry P. Bosworth, and "big brass at the Pentagon" well ahead of any government clerks, air traffic controllers and computer operators.
Schroeder said plans to trim blue collar federal pay by eliminating longevity pay steps could help "union busters" in the private sector hold down pay rates.
Rep. Herbert Harris (D-Va.) believes many representatives "got burned" in quickly endorsing civil service reform, and they will be "more cautious" and more suspicious of the pay reform plan.
"Just because they put 'reform' in the title," Harris said, "doesn't mean it's good." Harris also said administration attempts to "short circuit" the Spellman subcommittee "met with a great deal of resentment up here." He predicted Spellman's subcommittee will handle the bill, and that it will have very rough sledding.