A bipartisan rescue party is riding through the halls of Congress this week, attempting to save pay raises for federal workers and incumbency for themselves.
From the right charged Virginia Republican Reps. Stanford E. Parris and Frank Wolf, pledging to break with their GOP colleagues in the Senate to secure 5 percent pay increases for current workers and to protect cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.
From the left rallied Maryland Democrats, Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Reps. Michael Barnes and Steny Hoyer, denouncing the Reagan administration in general and its jobs chief Donald Devine in particular.
The two sides met in the middle, jousting for the opportunity to attach their names to amendments that would right these election-year wrongs. There was the Parris Amendment, the Wolf Amendment and the Hoyer Amendment, sometimes known as the Hoyer-Barnes Amendment and even the Hoyer-Holt Amendment, an odd coupling uniting the liberal Hoyer and conservative Republican Rep. Marjorie Holt of Maryland.
Amidst all the ruckus, the best that federal workers could hope for is to come out of the wild budget process with fewer wounds than they got last year, according to their lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
"This year all the coalitions trying to get their budgets passed are jockeying for support from all groups," said one lobbyist as he stood behind the red velvet ropes that mark the marble walkway to the House chamber. "We have a chance of coming out with fewer Band-Aids than last year, but that's about all."
Still, that didn't stop him and his cohorts from plying their trade.
"Breathing down their necks, huh?" one congressman friendly to federal workers kidded the lobbyist as he watched him collar a colleague. "Keep it up."
Outside on the Capitol steps, Terry Rogers, the lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, accosted a California congressman to extoll the virtues of the 7 percent pay raise contained in the Hoyer-Holt amendment. Seconds later, he marked a "Yes" by the congressman's name in his bright pink House worksheet that contained a spot for each of the 435 members.
While the lobbyists did their bit, the officeholders were sparing nothing in putting their views before those who could carry them back to the voters.
On Monday, Parris and Wolf had invited selected representatives of the federal workers and retirees to a private meeting in the tasteful offices of House Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
"We just wanted to tell them of the efforts of Frank and Stan on their behalf," Lott later explained in his soft Southern drawl. "I just wanted them to know, well, just how much Frank and Stan have been harassing me about these [federal employe] issues."
While the Republicans went the route of the private meeting with the big name to impress their constituents, Democrats Sarbanes, Barnes and Hoyer packed a House hearing room to denounce Devine, the head of the Office of Personnel Management, for his comment Sunday at a Montgomery County gathering that federal layoffs are a "non-problem" being exaggerated by a hostile news media.
"He either has no idea what's going on . . . or he's one of the most insensitive individuals serving in government," Barnes asserted, before joining Hoyer and Sarbanes in calling for Devine to resign.
A spokesman for Devine retorted that the "insensitive ones are Barnes and Sarbanes and Hoyer" for using the issue of reductions in force "to scare people into voting for them." Devine, he said, "thinks the voters ought to retire them."
And while the legislators held their news conferences, lobbied their fellow members of Congress and spewed out "Dear Colleague" letters to press for their votes, the amendments have yet to come to the House floor. Although most of the rescuers pledged to vote for all the amendments favorable to federal workers, regardless of whose name the amendment carries, there was clearly some concern over getting credit for any gains.
When Wolf's name was inadvertently left out of the Congressional Record on his amendment to ensure cost-of-living increases for retirees, his staff feared that he would not get to introduce the proposal--identical to one sponsored by Parris. "We almost had a heart attack when we couldn't find his name," said one aide. "But, thank God, we got it straightened out."