If "Washington Monument Cut" ever makes the dictionary, it will be defined something like this:

Noun; A threatening term, limited generally to the Washington, D.C., area: Describes the action a federal agency sometimes takes when its budget is endangered. For example: if Congress cuts the Interior Department budget, the department might retaliate by shutting down the elevators to the Washington Monument. When angry tourists from Des Moines ask why they must hike up the 555-foot shaft, they are told it is because Congress wants them to get a heart attack.

The Treasury Department recently tried to pull a Washington Monument Cut on Congress. But it ran into a buzz saw named Howard Baker, the majority leader of the Senate.

What Treasury did was say that unless it got some more money, fast, it would not be able to mail out nearly 30 million Social Security, VA and federal retirement checks for June delivery.

Treasury officials pointed out that their Bureau of Government Financial Operations had not been given enough money to keep up with postage rates, which went up last year from 18 to 20 cents per letter.

Treasury said it had been living hand-to-mouth for months to get the extra postage money, but that unless it got a special appropriation by the middle of last week, the checks would not go in the mail.

When word of the predicament leaked out, thousands of people called and wrote Capitol Hill. They wanted to know what it was all about, why Treasury was short of money, what Congress was doing about it, and reminding legislators that elections are coming up in a few months. It was a classic Washington Monument Cut threat.

Congress, as we all know, is a little behind in its budget approvals.

The idea was to put the heat on Congress and get it cracking. Well, it did put the heat on Congress. But rather than vote Treasury more stamp money, Sen. Baker got on the telephone and advised Treasury Department officials to find a way--or else.

The or else was not made public. People like Baker are rarely asked for definitions.

Treasury looked around and discovered that it did, after all, have some spare funds elsewhere that it could--and you better believe, did--transfer over to the BGFO so that the checks did go out on time.