During 1985, Virginia Republican congressmen often found themselves in the uncomfortable position of opposing the man they had strongly supported during the 1984 elections: President Reagan.
The friction occurred most frequently on domestic issues involving federal workers, mass transit, and the ailing textile and shoe industries, both major industries in Virginia. On most foreign affairs and defense issues, area legislators consistently backed the Reagan administration.
Congressmen predict the disputes will become more heated this year, when the Reagan administration is expected to push for severe cuts in domestic spending that could result in layoffs of many federal workers in Washington.
The most dramatic clash occurred last month, when suburban Washington GOP Reps. Frank R. Wolf and Stan Parris opposed a massive tax overhaul bill, championed by Reagan, because the measure included a provision that would change pension tax rules for federal employes.
(Although the tax bill would not increase the total taxes paid in retirement, it would change the payment schedule. Currently federal retirees have a tax-free period, ranging from about 18 months to 3 years, before they have to start paying taxes on pensions. Under the bill, that tax-free period would be eliminated, creating financial planning problems, according to Wolf and Parris. The bill, which passed the House, has not been considered by the Senate.)
Wolf and Parris also voted last month against theGramm-Rudman-Hollings measure, which mandates automatic budget cuts if Congress fails to reduce the deficit to a certain level each year.
Virginia Republican Sens. Paul S. Trible and John W. Warner voted for the automatic deficit reduction measure, saying that the deficit was the nation's number one problem. Both said that Congress must do something dramatic to get federal spending under control.
But Parris and Wolf said Congress was abdicating its responsibility to set spending priorities. They also feared that the measure might be devastating to federal employes, who could face massive layoffs and have numerous benefits frozen.
Both Trible and Warner supported legislation limiting textile and shoe imports, despite strong opposition from President Reagan, who vetoed the bill. Parris also voted for the trade bill limiting textile and shoe imports, while Wolf voted against the import limits.
Textile and shoe companies in Virginia, like those throughout the nation, complained bitterly last year that they were unable to compete against cheap imports. Some shoe and textile companies in southern and western Virginia had laid off workers, cut pay, or closed down factories because of imports.
Congress finally passed a massive farm bill last month, which Reagan reluctantly signed. Warner voted against the conference report on the farm bill, while Parris and Wolf voted for it. Trible did not vote on the farm bill conference report, although in November he voted for the Senate version of the farm bill.
Warner said he opposed the measure because most Virginia farmers want the federal government to eliminate price support programs and move toward a market-oriented farm system. He said that farmers would benefit most from low interest rates, and that costly federal programs like the farm bill will only increase the deficit.
Warner, Trible, Parris and Wolf voted to continue the "superfund" hazardous waste cleanup program. Parris and Wolf opposed a new broad-based tax on manufacturers to fund the program, and voted with those who wanted to keep the burden on oil and chemical companies.
The Democratic-controlled House approved an amendment to continue focusing the tax burden on the petrochemical industry, while the Republican-controlled Senate voted instead for a general business tax. The House and Senate were not able to work out differences before adjournment.
Earlier in the year, Parris and Wolf both opposed GOP budget plans. Wolf said he was opposed to the proposed freeze in Social Security and government pensions, and efforts to freeze promotions for federal workers. Parris objected to proposed cuts in Amtrak and mass transit. Both Trible and Warner advocated an across-the-board freeze.