Some key congressional employees will get raises of up to $10,000 this year although Congress limited other federal workers to a 2 percent raise that works out to about $600 for the typical white-collar civil servant.
The special exemption was quietly inserted in a catchall continuing resolution Congress approved just before Christmas that contained a number of surprises. No member or group has claimed credit for the action that could boost the annual pay of some Capitol Hill aides to as much as $88,000.
Some beneficiaries of the surprise raises were unware of their good luck until it was reported this month in the Washington Whispers section of U.S. News & World Report magazine. Since then many federal workers have been whispering, and grumbling, about what they see as a double pay standard by the nation's lawmakers.
Congressional sources who asked not to be identified say the pay plan came from the Senate Democratic leadership and was designed to correct a pay "imbalance" between legislators and top aides. That pay gap widened in early 1987 when Congress, after sharing a 3 percent general pay raise with staff members, strategically "missed" the deadline for voting to reject a much bigger members-only raise along with smaller boosts for some senior civil service executives in March. That brought the pay for members of Congress to $89,500. Because that bigger raise didn't go to congressional staff members, it widened the Capitol Hill pay gap.
Because this is an election year, Congress denied itself (and many senior federal executives) the 2 percent raise okayed by the White House for other U.S. workers. But Congress used the occasion to improve interoffice relations.
That happened by inserting four paragraphs, written in congressional legalese, a useful language when one wants to get a job done without anybody knowing what's being done. It became part of the continuing resolution needed to fund operations of agencies whose budgets hadn't been approved by Congress at recess time.
The language insert means that some top congressional employees are now eligible for much higher raises than the 2 percent that is the limit for other federal workers.Politics
Federal and postal unions hope to have major input at this year's political conventions -- especially the Democratic convention -- by placing their people as delegates. Although active-duty federal workers are barred from partisan political activity by the Hatch Act, those who are on leave, retired or are spouses of employees can run as delegates.
Chester Linck, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Maryland state auxiliary, is running as a delegate pledged to Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.). He is un-Hatched although his wife, Baltimore letter carrier Michele Linck, is covered by the no-politics rule. Several dozen federal and postal retirees -- or auxiliary members -- in Maryland, the District and Virginia are running as delegates for Gore, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis or Jesse L. Jackson.