If Congress decides to fall on its own budget sword, Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) wants to make sure federal executives don't get stuck in the process.

House Republicans are considering giving up part of the 3.4 percent raise members of Congress are due next year as part of across-the-board budget cuts. That would have an effect on any pay raises authorized for the government's nearly 10,000 career and political executives. Since the elite Senior Executive Service was created by the Carter administration, its pay has been linked to, and often capped by, the salaries of House and Senate members.

SES members and their counterparts in other agencies, such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Defense Intelligence Agency, are expected to get raises of about 3.4 percent next year. That would be the same as the partial cost-of-living adjustment that Congress is due.

SES-level raises won't be effective until President Clinton authorizes them. He's expected (but not required) to do that in an executive order next month.

But in a letter yesterday to the House leadership, Moran warned colleagues that a proposal to trim part of the congressional pay raise could reduce the size of raises for SES members.

The Republican leadership has promised to exempt military personnel and most federal civilian workers from reduced pay raises. Congress has approved--and President Clinton has signed--legislation giving federal civilian and military personnel a 4.8 percent raise in January. The exact amount of the civilian raise will vary, depending on how much of the increase the White House earmarks for locality pay. But nonexecutive white-collar federal workers will get an average raise of 4.8 percent--with some getting slightly more and some slightly less.

Because of pay caps and freezes, most SES members in the three highest grades are paid the same salary, $125,900. Some lower-ranking SES members earn only a few hundred dollars a year less than their SES bosses.

The original congressional pay raise of 3.4 percent would have increased the cap on SES base pay from $118,400 to $122,400 and increased the cap on total pay (including locality pay) from $125,900 to $130,200.

But if Congress trims its own pay increase, Moran says, it could hit thousands of career federal executives, unless Congress decides to exempt the executives--in writing--from its own pay sacrifice.

Waiting in Line Yesterday's Federal Diary passed on a complaint from a downtown federal worker who had used up his lunch break trying (without success) to mail a package at the Washington Square post office. That generated lots of response, all by e-mail, such as:

* "I most certainly agree with the comments . . . about the lines at the post office. I work in Bethesda, and everyday at lunch time, the Bethesda post office is OVERFLOWING with customers, because it seems that several of the clerks are also taking lunch breaks. Now what kind of nonsense does this make? Everyone can't be at lunch at the same time. PRIVATIZATION! PRIVATIZATION! PRIVATIZATION!" -- Tony Young.

* "The Postal Service is innovative in Ridgeland, Miss. Our delivery person places mail in the wrong mailbox. Neighbors meet in the street after work to exchange mail. We have become a much closer neighborhood, thanks to your Postal Service. We are thinking of nominating our delivery person for the Make a Difference Day award." -- D.R.

* "I would like to express sympathy for the downtown federal worker who was trying to mail a package. His predicament appears widespread. Many times I've run into a post office and joined a long line of customers being served by exactly one postal clerk. Just one! There were others around, doing other things . . . but neither the clerks nor their managers seem to care about moving a line of customers. I think the post office should have a policy: If more than three people are waiting in line, open another station to serve customers. This would be especially helpful at peak business hours . . . such as lunch time." -- Robert L. Cochran Jr.

Bipartisan Goof My politically incorrect fingers hit a wrong key in producing yesterday's Federal Diary and temporarily turned Sen. Charles S. Robb (Va.) into a Republican. He remains, of course, a Democrat.

Job Mart The National Park Service is looking for a Grade 12 ($48,796 to $63,436) or Grade 13 ($58,027 to $78,433) supervisory accountant. Call Leslie J. Newman at 202-619-7224.

Mike Causey's e-mail address is causeym@washpost.com

Thursday, Oct. 28, 1999