Robert D. Novak's June 14 op-ed column, "Power to the Appropriator," should earn him a trip to the woodshed.

As a 20-year member of Congress and someone who participated in weekly leadership meetings for four years, I can assure you that Jim Dyer, the majority chief clerk of the House Appropriations Committee, has the toughest job in Washington and does it extremely well. Mr. Dyer consistently is placed in a no-win situation with hundreds of members of Congress tugging at him from every direction. Yet he manages to do the best job he can for the good of the country, the institution and his party.

Jim Dyer and I learned the art of compromise from the master, Ronald Reagan. Mr. Dyer's previous boss, then-chairman of Appropriations Bob Livingston, and his current boss, Bill Young, learned the same thing. They face difficult decisions daily and are hardly worthy of the cheap shots Mr. Novak and Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have taken.

Our democracy operates under a system of competing ideas and confrontation. In order to get the people's work done, confrontation eventually has to yield to cooperation. Rep. Coburn and Mr. Novak are men of principle. Leaders such as Mr. Dyer, Mr. Livingston, Mr. Young and President Reagan are men of principle who learned how to be men of action.



The writer was a Republican representative from New York from 1979 to 1999.

Robert Novak's June 14 op-ed article should have come with an editor's note: "Author Holds Personal Grudge."

The man Mr. Novak attacked, Jim Dyer, is one of the most decent, honorable people I have ever served with on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Novak has decided that Jim Dyer did something evil by retaining some professional staff when Republicans took over in 1994. Never mind that the decision was made by then-chairman Bob Livingston, an elected member of Congress. Mr. Novak also didn't mention that those same staffers helped put together a massive spending-reduction package a few weeks later.

The Republican majority is in trouble, and to Mr. Novak it's got to be someone's fault. So the most recent villain is the House Appropriations Committee, tasked with developing spending bills in a House with a six-seat majority that has displayed little internal loyalty. Of course, Mr. Novak also didn't mention that if the committee does not put together a spending plan that can be signed into law, the government shuts down again. And then how much chance is there of a continued Republican majority?

Mr. Novak should be discussing that issue -- rather than attacking a real gentleman. But I guess you don't need 218 votes to slime a staffer.


Silver Spring

The writer is a former congressional staffer.

Robert Novak's June 14 diatribe against the House Appropriations Committe got it backward.

While praising Rep. Tom Coburn for derailing the appropriations process, Mr. Novak failed to notice that his approach has us headed for yet another enormous year-end omnibus spending bill that blows the budgetary caps sky-high. I have been arguing for a modest upward adjustment in the caps on domestic discretionary spending, a move that would allow us to pass (and force the president to sign or veto) the individual appropriations bills.

This maintains Congress's ability to shape the content of these bills. Without such an adjustment, many of the appropriations bills simply cannot pass, which leads us to yet another debacle with nearly all government spending lumped into one bill. Contrary to Mr. Novak's assertion, this is precisely what I do not want to see, because it diminishes the leverage of Congress and improperly shifts power on spending decisions to the White House.

This is what happened last year, and it put the president in the driver's seat. If we do not make some reasonable adjustment in the current spending caps, we will see the same sorry situation unfold again this October.


U.S. Representative (R-Ill.)