This is about a $14.7 million federal building that may or may not be needed, the congressman who rammed it through to approval and the disgusted senator who washed his hands of the transaction.
The building will house federal court and office facilities in Springfield, Mass., a semi-depressed community of 165,000 that will take any help it can get.
The congressman is Rep. Edward P. Boland (D-Mass.), a Springfield native the House, has risen to what is known as power and influence.
When Boland began cranking the levers, pushing the long-sought Springfield project toward fruition, he ran in to a senator who was ready to let the deal fall through because he objected to Boland's tactics.
The senator is Quentin Burdick (D-N. D.), a quiet farmer who, as chairman of a Senate subcommittee overseeing federal buildings, thought he had just set up rules to slow down the construction rush on the Treasury.
What happened is that the Springfield project is on target, largely as a result of Boland's legislative acrobatics, and Burdick has asked that someone else take over tha Senate's direction of buildings and grounds matters.
"I didn't leave in a huff," Burdick said yesterday. "It wasn't a matter of principle, but rather a matter of practice.I don't know if that project is justified or not. But if every project came along that way, it would open the gates. There are not enough hours in the day."
Boland, a man of might because of his No. 4 ranking on the House Appropriations Committee, rejected the merest hint that the Springfield court-house might be porkbarreling at its splendorous best.
"If this were a good story. I'd be delighted to give it to you," said Boland. "It's local - why is it of interest to people in Washington? There was nothing wrong with the procedure - no arm-twisting on my part...this is no pork-barrel."
Ordinarily, when Uncle Sam wants to build a new quarters for his minions he turns the matter over to the General Services Administration, the federal housekeeper and builder.
"But Congress knew there would be times when this simply wouldn't do. So, in the Public Buildings Law of 1969 it included a provision saying Congress could go around OMB and deal directly with the GSA.
A resolution of approval of any federal building project by the respective public works committees of the House and Senate is all that's required for authorization.
Involving that procedure, Boland got the House Public Works Committee to call on GSA on Sept. 22 to come up with the required "prospectus" for a new federal building in Springfield.
Six days later, in what may stand as a new speed record for the bureaucracy, GSA came up with a detailed and thorough prospectus for Springfield.
No doubt about it, GSA reported the three buildings the government leases in Springfield to house federal functions are inadequate for today, tomorrow and forever.
GSA, stressing the need to put all the federal activities under one $14.7 million roof, said the only way was new construction. The building would have a basement parking garage, room for expansion, snack bar and, not coincidentally, new home office digs for Rep. Boland.
The House committee Boland's resolution. From there it went over to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Burdicks's subcommittee.
Only a month earlier Burdick had set up new rules, precluding public hearings on noncontroversial projects or projects about which the subcommittee staff had no serious doubts.
There were staff doubts about the Springfield project, however. But Burdick's subcommittee didn't get the chance to put the project through the hearing process.
At that point, apparently because as Burdick put it, Boland was "lobbying everyone very hard," the full committee took up the Springfield project.
The committee held a hearing - only Boland GSA were witnesses - on Oct. 17 and that same day gave its approval to the project.
The Senate was busy then, so committee members did their voting in a small room of the Senate floor. One vote was 6 to 6. They tried again. This time it passed, 7 to 5. Newly in support of Springfield was Sen. Malcolm Wallop, (R-Wyo.).
"It was a pure exercise in clout," commented one admiring Senate committee aide. "Everyone up here knew exactly what it was."
Among the cognoscenti was Burdick who, a couple of days later, sent a letter to his committee chairman, Jennings Randolph (D-W. Va.), asking that the buildings and grounds matters be taken from Burdick's subcommittee and turned over to someone else.
Admitting to chagrin over the Springfield steamroller, Burdick said that wasn't the only reason he wanted out.
Burdick said his Subcommittee on Regional and Community Development was saddled with extra duties when the Senate reorganized earlier this year. If buildings are to be approved without thorough investigation, he'd rather someone else did it, he added.
When was tha last time North Dakota got a $14.7 million federal building?
"For my state it's been a long time," said Burdick. "Springfield's last one was in 1970 - a post office. Springfield is doing fine,"
But, retorted Boladn, Springfield needs all it can get. High construction unemployment, dilapidated downtown area, hungry for help.
And, just in case Congress didn't get the message, Boland had something else up his sleeve. He got his APpropriations Committee to allocate $14.7 million for the building even before it was authorized - again, not all that unusual perhaps, but at least a sign of clout.
Oh, yes - for closers: Boland for years was a rommate of Speaker Thomas P. O'Neil (D-Mass.) which also may count for something.