In ordinary times, Rep. Henry S. Reuss (D-Wis.) is one of the more loquacious members of the House, not shy of interviews and always ready with the right quote.
But these are not ordinary times and Reuss, sitting square on a political hot seat, is keeping his own counsel this week.
The question that has made him a target for the influential who would seek to influence him is how he intends to vote on the natural-gas deregulation compromise that took months to forge.
Reuss, a liberal and a frequently adamant director of consumer interests, has been identified as the man who - if he changes his vote - could unravel the whole compromise.
Throughout 1977, as one of the House conferees, Reuss tended to vote pro-consumer positions - that is, against the price deregulation.
But in May, after appeals from President Carter and Vice president Mondale, he was part of the majority in the 13 to 12 vote for the compromise.
Reuss said at the time that "I had to hold my nose to vote for it." But he also said he wanted to be helpful to the president, who was scheduled to go to the economic summit a tBonn not long after that.
So someplace today, in a quiet room, Reuss will be holed up with the long and complicated gas agreement, studying it some more and deciding what he will do.
In recent days, Reuss has been importuned by an array of callers who want to help him make up his mind. They include senators, representatives, executive branch aides, labor and consumer types, business people.
Around the House anterooms, talks yesterday centered on Reuss and what he will do. Nobody could get more from Reuss than the response that he was "studying" the matter.
He was avoiding press queries yesterday and his spokesman, Louis Barbash, would do no more than repeat the standard response:
Reuss is "studying" the bill but he has "grave misgrivings" about it.
Beyond that, Barbash sayeth not. Even the question of visitors to the Miwaukee congressman's office is "of such sensitivity that I just can't talk about it," he said.
The sensitivity is obvious, but it hasn't stemmed the speculation.
James Flug of Energy Action, which opposes the bill, said he talked with Reuss earlier in the week. He got few, if any, signals, but he said he thinks Reuss could easily change his vote.
But a fellow conferee, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), who favors the bill, saw it another way. He said that he, too, had talked to Reuss, but didn't find out much.
"I hope for the best, anticipate the worst and take what comes along," said Dingell.