A Senate bill designed to hire the chronically unemployed contains a section that would assure a $55,000-a-year job for a former aide of Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-N.J.).
The bill, extending the Comprehensive Employment and Training Art (CETA), was reported out of the Human Resources Committee - chaired by Williams - in May.
Two paragraphs in the measure would create a new assistant secretary position in the Department of Labor and assure that it go to Nik B. Edes, who worked nine years for the Williams committee.
Edes is Labor's deputy undersecretary for legislation and intergovernmental relations - that is, the department's chief liaison with congressional offices.
The Senate's CETA bill would convert this position to an assistant secretaryship, subject to presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.
But the difference between this and other such executive-level nominations is that the CETA bill directs that the customary nomination-confirmation procedure be waived for the incumbent.
Edes' name is not mentioned in the bill or the committee report that explains it, but aides to Williams and Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall have left no doubt that they intend Edes to get the new job.
The ascension, if enacted into law would mean several thousand dollars in additional salary and additional status for Edes.
Labor and Human Resources Committee officials insist that there is nothing irregular in the procedure chosen for promoting Edes, but it has set off storm signals in the House.
The House is scheduled to take up a counterpart bill this week that would extend the CETA program - a public-service jobs scheme that has put more than 700,000 people to work.
The House version, however, contains no provision for a new assistant secretary position and Reps. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) and John H. Dent (D-Pa.) have indicated they intend to challenge the Senate.
Schroeder chairs a Post Office and Civil Service subcommittee that deals with upgrading or creating new executive-level positions. Dent heads a labor subcommittee that deals with CETA.
Schroeder, in a letter to Rep. Robert N.C. Nix (D-Pa.), chairman of Post Office and Civil Service version should be strongly opposed.
She said the backdoor approach to creation of the new position was unfair to other agencies that had gone through channels with similar requests.
And, she said, the Senate had not justified its action sufficiently. The Human Resources report says that other Cabinet departments put congressional relations under an assistant secretary and that Labor should do no less.
Stephen Paradise, an aide to Williams, and Walter Shapiro an assistant to Marshall, insisted last week that the new position has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.
But letters to Dent and Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) from Hubert L. Harris Jr., an assistant director of OMB indicate the contrary.
Writing to Dent last month, Harris said, "We do not approve of the language . . . which appears designed to abridge the president's authority to make an appointment to an executive level position.
"Nor do we believe it would be wise for the Senate to waive its authority to advise and consent. Section 8 (the Edes amendment) as drafted was not an administration proposal."
Paradise, general counsel and staff said that the new position was sought director for the Williams committee, last year by Marshall and that Williams promised he would take care of the matter "when the appropriate vehicle appeared."
He said that Labor wanted to language attached to a minimum-wage bill last year, but the chairman deemed that to be the wrong vehicle. "This bill is more appropriate," Paradise said.
"There's nothing sinister or mysterious about this. There's already a person in the position, so we waived the advice and consent."
Paradise said the new job is justified because Edes' "responsibilities are equal to those at other agencies where an assistant secretary has the duty. Sen. Williams wants equal pay for equal work. If there is an inequity, somebody should redress it."
The committee director insisted that Human Resources, as the overseer of the Labor Department, rather than the Governmental Affairs Committee should deal with new job slots.
Paradise added that Williams is not locked into that position, however. He said that if OMB opposed the committee action or if "anybody" wanted to remove the grandfather clause protecting Edes "we would go along."
Labor Secretary Marshall's special assistant, Shapiro, maintained that OMB supports the promotion and that Marshall "is strongly behind it."
Shapiro's version of events coincided with Paradise's - that Marshall wanted the new slot, that an attempt was made to get it last year, that OMB supports it.
He explained that Marshall on becoming secretary, wanted to "upgrade" the congressional relations office.He began by putting Edes in control of all legislative matters and then expanding his duties to include contacts with state governments.
Shapiro said that Labor "has no position" on the language that would assure Edes' promotion to the new job. In any case, he said, it could be assumed Edes would be the nominee even if presidential and Senate action were required.
Congressional aides commented on the ususual step of the Senate committee waiver of the traditional - and constitutional - requirement of the Senate's advise-and-consent role.
Chuck Knoll, a Schroeder subcommittee assistant, said, "We think it raise a big constitutional question. I've never seen this done before, this waiving of advice and consent."
Marshall's Department of Labor has been a small magnet for a number of former congressional staff assistants.
They include Assistant Secretary Donald E. Elisburg, Richard E. Johnson and Edes, all of whom worked previously with the Williams committee. Johnson is an aide to Assistant Secretary Arnold Packer, also a congressional alumnus.
In recent weeks Edes and Johnson have been the department's principal spokesmen for passage of the CETA extension in the Senate.