The Senate yesterday escalated its war with the House over a congressional pay raise by adopting an amendment that would prevent House members from getting any pay raise they voted for until after the next election.
The move was intended to add insult to injury since a Senate committee had already scrapped a 5.5 percent pay raise that the House had struggled to include in a vital spending resolution.
Yesterday the Senate confirmed the committee's action of denying the 5.5 raise for Congress. But it voted 67 to 30 to table a move by Sen. Robert Morgan (D-N.c.), to deny the raise to federal judges and some 22,000 federal employees who make more than $47,500 a year.
The action means that the pay raise issue will not have to be decided by a House-Senate conference. The conference will meet today in an effort to resolve the matter so the House can start a week-long Columbus Day recess tomorrow.
House sources insist that the Senate is only posturing on the pay raise issue and that it will quickly give in to the House in conference.
If the Senate is posturing, it was doing a good job of it.
Sen. Dick Stone (D-Fla.), who offered the amendment preventing a pay raise from taking effect until after a general election occurs, said his intention was to prevent the kind of agony the House had just gone through over raising its Ay.
Stone said his amendment would take "90 percent of the fire" out of the issue since "constituents just don't want members to do it [raise pay] for themselves, they don't mind if they do it for the institution in the future."
Stone said his amendment would affect all the House, which is elected every two years, but only one-third of the Senate, which is elected for a six-year term. Stone said he could just not figure out a way to affect the other two-thirds of the Senate.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.), admitted the amendment is not germane and would surely be dropped in conference, but he said he would accept it anyway just to send the House "a warning."
Then Sen. Jesse Helms R.N.C.), offered an amendment that would automatically cut the pay of congressmen and the federal bureaucrats by the same percentage Congress failed to balance the budget.
Helms said the amendment would not take effect until Oct. 1, 1980. It was tabled, 63 to 32.
The bill to which the pay raise is attached is a resolution continuing funding for numerous departments and agencies whose appropriations bills have not yet cleared Congress.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 76 to 11. It now goes to a House-Senate conference, where an agreement should be worked out and adopted by both chambers before Monday, when the new fiscal year starts.
If it is not, a 12.9 percent pay increase will go into effect automatically, because the last two years' automatic cost-of-living increases were rejected by Congress. Congress could then come back and repeal part or all of that increase for Congress and the federal workers, but the judges would get the entire 12.9 percent, since a sitting judge's salary cannot be lowered, according to the Constitution.
The Senate also refused to back down from several other issues that could make the conference difficult to resolve.
The most important of those is abortion. The House bill has language forbidding use of federal funds for abortions unless the woman's life is endangered. The senate languages is from the present law, which permits abortions for promptly reported cases of rape and incest, in the cases of ectopic (tubal) pregnancies and for certain other conditions.
The Senate yesterday rejected an attempt by Sen. Roger Jepsen (R-Iowa) to adopt the House language by 55-to-36 vote.
The Senate agreed to require the Department of Transportation to maintain the entire existing Milwaukee Road system until Nov. 30, 1979. The action temporarily overturns a decision by a federal judge in Chicago Wednesday which would have let the bankrupt railroad stop service on western portions of its line. The move was a compromise, since the Senate committee had voted to continue operation of the whole railroad until May 1, 1980. The House bill has no such provisions.
The Senate bill also provides for about $180 million worth of funding for the Clinch River breeder reactor, which the House bill does not. Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) attempted to knock out the funding but failed by a 64-to-33 vote. The Senate Energy Committee killed the Clinch River program earlier this year, but the issue has not been resolved by Congress, and supporters of the reactor insisted it should continue to be funded until the issue is finally resolved. The funding is strictly for research and development on the breeder reactor progress