The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last night in a surprise move to give hefty pay raises to members of Congress and high-level federal officials as part of a huge stopgap funding measure for the government.
Both houses approved a compromise $8.3 billion package of spending cuts and revenue-raising measures aimed at preventing further escalation of the big budget deficit that is anticipated for fiscal 1981.
The Senate gave final approval to a measure barring the Justice Department from litigation to require busing to combat school segregation and refused to choke off a filibuster against fair-housing legislation. President Carter has been urged by some aides, including Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, to veto the busing measure, and proponents of the housing bill will try again today to end the filibuster. (Details, Page A7.)
The House passed and returned to the Senate what sponsors hope will be an acceptable compromise bill to establish a permanent burial site by 1987 for the nation's growing store of nuclear waste, then easily passed a constroversial Senate-passed "superfund" bill to pay for cleaning up chemical dumps and spills. (Details, Page B1).
The House approval its version of the continuing spending authorization for the government, including language that specifically bans the kind of last-minute, lame-duck increase that The Senate Appropriations Committee subsequently proposed.
In light of the House position, the congressional pay raise is by no means assured.
The Senate committee proposal, which is expected to go to the Senate floor today, would lift the current congressionally imposed ceiling on top federal salaries as of Jan. 1. This would raise congressional pay from $60,662.50 to $70,900 annually, and provide comparable increases for an estimated 34,000 government officials at GS15 and above. The House measure would keep the pay cap.
In its other actions, Congress in effect took a small dose of fiscal medicine and then quickly washed it down with another round of budget-threatening spending.
In adopting the spending-cut package, Congress for the first time, in an effort to discipline its spending instincts, forced itself to cut programs and raise taxes to meet a budget target.
But both versions of the continuing resolution anticipate that Congress, through a combination of the stopgap funding and appropriations bills that have already been passed, will bust the $632.4 billion budget ceiling that it adopted only last month.
The House figured it would breach the ceiling by mid-June, so set the expiration date for the resolution at June 5. The Senate committee decided to continue the interim spending through Sept. 30 in order to avoid the need for yet another bout of stopgap funding, although it was unclear last night how the Senate would get around the budget ceiling problem. Members said it would be worked out on the Senate floor.
Congress had put much of the federal bureaucracy on stopgap funding when it recessed for the elections in early October without passing most of its appropriations bills. Even now it has completed action on only five of the 12 money bills, although congressional leaders say they hope to finish several more before adjourning later this week.
The continuing resolution would fund government departments and agencies at varying spending levels -- presumbably without any expansion of programs and services -- until their appropriations are approved or until the resolution's expiration date, whichever comes sooner.
The House version was approved 272 to 106 over scattered objections that it amounted to a tacit concession of congressional failure to get its fiscal house in order.
Rep. Bob Edgar (D-Pa.), noting that the House had approved all but one of its appropriations bills while the Senate still had many to go, complained that the House was "taking the Senate off the hook" and inviting the Senate, which will be controlled by the Republicans next year, to "play political football" with the still-pending appropriations bills. Congress was saying, in effect, that its "deadlines don't mean anything," Edgar asserted.
Attacking from a different angle, Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.) tried in vain to get Whitten to put a dollar sign on the amount of money that Congress was laying out in the resolution. "It's next to impossible to say how much . . . the answer is I can't tell you," responded Whitten finally.
This, claimed Bauman, is the "best evidence of the failure of this Congress and the budget process to address the fiscal needs of this country."
However, the only real point of substantive dispute in the resolution was removed when Rep. Joseph M. McDade (R-Pa.) abandoned his push for language that could have thwarted congressional redistricting this year. McDade's proposal would have forbidden use of Census Bureau population counts that include aliens for the purpose of drawing district lines.
The problem, according to McDade's opponents, was that the 1980 census made no distinction between citizens and aliens, making it impossible to separate one from the other in the final population counts.
McDade, contending he was only interested in getting a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, had succeeded in getting the language written into a still-spending appropriations bill and into the continuing resolution. But when he abandoned his cause as inappropriate for the "closing days" of Congress, as he put it, House voted, 334 to 45, to delete the provision.
Rep. Clair W. Burgener (R-Calif.) told the House earlier that Census Bureau Director Vincent Barabba had said McDade's proposal could have delayed redistricting for up to 10 years, forcing all 435 members of the House to run at large.
The "reconciliation" package included spending cuts of $4.6 billion from a variety of programs, along with revenue-raising measures totaling $3.6 billion. Congress had earlier set savings target of $10.6 billion.