House Minority Whip Robert Michel (R-Ill.) said yesterday that his colleagues can forget about that $10,000-a-year pay raise proposal that has been blocking congressional adjournment and threatening to disrupt daily government operations.
"It's a dead issue, there's no question about it," said Michel, commenting on the pay proposal on "Issues and Answers" (ABC, WJLA).
The parliamentary maneuvering over the bill in a marathon session Saturday went like this: The House passed the spending bill with the raise; the Senate dropped the raise; then the House dropped it, too, but also cut out special projects near and dear to the hearts of individual members. The issue will come up in a House-Senate conference committee today.
The pay raise is attached to an omnibus spending bill that must be passed by midnight tonight or several government agencies will lose their authority to spend the money that keeps them operating.
Asked how he could be certain the pay provision is dead, Michel shot back: "Because I'm going to be in that conference, and that's exactly what's going to happen. It's going to be dead . . . ."
Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) has predicted "considerable debate" on the 17 percent pay boost, which would affect members of Congress, who currently receive $60,662, and high-level federal officials whose pay is now limited to $50,112.50.
Michel said that while he opposes boosting congressional pay, he favors pay raises in the next Congress for the nearly 8,000 members of the federal Senior Executive Service -- GS16s through 18s in managerial and supervisory positions -- whose salaries are now linked to congressional pay.
Failure to raise SES salaries could cause "serious problems" in agency staffing for the incoming Reagan administration, Michel said.
He said the difficulty comes in that lower federal workers routinely have received cost-of-living increases while their superiors have received only one 5.5 percent pay raise in the last four years. As a result, Michel said in a statement supported by several General Accounting Office reports, many federal executives receive the same salaries as their subordinates.
For example, a GAO study released last July shows that 90 percent of all SES members receive the same salary "despite different levels of responsibility."
"Now, you can't run any business, any industry out there in the country with a chief executive officer being capped salarywise" at the same level "as a mere department head," Michel said. He added that officials of the incoming administration have "indicated that that's going to be a problem for them."
Ted R. Kern, chairman of the 525-member Senior Executives Association which represents SES members in 95 federal agencies, said in an interview yesterday that he welcomed Michel's remarks.
"It's good to hear him saying that. We've been saying all along that the salaries of federal executives and federal judges should be separated from congressional pay," he said. Kern added that his organization "in the last two or three weeks has been hearing that Reagan people are having some trouble" getting non-career employes in SES grades.
"It seems that everybody they talk to who doesn't have a lot of money already doesn't want to come to Washington," he said.
Michel commented in his televised interview: "We hear about 30,000 to 40,000 people applying for jobs" in the Reagan administration. "Well, that's one thing. That doesn't mean they're all qualified for the kind of top-level management positions that you're looking for."