Proposed pay raises for members of Congress and top officials in the executive branch died a predictable death yesterday as Congress scurried to do its part in the fight to cut federal spending.
The House passed a resolution calling the 16.8 percent pay raise for federal workers earning more than $50,000 a year "inappropirate" at a time when President Reagan and Congress are planning to cut food stamps and other vital programs. The Senate took the more formal action of passing resolutions of disapproval later in the day.
The action was unnecessary because the pay proposals made by former president Jimmy Carter will die automatically Monday unless both bodies approve them affirmatively. Yesterday's votes just made it official four days earlier, and, according to Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.), they made it clear that Congress is "truly serious" about getting federal spending under control.
House Democratic leaders called the resolution up abruptly yesterday morning after learning that the Republican-controlled Senate would act yesterday afternoon. It took Republicans by surprise, and Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) complained about being "blindsided." Members had been told that no important business would be taken up this week, and many were out of town. Because of absentees the House acted without a record vote, which many would have preferred to prove they are against raising their pay in these lean times.
Lonely voices were raised in both House and Senate against denying a pay raise once again to top civil service employes, who had had only one 5.5 percent increase in the last four years. Congress was warned again that many top federal managers will leave government because the purchasing power of their income is less than it was four years ago. Reagan once held this view, but later changed his mind. Baker and some House leaders promised to try to get a pay raise for top civil servants once the budget is brought under control.