The House pay increase went down to defeat yesterday, and along with it the hopes of about 46,000 federal executives for a long-delayed salary boost.
Without debate, and on a voice vote, the House disagreed with a conference committee report that had endorsed a 4.8 percent salary raise for House members and for government executives.
The two had been linked together during the conference, but the House was reluctant to face the issue of raising its own members' salaries with an election year coming up.
The House did vote, 213 to 183, to raise the salaries of one group of federal employes, however--the air traffic controllers who stayed on the job during this year's strike.
The pay increase for House members had been unexpectedly rammed through a meeting of House-Senate conferees at midnight Friday just before the weary members headed for a nightly recess.
It was proposed by Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) as an amendment to the Senate version of a continuing resolution that had included only the pay raise for federal executives. Linking the two virtually assured their defeat, members agreed later.
Fazio argued that House members deserved a pay increase, regardless of whether the senators took one or not because the Senate had improved its compensation by lifting the ceiling on honoraria they can receive for speeches and other outside activities.
It would have raised House members' salaries from $60,663 to $63,574 and created the unusual situation of House members getting higher salaries than senators.
Earlier this year, both the House and Senate had voted members a comfortable tax break by increasing the amount of expenses deductible for the cost of living in Washington while maintaining homes back in their states.
The initial Senate plan, authored by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the majority whip, had been to deal only with the executive pay raise issue, laying aside for the moment the emotional question of raising members' salaries on the eve of an election year. But the House-authored change during conference linked the two once again and opened the door to a loss for both.
The ceiling on executive salaries has meant a pay compression that stretches from the highest paid managers down to some steps of Grade 14. The pay cap of $50,112 on the most highly paid has held down salary increases all down the scale.
The overall pay raise for the 46,000 executives would have averaged 4.8 percent. But for the most highly paid, the increases would have been much higher. For example, the salary of a Level 3 executive under the pay schedule would have risen from $50,112 to $59,360.
The controllers' pay raise provoked heated debate. Rep. William D. Ford (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Civil Service Committee, argued against it, saying the raise would boost controllers' salaries by an average of $9,500.
But Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.) argued for the raise, saying: "The government made a deal with those controllers in those towers . . . I want those controllers to know I carried out my part of the deal."