The Senate Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to keep the current cap on pay for members of Congress and senior federal executives, but held the door open to a compromise under which House members and civil servants would receive raises but senators would not.
The committee action, which means the pay issue probably will have to be settled in a House-Senate conference, came as the committee approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the government operating through next fall that included $1.2 billion for jobs.
Rejecting most of the $5.4 billion in job-creating money approved Tuesday by the House, the Senate committee nonetheless proposed new spending for a variety of projects, including job retraining, repair of military housing, jobs for the elderly, small-business aid and highway and transit work that includes $10 million for Washington's Metro subway system.
The committee approved the spending as recommended by Chairman Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), who conceded it was endorsed by neither the Reagan administration nor the Senate Republican leadership. "These are not leaf-raking activities . . . nor should this proposal be characterized as a budget-buster," said Hatfield, calling it a "reasonable, responsible approach which will provide additional jobs in productive activities."
Despite President Reagan's continued opposition to the House plan and reluctance to embrace an alternative, there were signs that the administration may be willing to accept at least some jobs funding--although Republican leadership aides in Congress said they doubted that Reagan would accept a split-the-difference compromise between the proposed Senate and House levels.
Earlier there were threats that Reagan would veto the stopgap funding bill, called a continuing resolution, if it contained jobs money. A veto would shut down most of the government when current spending authority expires at midnight Friday.
Yesterday the veto threats were qualified. Reagan "is obviously not willing to accept this $5.4 billion jobs bill," deputy White House press secretary Larry Speakes said of the House plan. But when asked if there were any grounds for compromise, he would say only that "we won't negotiate in public."
Reagan's opposition to jobs spending at a time of high unemployment has put many congressional Republicans in a painful position, especially as Democrats continue to rub it in.
"I hope that the Senate and the president do not close their hearts to the anguish of the unemployed," said House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) after the House approved its jobs plan. "It's good politics . . . to make our side look like Scrooges before Christmas," Senate GOP Whip Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said yesterday.
Maneuvering over jobs money in the huge "continuing resolution" came as the Senate also struggled to free itself from multiple filibusters against a separate administration-backed proposal to finance $5.5 billion in job-creating highway repairs by raising the federal gasoline tax a nickel a gallon.
After a day of debate, the Senate voted 51 to 47 against a proposal to put highly protectionist "buy American" trade provisions into the highway repair bill. That cleared away one of the obstacles to passage of the bill.
But others remained, and although there were on-and-off signs that the filibuster might be winding down, efforts to get a quick vote to shut it off failed in the early evening. By mid-evening, cots were rolled out into the Capitol corridors in preparation for a long night.
The Senate did accomplish one thing yesterday: it gave final approval to a $31.7 billion agriculture appropriations bill, only the fourth of 13 regular appropriations bills that have passed Congress for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. It is Congress' failure to pass all its regular appropriations that necessitates stopgap funding through continuing resolutions.
As the talk continued, Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) stepped up pressure on the filibusterers by creating a parliamentary situation in which the continuing resolution might be held hostage for passage of the gas tax measure.
This could break the impasse, because Congress must act on the funding resolution in order for government agencies to reopen Monday.
The Senate continued to meet beyond midnight and planned to resume today with consideration of a Baker-sponsored motion to limit debate on the bill.
As it waded through a series of amendments, the Senate spurned efforts to omit controversial trucking provisions, including new excise taxes and expansion of allowable vehicle size. It also rejected a proposal to channel more money into highway repair and less into new construction.
In action on the continuing resolution, the Senate Appropriations Committee attempted to strike a compromise on the controversial issue of the Federal Trade Commission's powers over doctors, lawyers and other state-regulated professionals.
The House, bowing to pressure from the American Medical Association, voted last month to strip the FTC of all powers over professionals. When Sen. James A. McClure (R-Idaho) proposed similar action at yesterday's committee meeting, Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) countered with a lesser proposal to ban the FTC from overriding state laws in attempts to regulate antitrust and other related activities of professionals. This would mean the commission could continue to intervene as long as it observes state laws.
Rudman's proposal was approved, 15 to 14.
The committee also voted, as it has before, to drop House language in the continuing resolution that would bar funding of abortions under federal health plans; the issue will have to be resolved in a House-Senate conference on the resolution.
Although the House voted to end funding for the Clinch River breeder reactor and two controversial water projects in North Dakota and Nebraska, the Senate committee kept the funding.
The Senate version of the spending measure would last through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, while the House bill would expire March 15.
On the pay-raise issue, Stevens, the Republican whip, told the committee that a head-count showed the Senate would not go along with a House vote Tuesday to raise the pay of members of Congress by 15 percent.
The House vote would also have had the effect of lifting the pay cap for 32,200 senior executives by 10 to 15 percent, depending on job level and current salary.
Under the House plan, the current cap on annual pay would be raised from $58,500 to $67,200 for members of the Senior Executive Service and from $57,500 to $63,800 for General Service (GS) grades. Congressional salaries would be increased from $60,662.50 to $69,800.
As a compromise, Stevens suggested it was "entirely possible" that a House-Senate conference could give House members and federal executives a pay raise and keep the current limit on Senate pay, while dropping proposed restrictions on outside income from speeches and other activities that many senators rely on.
As an inducement for the Senate to go along with the pay increase, the House had voted to limit earnings from outside activities to 30 percent of a member's income.
The Stevens proposal was approved, 22 to 1, over strong objections from Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.), who complained that it was "duplicitous" to reject a pay increase while encouraging big fees from special interests that pay senators to make speeches.
"I think that is a horrible standard," said Weicker, proposing instead that senators take the pay increase and forget about fees for speeches.
Others argued that House members and federal executives shouldn't be punished because the Senate is skittish about the political repercussions of raising its own pay. Nor, said Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah), should "ego . . . be involved because House members would be making more than we do." Stevens added that there is a recent precedent for such a pay differential between the two houses.