With more than 900 Interstate Commerce Commission employes as pawns, ICC Chairman Reese H. Taylor Jr. and Sen. Mark Andrews (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on transportation warred yesterday over a supplemental appropriation request.
Taylor said that if he does not get at least $3.5 million, he will have to start furloughing employes one day a week beginning April 14 to stay within his fiscal 1985 budget. "If you deny it, we'll get within it," Taylor said at one point.
In a hearing that shed more heat than light, Andrews and Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.) accused Taylor and the ICC commissioners of flouting the will of Congress by spending money through the first half of the fiscal year at a rate guaranteed to force a crisis.
Taylor fought back with the argument that the Office of Management and Budget had given him clearance to spend a proportionately higher level and had assured him that it would support a supplemental appropriation, as it has.
"Under the Constitution," Andrews shot back, "the Appropriations Committee still appropriates funds. We could care less what the Office of Management and Budget did."
Chiles said, "What you're saying is you don't think it's right . . . I think you said, 'We'll run the bluff . . . and the blood will be on [Congress'] hands . . . ' The point is the action now will have to be much more Draconian than had you taken action in October, had you taken action in November, had you taken action in December . . . ."
The other six commissioners were seated with Taylor and, for the most part, remained silent as he defended his agency and the budget-cutting he has done. The ICC -- with many of its duties lost to deregulation -- has gone from 1,852 employes in 1981 to 984 this fiscal year.
Taylor conceded that if the administration and Congress further deregulate the trucking industry much of ICC's "paper shuffling" could be eliminated. A trucking deregulation bill is planned this year. The White House held up the last effort in an attempt to win the political support of the Teamsters union.
The House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation has approved a $3.15 million supplemental appropriation. Full committee and House action is expected shortly. But after yesterday's hearing, it was unclear when, or whether, the Senate will go along.
Taylor, asked by reporters why the ICC had not started reductions in force after the budget was finished, replied, "You can't do that and expect to survive," he said. "How do you think I would have been handled by the rest of Congress if I had just listened to those two Andrews and Chiles and effectively closed the ICC?