Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) recently laid off two employes, including someone recruited from a federal agency, and is planning to dismiss a third worker.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee sharply cut or eliminated everything from salaries to long-distance phone calls to expense money for out-of-town witnesses, and the House Merchant Marines and Fisheries Committee is struggling with a 10 percent cut in its staff budget.
"The rumor mill is working overtime," said Sue Waldron, committee press assistant.
The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget balancing law has hit home on Capitol Hill. The creators of the law are now learning, like other recipients of federal money, what it is like to live with across-the-board cuts.
Although a special federal judiciary panel struck down a key part of the deficit reduction act earlier this month, the judges stayed the effect of their ruling until the Supreme Court reviews it. A Supreme Court ruling is not expected until this summer, so the first round of cuts will take effect March 1.
"Like every other agency in the federal government, Congress is going to get hurt," said a Parris spokesman. "It's going to have to reduce the amount of mail that's sent out, reduce its expenditures and reduce its payroll." Parris, among the hardest hit of local members of Congress, plans to cut the number of newsletters he sends out.
Under the Gramm-Rudman measure, Congress's fiscal 1986 budget will be cut 4.3 percent. However, because the House, Senate and the federal budget use budget years starting on different months, the impact varies.
The House Administration Committee determined that budgets of the House committees generally must be cut by 10.07 percent for the period from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30. The Senate Rules Committee plans to meet Feb. 27 to determine what committee budget cuts will be needed.
Personal staffs for each House member are more complicated. Each congressman was originally given $296,010 to pay for up to 18 staff members from January through September. Gramm-Rudman reduced that amount to $265,000 for each office, for a 10.5 percent reduction.
Some offices, such as those of Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), were already spending below the limit on salaries and will not be affected. Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.) already planned to move some staffers to his senatorial campaign.
In addition, each office has a fund that pays for everything from office supplies to telephones to rent on district offices. The amount varies from $100,000 to $370,000, depending on things such as distances and regional costs. Those accounts are to be cut by 4.3 percent. Rep. Roy Dyson (D-Md.) said he will have to reduce expenses by $40,000, while Hoyer does not expect to be affected.
In the Senate, members have been told to reduce their office and staff budgets by 4.3 percent, according to Peter Loomis, aide to Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). He said that Warner will not replace two people who recently left, and will not have paid college interns this summer, but he does not expect any other dramatic cuts.
Sens. Paul Trible (R-Va.) and Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) said they do not expect any problems because they have operated under their maximum budgets. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.), who is retiring this year, said he does not expect to have any problems.
Although many committees apparently still do not know the extent of their cuts, some, such as Foreign Affairs, will be hard hit. Shelly S. Livingston, the budget expert for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that to avoid firing people, the committee has decided to put everyone on nine days of furlough from now until September. That will amount to a 2 to 2.5 percent salary cut.
In addition, the Foreign Affairs budget for long distance phone calls has been cut from $22,000 to $5,000, and the domestic travel budget from $31,000 to less than $3,000. The $20,000 alloted to pay the expenses of out-of-town witnesses has been wiped out.
The House Banking Committee will probably cancel field hearings, and the Armed Services Committee plans to cut back on travel and consultants, according to staffers.
Some congressional aides contended that, under the budget cuts, Congress would be operating with less information and would be slower at responding to constituent requests, while others said it was too early to tell what effect the cuts would have.
"We're coming up to a critical period of time," after a decade of enormous growth of congressional staffs, said one Republican administrative assistant who has been on the Hill since 1969. "I think there's a lot of fear . . . but Congress is in a tough political position. How can it complain about cuts in an election year?"