Even Washington journalists can lay claim to a federal entitlement program, it seems.
Along with members of Congress and executive branch officials, newspaper reporters who are members of congressional press galleries -- and there are now 1,800 representing more than 600 organizations -- are by law entitled to one set of the bound volumes of the Congressional Record and one copy of the daily paperback Congressional Record. For the public, a set of the bound volumes runs about $1,400 each session, and a year's subscription to the daily paperback costs $225.
For the last three years, in an attempt to save money, the House Appropriations legislative subcommittee has denied House members their free bound volumes of the Congressional Record. The Senate, however, has no such curbs.
A spokesman for the Government Printing Office (GPO) said yesterday only 11 news organizations have taken advantage of the decades-old provision in the U.S. Code to receive bound volumes as they are released. There are 120 correspondents currently are on GPO's list to get free daily copies of the Record, the spokesman said.
The current cost for supplying the Record free to journalists is minimal, because only a handful of the more than a thousand eligible have applied. Under the law, the only limit is four copies to "the same press bureau."
Delivery of the bound volumes has been slowed for the last four years because the House subcommittee has deferred $4 million per year requested by GPO to fully fund the program. GPO has been able to produce bound volumes of the Record through 1988 with funds left over from other programs and prepayments.
For example, a member of the New York Times library staff said the last bound volume the newspaper received was Oct. 8, 1986, during the 99th Congress, 2nd session. The Times, which is listed as getting two sets, is the only one of 11 organizations currently on the GPO list to receive more than one free copy of each volume, according to GPO.
Newsweek's Washington bureau library also is on the bound volume list and its most recent edition covers Sept. 15-22, 1988, 100th Congress, 2nd session.
Other organizations on the distribution list to receive free bound volumes of the Congressional Record, the GPO spokesman said, are: Congressional Quarterly, Scripps Howard, The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, Time, Los Angeles Times, The Louisville Times and the librarian of the National Press Club.
The GPO lists, however, don't appear to be up to date. The Louisville Times ceased publication in February 1987. Two of the three Washington Post reporters listed by GPO yesterday as getting daily Congressional Records have not been members of the congressional galleries for at least three years.