An article yesterday about a Senate amendment to extend pay cuts under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction law to include Congress, the White House and political appointees incorrectly reported the vote on the measure. The amendment was approved on a voice vote and attached to measure sponsored by Sen. Larry Pressler(R-S.D.) that was approved 96 to 1. (Published 9/28/90)
The Senate voted yesterday to apply automatic spending cuts under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction law to members of Congress, presidential appointees and White House staff, including the vice president, who would ordinarily be exempt from such cuts.
At the same time, spokesmen for several Cabinet secretaries, including those at Justice, Interior, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, said they would voluntarily give back to the government part of their salaries if the cuts occur.
"If federal employees and the American public are forced to suffer from budget cuts associated with sequestration, then everyone -- the Congress and the White House -- should suffer as well," said Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who introduced the measure.
Others saw the gesture and that of some House members earlier this month as an empty, easy political grab.
"There must be leadership in Washington in the next four days rather than the escapism of passing demeaning Senate measures to court and divert public opinion," said Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who cast the only vote against the amendment yesterday.
Under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law, if Congress and the administration do not agree on reducing the deficit to below the ceiling outlined in the law, then automatic cuts will take place.
To keep within the law, a budget agreement must reduce the current deficit of $169 billion to $64 billion. If negotiators fail to do so, then automatic cuts of 32.5 percent in non-defense programs and personnel and 34.5 percent in defense areas will take effect.
Federal employees have received notice that they will face furloughs if an agreement is not reached. But Congress, the president and the 493 presidential appointees who require Senate confirmation are exempt from the cuts.
Daschle's amendment, which was approved 96 to 1, was attached to a similiar amendment proposed by Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) that also cut congressional pay commensurate with federal employee pay cuts. Pressler's measure is attached to the 1970 Family Planning Act up for reauthorization in the Senate.
Congress cannot lower the president's salary.
A few weeks ago, when federal employees began to receive notices that they may face furloughs, the political wheels began to turn. Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) said yesterday he was one of the first to renounce the fact that Congress was exempt from the automatic cuts.
"If some federal employees are going to have a reduction, then all federal employees should," Parris said yesterday. "It's simple fairness."
But Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said he did not believe his constituents would be interested in seeing Congress "covering ourselves with ashes and pulling our hair out." Rather, "what we ought to be about is trying to resolve this budget problem." Hoyer has not volunteered to reduce his pay.
While Congress is exempt from the automatic cuts, its staff is not. Unlike federal employees, whose rights are protected under various laws and who received notification of furloughs earlier this month, congressional staff members will receive no prior warning of possible cuts until the deadline is passed.
"Why should we send everyone the memo and get everyone excited," said the deputy clerk of the House, Raymond W. Colley. "We will let everyone know when we know" if it is going to happen.
Congressional aides, unlike federal employees in executive departments and agencies, can also be told to work full time at reduced wages as a way to meet budget cuts.
At Interior, Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. was one of the first to call the Office of Personnel Management to try to find a way to give back some of the money he would be paid while his employees went on leave.
"He just feels each person has to do his part to reduce the deficit," said Lujan spokesman Steven Goldstein.
At HUD, a spokeswoman for Jack Kemp said the secretary decided that he and all presidential appointees would contribute a percentage of their salaries to the Federal Employee Emergency Assistance Fund, a Colorado-based fund set up to give quick emergency aid to needy employees.