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"To survive in an epochal twentieth century that quickens its pace with each passing year, Congress must prepare to meet and solve new and old issues at a
democratic government can be no stronger or more efficient than its legislative branch
when the problem is generally realized
that in this issue America's future, and indeed the welfare of the world, is involved, self-interest will demand that the task be completed quickly If American citizens
do their part, America can continue to have the finest democracy in the world.”
(The following letter from Miss Arista Huber, acting chairman of the legislative subcommittee of the Secretaries' Club, House of Representatives, submitting a proposed amendment to the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 on behalf of legislative employees, was received and is made a part of the hearing:)
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 26, 1948. Mr. E. B. Van HORN,
Staff Director, Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments,
Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. VAN HORN: As acting chairman of the legislative subcommittee of the Secretaries' Club of the House of Representatives, I am submitting herewith a statement of facts regarding the peculiar situation of legislative employees.
In order to correct this situation, there is submitted herewith a proposed amendment to the Reorganization Act for your consideration. Very truly yours.
House of Representatives, Secretaries' Club. RETIREMENT BENEFITS FOR LEGISLATIVE EMPLOYEES Congressional employees represent a special class group among Federal employees. The proposed Retirement Act designed especially to benefit employees in the classified service of the Government and to give greater benefits to lower-paid employees in proportion to contributions made. It fails to meet the peculiar needs of legislative employees.
For example, the bill purports to increase benefits, beginning at 25 percent to the lower-paid employees and graduating down to 2 percent to those in the higher brackets.
An individual whose salary is $5,000 or over will receive practically no benefit from the new bill, as compared to the present formula, although he contributes an additional 1 percent of his salary; and those receiving a salary in that range who continue to pay over a long period of years will actually be penalized. The additional 1 percent deduction in salary, plus compound interest, will amount to more than they will ever receive in additional benefits.
Two classes of individuals are given different treatment under the Retirement Act because of their unique situation and the precariousness of their employment, namely, Members of Congress and certain employees of the FBI. The employment status of legislative employees is even more precarious than either of the classes given special treatment under the act. Their positions certainly are not comparable to employees in the classified Government service.
Classified employees enjoy the following privileges not afforded to legislative employees:
1. A permanent employment status, with reemployment rights in the event of separation for any reason “without cause.
2. Fifteen days' sick leave per annum, which, if not used, can be accrued from year to year. This affords an excellent insurance against financial loss in the event of sickness.
3. Twenty-six days' annual leave per annum (not including Sundays or holidays) as a matter of right. It can be accumulated up to 90 days, and vacations can be arranged at employee's convenience.
4. Assurance of their job or a comparable one after a long illness or absence for other reasons.
5. Privilege of taking leave of absence without pay for 1 year and returning to a comparable position.
6. Assurance of employment until reaching the age of retirement.
7. Greater assurance of building up a long work record upon which to base retirement.
PRECARIOUSNESS OF LEGISLATIVE EMPLOYMENT 1. Positions of responsibility are not held by the real young. Therefore age is a hazard in building up a long employment record.
2. Employment may be terminated without notice (a) at the will of the Member, (b) upon defeat of the Member, (c) upon the death of the Member.
3. No reemployment rights are afforded. No assurance of a comparable salary is to be had in the event of separation and reemployment.
4. No sick leave is afforded as a matter of right.
5. No annual leave is afforded as a matter of right. It is subject to the will of the Member; also the time it shall be taken.
6. Salaries are higher on the average than the average of the classified service, and therefore much greater contributions are made to the fund in comparison to benefits received.
7. The duties are specialized and require individuals of more than average intelligence, but there is no market in industry for the knowledge and experience gained. Therefore, employment in other fields at a comparable salary is very difficult upon separation.
To correct this unfavorable position one of two actions should be taken:
1. Amend section 3A of the Retirement Act of May 29, 1930, as amended, to include legislative clerks and secretaries. This section provides a most liberal formula for computing annuities to Members of Congress, namely, 272 percent of the average annual salary multiplied by the number of years of service. However, retirement benefits are deferred until the annuitant has reached the age of 62 years.
2. Enact legislation to provide a formula for computing legislative employees' annuities on the same basis as applied to certain employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, namely, 2 percent of the average annual salary for the five highest consecutive years, multiplied by the years of service, with retirement benefits available upon involuntary separation from service, without prejudice, at the age of 50 (or 55).
The second alternative appears to be the more desirable, for the following
1. The average frequency of separation from service in the normal course of events.
2. Difficulty in securing reemployment after the age of 50. This particularly applies to women.
3. Difficulty in securing employment in other fields of endeavor after the age of 50.
Very few legislative employees acquire 30, 25, 20, or even 10 years of service to enable them to build up a large equity in retirement benefits. They pay into the fund the same percentage of their salaries as do Members of Congress and should be entitled to benefits calculated under an equally favorable formula.
The average contribution made by individuals in the legislative service to the retirement fund would far exceed the average contribution by individuals in the classified service.
Sec. The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 is hereby amended by adding after title VI thereof the following new title:
"TITLE VII-RETIREMENT OF LEGISLATIVE EMPLOYEES
"COMPUTATION OF ANNUITIES “Sec. 701. Section 4 (a) of the Civil Service Retirement Act of May 29, 1930, as amended, is hereby amended by inserting, after '$25 for each year of such service,' a comma and the following: 'or (3) in the case of an officer or employee in the legislative branch of the Government who so elects, 2 per centum of the average gross salary, pay, or compensation received by such officer or employee during
any five consecutive years of allowable service at the option of such officer or employee multiplied by the years of service'.
"INVOLUNTARY SEPARATION "SEC. 702. Section 1 of such act of May 29, 1930, as amended, is hereby amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:
"'(e) Any officer or employee in the legislative branch of the Government to whom this Act applies who shall have attained or shall hereafter attain the age of fifty years shall, upon involuntary separation from the service not by removal for cause on charges of misconduct or delinquency, be paid, if he so elects, an immediate life annuity computed as provided in section 4.'”
(The following memorandum was received from Prof. Lawrence H. Chamberlain, department of public law and government, Columbia University, New York City. Professor Chamberlain had been invited to appear before the committee but was unable to do so on the dates the hearings were in progress.) MEMORANDUM UPON THE OPERATION OF THE LEGISLATIVE REORGANIZATION
ACT OF 1946 Among the several important improvements stemming from the Reorganization Act, that of increased staffing for Congress and its committees is undoubtedly of great importance. In spite of the fact that most of the committees have not yet staffed themselves to capacity it seems clear that their general functioning has been improved through the medium of increased help. It seems logical to assume that with still further expansion of staff and increase in experience, additional improvement in congressional effectiveness will be achieved.
Nevertheless, it seems clear, upon the basis of 1 year's experience with the Congressional Reorganization Act, that the fundamental problem of increasing congressional impact upon governmental policy and operation lies elsewhere than in the matter of additional staffing.
In the final analysis Congress can make its will effective only by having a larger share in the initial determination of the legislative program each year. The need here is for some general over-all mechanism which can set the congressional compass and thus obviate, or at least reduce, the necessity of Congress depending upon Executive leadership for presentation of an over-all program. The formulation of such a broad legislative program cannot be handled under existing institutional arrangements. It seems imperative, therefore, that the suggestion made by the La Follette-Monroney committee and reiterated by Mr. Galloway that policy committees in both Houses be established, should be put into effect at the earliest opportunity. It is only through such policies as these that a program which is at once congressional and representative may be placed before both Houses at the outset of each new legislative session.
After the President has delivered his message on the state of the Union, Congress through its policy committees should state the congressional position on his proposals and, if necessary, set forth its counterproposals-in terms of a series of legislative objectives—i. e., a commitment that legislative action would be taken on certain issues before Congress adjourned. This resolution should be voted upon within the first week or so of the session.
In this manner it would be possible to have at the outset of the session something resembling a full-dress debate of the broad field of legislative policy with all attention being devoted to the more general issues before the country. Key figures in Congress, party or otherwise, would have an opportunity to place themselves on record concerning the current issues. If debates were made the chief order of business, and this became understood by Congress and the country, this period might come to have real significance. There would undoubtedly be cases where the opportunity would be abused, but if it were seized upon by the congressional leaders who had the interest of the country at heart it could help greatly to uniform and clarify thinking. It would provide the nucleus of a program upon which Congress and its committees could work.
Regarding the legislative budget proposal—the important objective of such a provision is not to establish figures which cannot be departed from in the course of individual committee investigation. This has not been the chief difficulty in
the past and it does not guarantee any special benefit in the future. What is important and has been lacking is that Congress have an over-all view of the financial program of the Government for the coming year. Heretofore the President's budget has been received by Congress and from the day of its reception it has ceased to exist as a unified financial program. It has been chopped up, assigned to separate committees, and never again considered as a total entity. The result has been that really at no time has Congress as a whole considered the budget as a whole.
Could not the Appropriations Committees and taxing committees of each House accept responsibility at the beginning of each session-perhaps by March 15 and also perhaps in conjunction with the policy committees of each Houseseparately if necessary, jointly if possible---report to Congress upon the budget as a whole? The report would not have to talk in terms of specific figures or total ceilings but would provide a responsible congressional statement, based upon informed judgment, of financial policy for the coming year. If necessary, the Appropriations Committee staffs could attend the budget hearings on departmental estimates during the fall and winter months preceding the submission of the President's budget so that the Appropriations Committees could have essential information in usable form during their own consultations in preparation of the suggested report.
The Appropriations Committees are rightfully respected agencies in Congress, yet they have tended to function more effectively as reviewing agencies for specific appropriation bills than as policy committees on general financial programs. They have great prestige and they have established a reputation for rising above petty political considerations. A carefully considered report which carried with it the majority approval of the Appropriations Committees could deal point by point with the President's budget.
Without talking in terms of specific dollar amounts, the report could put on record the responsible congressional view. Each specific executive proposal could thus be discussed and judged in its relation to the entire financial program of the Government--something which occurs only occasionally at the present time. Because of the official position which the Appropriations Committees hold, it seems reasonable that they would be careful to study their position thoroughly before placing themselves on record. It would not add to their prestige if subsequent congressional action departed widely from the original recommendation.
A special merit of the above proposal has been suggested but not explicitly stated. It would encourage the Appropriations Committees of Congress—the only congressional agencies which are in a position to see the over-all financial pictureto formulate a comprehensive financial policy. Naturally, the several subcommittees would be influential in constructing the composite plan but they would also see more clearly their own position in this plan and this understanding would be most useful as they went about their individual tasks of working up their own appropriations bills.
The Members of Congress who do not participate in the appropriations work would be among the chief beneficiaries of this proposal. The appropriations and taxing reports and the oral exposition following should add to the information and understanding of Congress and the country. Debate upon the reports should terminate in a vote upon approving it, although the vote is perhaps not of major importance.
The lobbying provisions need clarification. I assume recommendations have dealt fully with this point. The law will never become completely effective until it becomes the full-time and exclusive job of the agency empowered with its administration. The income-tax law would be little more observed than the lobby law if it were left to such badly overworked agencies as the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House. Let Congress establish a specific agencyappointed by Congress and responsible to it to do this job. No problem of separation of powers need enter in because this is an aspect of the legislative process. Perhaps a joint committee with an adequate permanent staff to carry on this enforcement work would be the best solution. The important thing is that the Lobbying Act become the full-time and sole responsibility of the agency administering it and that that agency have the staff to do its own investigating to supplement the reports which lobbyists submit.
It still seems clear that perhaps the single most fundamental obstacle to greater congressional effectiveness is the total work load. Obviously, if Congressmen could find a workable method of avoiding that portion of their work which involves representation of their constituents before administrative agencies all other reorganization measures would prove doubly effective. I realize that this subject is one that the outsider is apt to view unrealistically because he is either unaware of or insufficiently impressed by the pressures imposed upon the individual Congressman in this field. Little improvement can be expected to occur, however, unless the problem is faced by Congress as a whole, because the individual Congressman will never be able to stand up against these demands unless he has some kind of institutional facade to support him. I think that the time must come when Congress should give serious consideration to enactment of a resolution, perhaps as an amendment to the Tort Claims Act of the 1946 law, prohibiting Members of Congress from appearing before administrative agencies in support of individual claims or complaints. Such a provision would doubtless bring down a storm of protest and criticism. I can see many draw-backs to it. But until some collective action is taken the individual Congressman must remain the performer of detail and consequently unable to think of the over-all problems which are assigned him under our Constitution. Such an amendment should be followed by a requirement that the various administrative agencies improve their facilities for a rapid and effective settlement of complaints. Congressional committees could be very exacting in reviewing agency performance on this particular point.