Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shrinking Feeling Sweeps Down Crowded Congressional Halls Clinton's White House Cuts Increase Pressure on Lawmakers to Sharply Reduce Staffs, Which Have Risen Tenfold since World War II

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shrinking Feeling Sweeps Down Crowded Congressional Halls Clinton's White House Cuts Increase Pressure on Lawmakers to Sharply Reduce Staffs, Which Have Risen Tenfold since World War II

Article excerpt

FORMER President Nixon looked with amazement around the heavily staffed congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

"I can't believe it," Mr. Nixon told a fellow Republican, Rep. David Dreier of California, during a visit two years ago. Recalling his own days as a young congressman back in the 1940s, Nixon said:

"When I was here, we had two secretaries and one man."

In 1993, "two secretaries and one man" would not be enough personal staff for even the lowliest freshman congressman on Capitol Hill. Every member of the House of Representatives now is entitled to 18 full-time and four part-time staffers.

That's not all. If you're a ranking member who runs a big committee, you could have dozens more congressional employees directly beholden to you for their jobs.

All this empire-building now has come under fire. With President Clinton slashing his own White House staff by 25 percent, pressure is building on Congress to prune its multibillion-dollar army of bureaucrats.

Rep. Michael Castle (R) of Delaware, a freshman member, declares after looking around Capitol Hill for a few weeks: "Some congressional downsizing is sorely needed." `Too many committees'

Representative Castle's view is shared by many Democrats. Rep. Dave McCurdy (D) of Oklahoma says: "We simply have too many committees with too much staff for 435 members of the House to capably manage. In fact, they manage us."

Representative Dreier, another critic of overstaffing, has held his personal staff down to 12 employees, 10 below the maximum - both to save money, and for smoother operations.

"I get along beautifully," he says.

But on most of Capitol Hill, building a big staff is the rule. And the impact is enormous.

During the past four decades, Congress has approved an exponential growth of staff for both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

It was not always this way. In fact, through most of its history, Congress was a lean organization.

In 1947, after helping America fight a world war, successfully guiding the nation through its worst-ever Depression, and launching major reforms such as Social Security, the Senate had a staff of just 590 employees. The House had 1,440. That was the Congress that Nixon knew.

Today, staff size has mushroomed thirteenfold to 7,620 employees in the Senate, and multiplied over eight times in the House to 12,446.

And that's not all.

There are also 5,274 people working for the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress; 5,033 employed at the Library of Congress; and 4,910 at Congress's Government Printing Office. …

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