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Slash spending? Of course, but not ours

In the budget-slashing atmosphere on Capitol Hill, Rep. Cliff Stearns thought he had latched on to a good idea when he tried to stop congressional pay raises.

But it seems his fellow Republican reformers are only willing to go so far.

The fourth-termer from Ocala proposed an amendment last week that would have eliminated the automatic cost-of-living increases for lawmakers. He submitted it in writing last Monday to Speaker Newt Gingrich's handpicked Rules Committee. But the committee, which includes Florida GOP Reps. Porter Goss of Sanibel and Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami, refused to send Stearns' proposal to the House floor.

"There is no reason why members of Congress should be rewarded with pay raises if they can't do the job the American people sent them here to do," Stearns said.

Members of Congress earn $133,600 annually. Lawmakers were due to receive an automatic 2 percent raise in 1995 _ about $2,000 _ but voted late in 1994 to reject the raise. They're due for another one at the end of this year.

Goss and Diaz-Balart said they couldn't recall the Stearns proposal. But a committee staffer said the amendment was out of order because Stearns was trying to change policy on a money bill _ usually a no-no under House rules.

Stearns might have helped his case, the aide said, if he had appeared in person to lobby for it.

In the meantime, Stearns has filed a bill to kill the automatic pay raises until the federal deficit is eliminated.

TAXING PROBLEM: While Rep. Joe Scarborough has been busy advocating major cutbacks in government services and the outright elimination of the Department of Education, he neglected to pay a tax bill back home.

According to Jennifer Pilgrim, an employee in the city of Pensacola tax records office, Scarborough owed $140.29 in delinquent real estate taxes on his downtown law office.

When asked about the bill _ for what's known as a tangible property tax _ last Thursday, the freshman Republican said he only rented space at the office and wasn't liable for any taxes.

A Scarborough aide reported the next day that he had actually paid the bill "a month or two ago."

Not exactly.

Turns out Scarborough paid up just this Friday, according to Pilgrim, who checked the records again.

WELFARE FACE-OFF: Republican Clay Shaw of Fort Lauderdale is busy starring on the welfare circuit. He wrote the House version of welfare reform, and must answer to charges that its work provisions are too lax and its cuts to teen mothers too mean.

Last week, Shaw was one of six in a television debate sponsored by U.S. News and World Report. Others included New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the godfather of American anti-poverty programs, and Donna Shalala, the secretary of Health and Human Services. Both think the existing welfare system is working pretty well.

But Shaw called it government-funded child abuse and a corrupt program that has absolutely destroyed human initiative.

He said welfare encourages out-of-wedlock births and lets teenagers set up households alone with new babies. And there's no reason a woman should get more welfare money because she has another child, he contended.

"Certainly no one in the Congress or in the real world is going to get a raise because they have more children," he said.

He quietly took a shot at Moynihan, who keeps reminding people that welfare was reformed in 1988 with a bill Moynihan authored. He says Congress hasn't learned anything new about curing poverty since then.

Said Shaw: "I hope we can get him back into the debate on the side of reason."

Welfare reform has been stalled indefinitely in the Senate, but Shaw and the others on the panel predicted a bill will pass this year.

UNDER DURESS: Hours before the Senate voted to allow motorcyclists to ride without helmets, the chamber's best-known biker showed up at the White House aboard his Harley-Davidson.

Colorado GOP Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell parked his orange and black bike on the First Driveway for a meeting with President Clinton about the doomed candidacy of surgeon general nominee Dr. Henry Foster.

The meeting over, the pony-tailed senator, wearing an open-necked shirt with a scarf, joined Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and other colleagues to chat with the assembled media.

Then, with cameras recording every second, Campbell hopped aboard the Harley _ and donned his matching helmet.

"I want you to know, the helmet is under duress," Campbell said.

What about the 55 mph speed limit? "I think it ought to be somewhere in the vicinity of 75," Campbell said. And off he roared.

CUTTING IT CLOSE: Rep. C.

W. "Bill" Young is optimistic he has enough votes to restore language to the Interior spending bill that would prohibit new oil and gas leases off the Florida coast.

But he's not leaving anything to chance.

The Interior's appropriations subcommittee stripped the annual moratorium on new Florida leases from the bill. Young, an Indian Rocks Beach Republican, was prepared to offer an amendment to the full appropriations committee Thursday, but appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston, R-La., halted the mark-up so members could participate in votes on the House floor. The committee is to resume work at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

After the meeting Bradenton GOP Rep. Dan Miller, who also sits on the appropriations panel, was overheard asking Young if the vote on the ban could be pushed back on Tuesday to accommodate his travel from Florida.

"There is a 6:30 flight from Tampa that could get me here around 9," Miller told Young.

"Dan, Dan, don't risk it," Young told him sternly.

SHORT TAKES: Longtime Orlando Sentinel Washington correspondent Annie Groer will become the Washington Post's new personality columnist . . . Florida Senate President Jim Scott made a quiet visit to the Capitol this week to ask Republican leaders about changes in store for Medicaid and welfare . . . No. 1 White House bachelor George Stephanopoulos is sporting a beard. The 34-year-old Clinton adviser blames a skin condition that prevents shaving.

_ Times staff writers Ceci Connolly, Ellen Debenport, David Dahl and Jennifer S. Thomas contributed to this report.

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