As Congress opened its third century on Tuesday, Utah's congressional delegation wasted no time getting down to business - participating in swearing-in ceremonies, re-electing officers and doing some early politicking.
The first day saw a race among Utah congressmen to see who can best and most quickly persuade Congress to give Fort Douglas to the University of Utah if the base is closed.Reps. Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson, both R-Utah, quickly filed a bill Tuesday to do that, while Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, promised a Democratic version of the bill later this month.
It all happened as Congress began to mark its bicentennial of operation under the Constitution, which began in 1789. The new 101st Congress is heavily Democratic, having a 55-45 lead in the Senate and 259-174 margin in the House, which has two vacancies.
Four of the five members of Utah's delegation were sworn in to new terms of office after their re-election in November.
In the Senate, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was sworn in to his third term. Vice President George Bush gave the oath of office to four senators at a time in alphabetical order. Hatch was flanked by freshmen Sens. James Jeffords, R-Vt., and Bob Kerry, D-Neb., and fellow three-termer John Heinz, R-Pa.
Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, did not have to be sworn in because his six-year term does not expire until 1992.
In the House, all 425 members present were sworn in at the same time by Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas.
Ceremonies in the House took on almost a carnival atmosphere as many members brought children and grandchildren onto the House floor to watch the swearing in, and boisterously welcomed colleagues back after their Christmas recess.
So many visitors were on the floor that the House could not use its electronic voting system - which can instantly record a roll-call vote. So a vocal roll-call vote to elect the speaker of the House took 45 minutes, and stopped several times because clerks could not hear over conversations and crying children.
During most of the ruckus, Hansen and Nielson sat quietly next to each other on the Republican side of the aisle. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, joked with Democratic colleagues, sitting two seats to the left of Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.
Not surprisingly, the vote for speaker was straight down party lines, with Wright defeating House Minority Leader Bob Michel 253-170.
When Wright stood to accept his nomination, uncontrollable screams came from one baby, which appropriately belonged to a Republican - Rep. Connie Morella, R-Md., a mother of nine.
Shortly after Congress finished the formalities to begin its new session, Hansen filed a bill co-sponsored by Nielson that would give Fort Douglas to the University of Utah if the base is closed. (See story on B1.)
A congressionally appointed commission recommended that and numerous other closures two weeks ago. If the recommendations are accepted by Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, Congress must accept or reject the entire list without amending it.
Aides said Hansen sponsored the bill because he is the only member of the House Armed Services Committee from Utah. But Fort Douglas is in the district represented by Owens, and he told the Deseret News on Tuesday that he will have a bill of his own on Fort Douglas later this month.
He said that because the House is controlled by Democrats his bill will be the one most likely to gain support from House Armed Service Committee Chairman Les Aspin and eventually be passed by the House. Owens said he wants to talk more to Army and university officials before making a final draft.
In the Senate, Hatch's press secretary, Paul Smith, said Hatch will support the Hansen-Nielson version of the bill in the Senate e but may propose amendments to allow an Army reserve medical unit to use the base.
Nielson also was involved in other politicking. He is among the co-sponsors of a bill introduced Tuesday by Rep. Tom Tauke, R-Iowa, to force roll-call votes before Congress accepts any pay raise, and to delay raises until after the next election - meaning a sitting Congress could not raise its own pay.
Reid Ivins, Nielson's administrative assistant, said that the 1st Congress, 200 years ago, almost made a similar proposal part of the Bill of Rights. He said Nielson wants to see it made part of the Constitution now, or at least made part of statutory law.
A commission recently recommended a 50 percent pay increase for Congress, from $89,500 to $135,000. If accepted by President Reagan, it would take effect unless Congress votes within 30 days to reject it.
Hansen also is somewhat involved in another of the early issues that Congressis facing. He is on the committee investigating ethics charges against Wright. The speaker was easily re-elected despite those charges, but called for tighter ethical guidelines Tuesday.
He said he and Michel will soon appoint a special committee to make recommendations on ethical guideline changes. Wright and Michel both called Tuesday for campaign reform.