Congress' method of receiving a pay raise is "cowardly," according to Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah.

He conceded, however, that it appears the proposed 50 percent raise will go through."Congress says federal judges can't get their raises unless we get ours, so we're willing to make a sacrifice and take our raises so the judges can get theirs," he said. "It's a cowardly way of doing it."

Members of Congress and federal judges will receive a 50 percent pay raise, based on recommendations made by the Commission on Executive, Legislative and Judicial Salaries, unless both houses of Congress reject it by Feb. 8. The raise will increase wages for members of Congress and federal judges to $135,000 annually.

Nielson said President Reagan's support of the measure is a big mistake. "I would have much preferred it if he had cut the commission's recommendation as he did two years ago."

Nielson told an audience at Orem's City Council Chambers that he favors a constitutional amendment that would defer raises to the next congressional term.

Nielson said the pay raise issue is the major concern of citizens attending town meetings in Utah's 3rd District, and attendance is higher than usual. In Salina, the raise was the only topic discussed at any length. "I talked about the Central Utah Proj-ect for about a minute and the discussion went right back to the pay raise issue."

Nielson was one of 17 members of Congress who tried to force the salary issue to a vote in 1987 but was rejected by House leadership.