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Job layoffs -- an unfamiliar status for many Senate staffers

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When the Republican ride their landslide into the US Senate majority next January, they will not only replace elected politicians. An estimated 1,000 Senate committee staffers hired by Democrats will also be out of jobs.

At his cramped Senate committee quartersM economist Jim McIntire eats his lunch and manages to keep his sense of humor about his fate.

Only three weeks ago he had married, and he and his wife had good jobs and a combined salary of close to $60,000. He worked for the Democratic majority of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, she as a lawyer for the Carter administration.

When the two hurried back from their Virgin Islands honeymoon in time to vote , "We anticipated losing her job," Jim McIntire says. They had not guessed that by the day after the elections the Republicans would have captured 53 seats in the US Senate, their first majority in more than a quarter of a century.

Senate rules give the majority Party the right to appoint two-thirds of all committee staffers. At a Democratic staff meeting of the Labor and Human Resources Committee this week, the staffers were told to look around, that by January every other person in the room would "be gone."

In fact, even more may be gone, because designated Republican majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee is promising to cut Senate operation costs by 10 percent. So all staffs may shrink, leaving still fewer slots for Democrats.

On Capitol Hill this week dazed staffers are slowly recovering from the shock , typing up job resumes, and managing to "roll with the punches," as one assistant staff head says.

A few years ago a laid-off staffer might go over to the House of Representatives to work for a freshman congressman. But this year "it's pretty tight,> says McIntire, who is now setting up interviews with private consultants.

And the old adage that a staffer can always find work in the private companies that deal with Congress may not hold true either, he says, now that there are "many former congressmen and senators who're out there doing the same thing."


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