In the eye of the Newt Gingrich hurricane swirling over Capitol Hill, there's still a safe place, for Democrats as well as Republicans, where taxpayers will keep financing year-round congressional re-election campaigns.

Mindful of the congressional impulse to first tend the needs of incumbents, Gingrich and his hurricane-keepers have passed the word there'll be no forced reductions in personal office staffs for senators and House members.In round numbers, that's about 14,500 staffers, half on the Senate side and half on the House side - a total Senate-House annual payroll of about $450 million.

It's of some interest that the 14,500 personal staffers working in members' offices are about three times as many as there are working on congressional committee staff payrolls.

That much-smaller Capitol Hill employment has become a publicized target for Gingrich and other Republican reformers who've sworn the "bloated" committee staffs will be righteously trimmed to make sure American taxpayers aren't unnecessarily soaked.

-Leonard Larsen

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Scripps Howard News Service

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