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END EXEMPTIONS FOR CONGRESS

As time runs out on Congress, one piece of legislation that deserves swift passage may fall victim to the grid-locked agenda.

The bill at risk would require members of Congress to live by the same civil rights and labor laws that they apply to the rest of the nation.It would be hard to find a proposal that has wider support from the public - a public that increasingly regards the Congress with disdain, frustration and anger. This disillusionment with senators and representatives is a real threat to the election chances of many incumbents.

Given that situation, Congress ought to rush the bill through to President Clinton, who says he supports it.

Yet the measure unaccountably seems mired in the legislative process and is opposed by a few influential senior members in the House and Senate.

The measure is not on the priority list of the Senate Democratic leadership for the final two weeks of the session. And Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, an influential senior member, says he would fight the bill if it is brought up on the floor of the Senate.

He claims it could cost too much to administer and could lead to the filing of discrimination lawsuits by employees for political reasons. Welcome to the real world, senator.

The arguments in favor of such a bill are compelling. If a law is good enough for the private sector, it should be good enough for Congress. And if Congress had to live under the laws it passes, members might have a little more understanding of what impact laws and regulations can have on the private sector. Such understanding might even lead to some reduction in burdensome laws and rules coming out of Congress.

If Congress doesn't act, the bill would expire when the current Congress adjourns. Members of Congress ought to worry, since this is an election year. The failure to pass the bill ending congressional exemptions is one more reason for disenchanted voters to make some changes in the House and Senate.