Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Congress Gives Itself a Raise

From the Associated Press:

"WASHINGTON, June 28 - The House agreed Tuesday that members of Congress should earn $3,100 more next year, bringing their salaries to $165,200.

By a vote of 263 to 152, the House blocked a bid by Representative Jim Matheson, Democrat of Utah, to force a vote on the increase. Instead, lawmakers will automatically receive the money as provided for in a 1989 law that barred them from accepting large speaking fees in exchange for an annual cost of living adjustment.

Mr. Matheson was the only House member to speak out against the increase, which will take effect in January."

The Congressional Record from yesterday's session is not yet online, but I'm going to update this later with Matheson's speech. The roll call vote, however, is here. The key is probably to recognize that not all of the no votes you see there were because they opposed a pay raise; other factors undoubtedly came into play. But it was 87 Republicans, 64 Dems, and independent Bernie Sanders voting to block consideration of the bill (136 Reps and 127 Dems supported moving forward and accepting the raise).

Jim Matheson gets a gold star for the day. He's the only one.

[Update: Here's Matheson's statement, from the Congressional Record:

"Mr. MATHESON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask my colleagues to oppose the previous question.

Our Nation is facing a number of challenges. We are fighting a war against terror that will continue to require significant attention and resources. We are facing historic budget deficits with a national debt of almost $8 trillion.

Our country has pressing needs in education, health care, veterans services and other areas. With all of those challenges before us now, now is not the time for Members of the Congress to be voting themselves a pay raise. We need to be willing to make sacrifices. We need to behave like American families who make tough choices every day. We need to budget, live within our means, and make careful spending decisions based on our more pressing priorities.

A no vote on the previous question will allow Members to vote up or down on the automatic cost of living pay raise for Members of Congress. If the previous question is defeated, I will offer an amendment to the rule. My amendment will block the fiscal year 2006 cost of living pay raise for Members of Congress. Because this amendment requires a waiver, the only way to get to this issue is to defeat the previous question. So again, I urge my colleagues to vote no on the previous question" [emphasis added].

Matheson's procedural motion, as I noted above, failed to pass. I wish it hadn't. What better points can be made than those he sets out? Historic budget deficits, other pressing needs, willing to make sacrifices, now is not the time. Indeed. -- 9:10 a.m.]

[Update: The Salt Lake Tribune covers Matheson's effort, noting that he has opposed each year's pay increase since he was elected in 2000, and that he donates each year's raise to charity.

Also we have this, from the Washington Post:

"The annual debate on the members' COLA resembles kabuki theater: Both Democratic and Republican leaders guarantee sizable majorities of their members to block the effort, and they make sure there is not a clear-cut vote on the measure. None of the party campaign committees uses the pay-raise issue in campaigns."

Great. More kabuki theater from Congress - just what we need. -- 11:04 a.m.]

Discussion for the comments, if you're interested: does Congress deserve this pay raise? Use whatever criteria you'd like to evaluate their job performance.


At 4:49 AM, Blogger sanity said...

It is interesting that I am seeing a wide variety of media poulling this info.

Your link no longer works as they have taken down the story, as has the washington post.



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