On September 4, by a vote of 240 to 173, the House, in effect, raised members pay by approving a motion to order the previous question while considering the 2004 appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Treasury.
Although complicated and obscure, this parliamentary maneuver allowed Congress to give itself a pay raise without taking a direct up-or-down vote.
The only member to speak against the procedural motion was Rep. Jim Matheson (D.-Utah), who raised the obvious point that the nation is in crisis with the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, and facing a $500-billion deficit. It is therefore inappropriate, he argued, for Congress to give itself an automatic cost-of-living increase without even the accountability of an up-or-down vote.
“These are difficult times in our nation,” said Matheson. “We are fighting terrorism on numerous fronts. Our economy is in serious trouble, unemployment is at record-high levels, and our future budget deficits are predicted to be the highest in the history of this great nation. Now is not the time for members of Congress to be voting themselves a pay raise.”
Matheson, a relatively conservative Democrat who narrowly won re-election last year, was a lonely voice for fiscal sanity on the House floor.
“We need to show the American people that we are willing to make sacrifices,” he said. “We need to budget, live within our means and make careful spending decisions based on our most pressing priorities,” he said. Let us send a signal to the American people that we recognize their struggle in todays economy. Vote no on the previous question so we can have an opportunity to block the automatic cost-of-living adjustment to members of Congress. Regardless of how Members feel about this issue, they should all be willing to make their position public and on the record.”
Most Congressmen disagreed, however. Congress will therefore get its 2.2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) and nenbers salaries will reach $158,000 next year.
Conservative activists were upset at Congress insistence upon avoiding this vote. Since 1989, the cost of living adjustment has been automatic each year.
“Members of Congress have the only job in the country whose occupants can set their own salary without regard to performance, profit, or economic climate,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “Clearly, members must think that money grows on trees. With a $480 billion deficit, the escalating cost of the war in Iraq, and a stagnant economy, Congress should be curbing spending, not lining their pockets at our expense.”
A “yes” vote was a vote to order the previous question and let Congress have a pay raise without an up-or-down vote. A “no” vote was a vote to force such an up-or-down vote, and put Congressmen on the record for giving themselves a pay hike in tough economic times.
|FOR THE MOTION: 240||AGAINST THE MOTION: 173|
|REPUBLICANS FOR: 128
DEMOCRATS FOR: 112
|REPUBLICANS AGAINST: 92
Davis, Jo Ann
DEMOCRATS AGAINST: 80
INDEPENDENTS AGAINST: 1
NOT VOTING: 21
|REPUBLICANS (8):||DEMOCRATS (13):||INDEPENDENTS (0)|