Published June 13, 2006
WASHINGTON – Despite record low approval ratings, House lawmakers Tuesday allowed a $3,300 pay raise that will increase their salaries to $168,500.
The 2 percent cost-of-living raise would be the seventh straight for members of the House and Senate.
Lawmakers easily squelched a bid by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to get a direct vote to block the COLA, which is automatically awarded unless lawmakers vote to block it.
In the early days of GOP control of Congress, lawmakers routinely denied themselves the annual COLA. Last year, the Senate voted 92-6 to deny the raise but quietly surrendered the position in House-Senate talks.
As part of an ethics reform bill in 1989, Congress gave up their ability to accept pay for speeches and made annual cost-of-living pay increases automatic unless the lawmakers voted otherwise.
The pay issue has been linked to the annual Transportation and Treasury Department spending bill because that measure stipulates that civil servants get raises of 2.7 percent, the same as military personnel will receive. Under a complicated formula, the increase translates to 2 percent for members of Congress.
Like last year, Matheson led a quixotic drive to block the raise. He was the only member to speak on the topic.
"I do not think that it is appropriate to let this bill go through without an up or down vote on whether or not Congress should have an increase in its own pay," Matheson said.
But by a 249-167 vote, the House rejected Matheson's procedural attempt to get a direct vote on the pay raise.
The pay raise would also apply to the vice president — who is president of the Senate — congressional leaders and Supreme Court justices.
This year, Vice President Dick Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the Supreme Court chief justice receive $212,100. Associate justices receive $203,000. House and Senate party leaders get $183,500.
President Bush's salary of $400,000 is unaffected by the legislation.