House Votes Quietly For Its Pay Raise One Lawmaker Tried To Stop The Move. His Was A Lone Voice Against A Routine Act.

Posted: July 21, 2000

WASHINGTON — They will fight with abandon over tax cuts, Medicare spending, or the time of day, but there is one topic that leaves Republican and Democratic lawmakers positively speechless - raising their own pay.

In what has become a yearly ritual, members of the House, with virtually no debate, voted yesterday to give themselves a $3,800 cost-of-living increase, to $145,100 a year, despite the efforts of a lone lawmaker to stop them.

"I have a hard time voting to increase my pay when people in my district are earning an average income of $25,000 a year," said Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R., Ky.), who alone spoke about the pay raise on the floor.

Fletcher tried to introduce a measure to stop the pay raise. A law created by Congress gives lawmakers an automatic increase every year unless they act to block it. Fletcher's move was defeated on a procedural vote, 250-173. The Senate is expected to allow the pay raise to go forward.

Lawmakers' annual salary would rise 2.7 percent from $141,300 a year. The automatic pay adjustment is pegged to the rate of inflation.

It would be lawmakers' third pay raise in the last four years, all acquired the same way. Emboldened by a booming economy and the public's general optimism about the future, lawmakers felt they were safe in taking no action to block the pay adjustment. But just in case, they dealt with the issue as quickly and quietly as possible.

Earlier this year, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.) and Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D., Mo.) met privately and agreed they would deliver enough votes from each party to stop any move to block the pay raise, Hastert spokesman John Feehery said. That way, neither party could use it against the other in upcoming House elections.

Fletcher said he knew his proposal would be voted down because of the leadership's opposition. He proposed amending a spending bill that funds the Treasury Department to stop the pay increase.

No one spoke in favor of the pay raise on the floor.

Representatives from the Philadelphia area who voted for the procedural motion that, in effect, will allow a pay raise for Congress were Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Borski (D., Pa.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Greenwood (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.), and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Voting against the motion were Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Joseph M. Hoeffel (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R., Pa.).

Jackie Koszczuk's e-mail address is jkoszczuk

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