Payday on Capitol Hill

This week, House lawmakers “approved” a $3,300 increase to their current $165,200 salaries. Most appalling about this increase is not its fiscal impact, which is very small relative to the federal budget. Rather, it is the despicably clandestine process by which it is routinely passed.

Because of a 1989 law that makes congressional pay raises automatic, Congress very rarely actually votes to increase lawmakers’ pay. They can voluntarily block the raise and did so five times in the ’90s. But since 1999, they have accepted the automatic increase every year and used procedural tactics to table any discussion or vote on the matter.

In March, the Senate tried to go one step further, approving a measure that would deny pay raises to any individual senator or congressmember who votes against a pay increase. The measure would have also denied pay raises to members who opposed the procedural vote to block consideration of the pay raise.

Sound complicated? Well it is. Congress has quite intentionally shrouded the entire process to keep the public from paying attention. And they can hardly be blamed. Given their track record of late, does anyone actually believe these guys deserve more money?