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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Congressional Pay Raise

It appears, at this writing, that Mr. Bush and Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on the thorny subject of budget cuts. These cuts will affect millions of Americans in not a happy way. But standing above these reduced program services — many in the health, education, safety and housing areas — are the top three thousand government officials in the three branches of government. Their $35,000 annual Pay Raise remains untouched by concepts of common sacrifice or political leadership by example.

The White House-Congressional Pay Grab, as its many detractors call it, came into being with unaccustomed legislative swiftness. After a storm of citizen protest forced Congress to back down from accepting Mr. Reagan’s proposed 51% pay increase in February 1909, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Congress bided their truculent time and, suddenly in the week. before the Thanksgiving holidays, gave their fellow legislators more cash to cheer about. In one day, without any public committee hearings and without allowing any amendments on the House floor, Speaker Tom Foley and his co-cabalist, Minority Leader, Bob Michel rolled over 174 dissenters and passed a $35,000 a year raise. Two days later the Senate approved the House Raise, but due to a mounting voter protest, they only took about $9000 a year themselves. Congressional pensions, already very generous, were expanded mightily in this deal also, to add to already abundant perks and benefits.

Prior to this raise, members of Congress were making $89,500 plus benefits which placed them in the upper one percent of earners in America. Since 1961, Congress has raised member salaries by 48% to more than exceed inflation. When top government salaries go up so sharply, the rest of the civil servants naturally want their share. All this avarice happened when the government that these politicians preside over remains broke — riddled with huge budget deficits, S & L, HUD and Pentagon procurement scandals that are further mortgaging our children’s future with hundreds of billions of dollars of debt.

A performance of financial crises, corruption, waste and campaign finance sleaze, that produces indifference toward addressing national problems in ways that offend powerful special interests, certainly does not merit a pay increase. Back in the early Thirties, Congress cut its members’ pay two years in a row to set an example for the people then mired in Depression and unemployment. This Congress and this White House do not even have the shame to hold their pay steady; instead they thumb their nose at the 80% of the people whom national polls sag are against this Pay Raise and flout democratic processes in the Congress to grab an additional $35,000 yearly.

The voters drive to repeal this Pay Grab is gathering steam across the country with petitions, calls, telegrams and letters comings into Congressional offices. The time could not be more ripe. An election is nearing. The incumbents who voted for their raise are going to have to explain to the people back home and their challengers why all these budget cuts exempt legislators pay raises. Already the repeal drive can count on 174 Representatives in the House and 42 Senators whose votes registered NO last November. That is a solid start to get the repeal bill, H.R. 5416, on the House floor for a vote before adjournment.

To send an immediate written message demanding repeal, phone 1-900-786-4040 (a $2.00 charge on your telephone bill). Or call your Representatives local office (phone number is in your telephone directory under “U.S. Government”) and ask for a letter stating their support for H.R. 5416.

If you wish to help mobilize your friends, co-workers and neighbors, call the Congressional Accountability Project at 202-546-4996 to receive a free Repeal the Pay Grab Campaign Kit complete with tact sheets, strategies and petition forms. It is necessary to act soon to send a vivid message to those out-of-control politicians in Washington.