Skip to content
Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Congressional Pay Raise

Ronald Reagan’s proposal to give big raises to top government officials, including a $12,100 increase to members of Congress, is now in the hands of an uncomfortable Congress. If these lawmakers refuse to vote for thirty calendar days, their raises become law by February 4, under a little amendment sneaked through without any hearings in late 1985. Passing a statute without voting might have surprised the drafters of our Constitution in Philadelphia 200 years ago. But many a Senator and Representative would prefer to duck unconstitutionally for a pay hike rather than stand up and be counted pro or con.
With one eye on their wallets and the other on postmen groaning under loads of outraged citizens’ mail protesting this salary grab, the Senators are moving toward a record vote and leaving it up o Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) and Robert Michel (R-IL) to make sure the House of Representatives does not vote. Most Capitol Hill observers believe that roll call votes in both Houses would surely defeat the pay hikes.

On top of a $2300 COLA increase January 1st for these top 3000 officials and on top of a several thousand dollars in savings from the new tax law, Mr. Reagan still wants to give them more. In his budget message of January 5th, which contained recommended cutbacks in child nutrition, education, housing, medicaid and medicare cuts, Mr. Reagan indicated he would ask for yet another raise for top officials next year.

Well, here comes the citizens’ rebellion against the Reagan‑Washington salary grab. If the people win and block this increase, Congress and other government officials will think twice on other issues before rolling over the public’s will. If the politicians feather their already ample nest with dollars, beyond the present five times the average worker’s earnings plus benefits, then they will see fewer limits to what they can get away with, given the public’s apathy over their misbehavior. For what they hope people will buy, by inaction, is the proposition that taxpayers have to pay these top officials more to do the right things in a more competent manner. These same officials already are earning more than 98% of the American taxpayers who earn money for their livelihood.

Here is the action plan to stop the Salary Grab in Washington:

  1. Write or call your two Senators and Representative and ask for a written pledge by return mail stating that they oppose any salary increase, that they will demand in writing that a record, roll call vote be taken, that they personally will refuse to take any salary increase no matter what is enacted. It will help if you also have some neighbors and friends sign on.
  2. Ask your Senators and Representatives for a copy of what Congressional insiders call the Green Book. This volume is formally called the Congressional Handbook — a looseleaf compilation of accounting procedures for allowances and expenses of members, committees and employees. Deep inside this handbook­- the House Administration Committee prepared the latest edition in September 1985 for House members — are the many perquisites and allowances that help round out their personal economic comforts.
  3. To mobilize your community quickly, send for a free citizen action kit to stop the Reagan salary hikes pending before Congress. The kit includes a petition, fact sheet and a list of suggestions to make your voice heard. Please include a self‑addressed, stamped business envelope. The address is Craig McDonald, P.O. Box 19404, Washington, DC 20036.

Voter pressure has already “persuaded” Senator Majority Leader, Robert Byrd (D-WV) to schedule a record vote on the salary increases around January 23rd. Even more pressure is needed on Speaker Jim Wright from Fort Worth, Texas where his constituents are flooding his office with calls.

Members of Congress know where most people stand on this issue. Right after a debate pro and con regarding Reagan’s salary raise proposal on ABC’s Good Morning America, a 900 telephone number poll produced 5800 viewers for the raises and over 167,000 against. Once in a while it is renewing for the people in this country, upset with deficits, waste, recession in many states and declining real wages, to demonstrate to
Washington who is boss.