Hoyer Opposes Ban on Automatic Congressional Pay Raises; No House Vote Planned

By Josiah Ryan | March 17, 2009 | 8:14 PM EDT

House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) (AP Photo)

(Update: The Senate, by a voice vote on Tuesday, agreed to scrap the system that gives members of Congress an automatic cost-of-living pay raise every year. "Especially in this hour of economic crisis, the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans would agree that we should end this practice of automatic adjustments," said Majority Leader Harry Reid.)

(CNSNews.com) – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told CNSNews.com on Tuesday that he does not support a bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid  (D-Nev.) that would repeal a law giving members of Congress an automatic cost-of-living pay raise each year without a roll call vote.

Hoyer said he will not commit to bringing Reid's bill up for a vote in the House even if it passes in the Senate.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), a proponent of ending Congress's automatic annual pay raise, told CNSNews.com that despite the House leadership’s intentions, Reid’s bill should be passed in the Senate to put pressure on “obstructionists” like Hoyer.
When asked if he would bring Reid’s legislation to the House floor for a vote if it passed in the Senate, Hoyer told CNSNews.com, “No, I am not for it. So I am not going to commit to bringing it to the floor. We will see what happens to it but, you know--that answer doesn’t shock you, I am sure.”
“We have a vote every year in the House of Representatives on the procedural question which is clearly on whether or not we ought to receive the cost of living” salary increases, Hoyer told CNSNews.com. “It was my view and the Speaker’s view very strongly that this year we ought not to have a cost of living in the coming year given the situation in our country, given the distress so many people are under. I maintain that view.”
Each year the matter of whether to vote to cancel an automatic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) pay raise for Congress is brought before the House for a vote. If the House decides not to debate the bill, the pay raises occur automatically.
On Feb. 25, the House voted 398-24 to cancel an automatic pay raise for the year 2010.
The bill introduced by Reid in the Senate on Mar. 6, however, would repeal the automatic pay raises and require a vote for every pay raise Congress receives. 
According to the U.S. House of Representatives Web site, Pelosi makes $223,500 a year as speaker. Reid, as majority leader of the Senate, makes $193,400. By contrast, the chief justice of the United States makes $217,000 per year and President Obama makes $400,000.
Congress has not denied itself a raise since 2007, when it agreed with President Bush that Congress should join the executive branch in freezing its pay.
Vitter, who proposed an amendment to the omnibus bill earlier this month that would have ended automatic pay raises, told CNSNews.com that the Senate should put pressure on the House on this issue.
“The point is to pass it,” said Vitter. “The point is to show the American people we are behind this--to show that obstructionists like Hoyer are made to change their positions.”
Although Reid is the sponsor of the Senate bill, and as majority leader has the power to schedule Senate floor votes, he has not yet scheduled a vote on it.

“I agree with Senator Vitter that cost-of-living adjustments for members of Congress should not be automatic,” Reid said on the Senate floor last Tuesday. “That is why I introduced a freestanding bill last week that would do just that. By passing this legislation as a stand-alone, it can become law without threatening completion of this (omnibus) appropriations bill.”
At her weekly press conference last Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated she would not support bringing Reid’s bill to the floor for a vote.
“As I said, under the current system, members have an opportunity to vote on that each year,” said Pelosi. “We will continue that tradition in the regular order of the House of Representatives.”