This is the editorial from the Tuesday, November 22, edition of The Mercury. It appears voters can add their local congressman to the list of incumbents who need to be booted out of office in 2006.
Congress joins the bandwagon for raises without cause
Just when we thought we had reeled in one group of lawmakers over a pay-raise fiasco, another group — Congress this time — gives itself more money.
Congress voted itself a $3,100 pay raise on Friday, then postponed work on bills to curb spending on social programs and cut taxes in favor of a two-week vacation.
In the final hours of a tumultuous week in the Capitol, Democrats erupted in fury when House GOP leaders maneuvered toward a politically-charged vote — and swift rejection — of one war critic’s call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
On another major issue, a renewal of the Patriot Act remained in limbo as an unlikely coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans sought curbs on the powers given law enforcement in the troubled first days after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Both the House and Senate were in session after midnight Thursday, working on the tax and deficit-cutting bills at the heart of the GOP agenda.
The cost-of-living increase for members of Congress — which will put pay for the rank and file at an estimated $165,200 a year — marked a brief truce in the pitched political battles that have flared in recent weeks on the war and domestic issues.
Lawmakers automatically receive a cost-of-living increase each year, unless Congress votes to block it. By tradition, critics have tried to block increases by attaching a provision to the legislation that provides funding for the Treasury Department.
(Although information was not readily available from the Associated Press or any other source on how members of Congress voted, a spokesman for Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6th, said the area congressman voted against the raise. No wonder, after witnessing how his constituents felt about the Pennsylvania pay grab.)
The actions of Congress follow the same spirit of arguing over the business at hand, then agreeing on a financial benefit to themselves before leaving town for a vacation that set off a furor among Pennsylvania taxpayers last summer.
The state legislature finally saw the error and repealed the raise just days ago. Was anyone in Washington paying attention?
The raise voted in Congress was not as egregious as the July 7 raise in Harrisburg, but it was still a raise they voted for themselves without finishing the job at hand and on the way to a two-week vacation. Remember this the next time a politician tells you how tough they have it.
Copyright 2005 The Mercury