COLA Repeal?

Posted January 8, 2003 at 6:14pm

On the first day of the new session, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced a bill to roll back Members’ 3.1 percent cost-of-living adjustment that went into effect automatically this year.

Miller said the impetus for dropping the bill was President Bush’s executive order giving federal employees a 3.1 percent pay increase this year, down 1 point from the figure many Members of Congress had sought. (The move did not affect legislative branch employees.) He said that if federal employees are being asked to sacrifice in the name of homeland security, so should Members.

“No. 1, we’re in a deficit situation,” Miller added. “No. 2, we’re asking National Guardsmen to leave their jobs and go to places unknown to defend this country — and they are having to make adjustments in their budgets. I think it’s important that Congress show leadership on this.”

The bill already has a handful of sponsors, and Miller is looking for others.

A rank-and-file Member’s salary is now $154,700. Members of the leadership make more. Over a decade ago Congress made its own COLA automatic each January, and this year’s increase follows three others in as many years.

Traditionally, Members wanting to oppose it amend the Treasury Department, Postal Service and general government spending bill. For the second year in a row, only freshman Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) objected when the House took up its version of the bill. But when the appropriations process stalled last year, there were virtually no bills left to which an amendment to block the COLA would have been germane.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) objected vehemently to the dearth of opportunities to stop what he deems a clandestine effort to pad Members’ pockets. He dropped a bill Tuesday that would repeal the automatic pay raise and force Congress to schedule up-or-down votes for raises.

High Honors. Two longtime House staffers have been given the John W. McCormack Award of Excellence to recognize outstanding service.

Sally Crowe and John Corbin both started working for the House in the 1950s, Crowe as a cashier in the Longworth Cafeteria and Corbin in the kitchen of the Members’ Dining Room. Since the 1970s, Crowe has been a hostess in the Members’ Dining Room. Corbin now holds the title of maitre d’.

— Suzanne Nelson