Before the July Fourth recess even started, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) put Senators on notice that the weeklong break could be the last one they have for a while. Reid threatened to completely eliminate the monthlong August recess over GOP tactics that have blocked Democrats from sending both a 9/11 commission recommendations bill and a lobbying and ethics overhaul to House-Senate conference committees. [IMGCAP(1)]
On the floor Friday, Reid said, “Everyone should understand that prior to the August recess we’re going to complete ethics and lobbying reform. We’re going to do it if we have to spend nights, weekends, take days out of our August recess.” He repeated the threat on the 9/11 bill, saying, “I’m no longer going to come here and beg the Republicans to do what’s good for the country. It’s up to them.”
Later at a press conference, Reid went further: “If it means our recess is going to go away, we’re going to complete those two pieces of legislation.”
The Un-COLA. Two lawmakers introduced legislation last week to block the scheduled 2008 Congressional pay raise the day after the House defeated a procedural move, 244-181, to block the raise using the financial services spending bill.
Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) dropped identical bills last Thursday to block the pay hike. Burton has no co-sponsors yet, but a Mitchell spokesman said fellow freshman Democratic Reps. Nancy Boyda (Kan.), John Hall (N.Y.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.) have asked to sign on to the bill.
Debate over the Congressional pay raise is a perennial event on Capitol Hill, but this year there was an added element of partisanship to the vote because GOP leaders accused Democrats of breaking the long-standing truce in the 2006 election cycle by using the pay raise as an issue in campaign ads. Nearly all of the freshman Democrats, including Mitchell, voted against the pay raise on Wednesday.
Unless Congress votes to block the raise, lawmakers will get a $4,400 pay hike in January, raising the annual salary to $169,660.
PAYGO a Go? According to the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, House leadership has vowed to back legislation re-establishing statutory “pay-as-you-go” spending rules. Members of the group met last week with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to discuss their efforts, and they said he agreed to move legislation later this year.
Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), a Blue Dog co-chairman, said the Budget Committee will first hold a hearing in July on PAYGO rules, which aim to mandate that new spending or tax cuts are balanced by offsets in other programs.
Earlier this year, the Blue Dogs won a preliminary victory when PAYGO guidelines were included in the House’s internal rules for the 110th Congress, but they have not been written into federal law.
— Emily Pierce, Susan Davis and Jennifer Yachnin