GOP Blocks Lawmakers’ Cost-of-Living Increase

Sometimes I think that Congress forgets that us “working” people can’t vote ourselves pay raises. At least the Republicans are on base with this one.

( – After being pounded by Democrats last year for accepting pay increases while not boosting the minimum wage, Republican congressmen Tuesday returned the favor by preventing an annual 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) from taking effect this year.

“There will be no COLA adjustment,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday after GOP members of Congress, led by House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), promised to block the annual $2,800 pay hike.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) “ran their own ads attacking [Republican] members on this,” Blunt explained. “Because of that, their members are going to suffer in terms of not being able to have a COLA.”

Blunt said that Democrats broke the agreement after last year’s pay raise-related vote had already taken place.

“The agreement always was that the parties would not use the COLA issue in the campaign,” he said. “It was as formal as anything not signed is.”

As a result, federal lawmakers’ salaries will stay at $165,200 for the year instead of receiving an increase due to a law passed in 1989 in which legislators got a pay boost in exchange for giving up honoraria for personal gain.

The annual vote on the pay raise is usually taken on an obscure procedural move instead of a direct up-or-down vote, and the Democratic and GOP whips each deliver a roughly equal number of votes to shut off any move to block it.

But as Cybercast News Service previously reported, Democrats used the issue to their advantage during the 2006 midterm elections.

After the GOP-led House voted down a minimum wage increase last June, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Republicans of standing with “Big Oil” and their “pharmaceutical cronies” instead of with working families.

“That’s immoral,” Pelosi said at the time.

In the years since Congress approved the $5.15 minimum wage in 1997, “the price of gas has skyrocketed, the cost of health care is astronomically high, and America’s working families are feeling the pinch,” she said.

Pelosi said Republicans “have the opportunity to do the right thing” by joining Democrats in passing a minimum wage increase – “for America’s working families.”

“If Republicans continue to block increasing the minimum wage – which a strong majority of Americans support – Democrats’ New Direction for America means that on the first week we control Congress, we will pass a minimum wage increase,” she noted.

While the House voted earlier this month to “give Americans a raise,” the measure was tied up in the Senate until Tuesday when Democrats agreed to Republican demands to include $8.3 billion in tax breaks for small businesses to cover the extra costs associated with the minimum wage boost.

A vote in the Senate on the minimum wage measure is expected in the coming days.

The Democrats had hoped to attach the COLA measure to a spending bill expected to pass the House on Wednesday, but negotiations with Republicans during the past week were unsuccessful.

Also expressing disappointment at Tuesday’s developments was Senate GOP Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who told reporters there’s no shortage of wealthy lawmakers – such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) – using the pay raise issue as a political sword.

“It’s very easy for the multimillionaires … to demagogue this issue,” Lott added.

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