Holding the Leader to His Own Standard

This week, I authored an amendment to the massive omnibus spending bill that would repeal the provision of law that set in place automatic pay raises for members of Congress. Sens. Feingold, Grassley and Ensign joined as co-sponsors. For the better part of the week, however, I was blocked from offering this amendment by the Majority Leader who was using his authority to cherry-pick only the amendments that he wanted to have debated.

Unfortunately this is nothing new for the Majority Leader. Throughout the 110th and 111th Congresses, he has repeatedly cut off debate and blocked amendments from consideration. Over the previous two years, he has “filled the tree” on numerous occasions to prevent minority amendments from being heard.

And even when he does “allow” amendments, they are generally hand picked by the Leader himself as he knows they will be defeated by large majorities.

Last night, I successfully forced the Senate to take up this amendment that would end Congress’s ability to give itself automatic pay raises. As Senator Reid called for the unanimous consent of the Senate to move forward with further votes on the omnibus, I objected to proceeding until I was given assurances that this important amendment would receive a roll call vote. That vote is likely to occur on Monday.

My amendment is similar to a stand-alone bill that I recently introduced to achieve the same goal – ending automatic pay raises.

In these tough economic times, when many Americans are making sacrifices, it’s time that the Congress quit making political theatre out of their hard times, attacking business leaders for their selfishness but trying to quietly give itself a raise. We should remember we’re here to serve our constituents in our states, and therefore our compensation for that service should be publicly debated and not automatically doled out through a mechanism in the law.

Last year in Louisiana, the state Legislature tried to give itself a large pay increase with a bill that would ultimately also make future pay increases automatic. Louisianans were rightly outraged and called for the bill’s defeat. Most Americans don’t have a formula at their jobs set to give them pay increases automatically. Congress shouldn’t either.