Pay Raise on Autopilot

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While hardly anybody was paying attention, Congress voted to give itself a pay raise. Or to be more specific, voted against voting on the subject and therefore got an automatic pay raise, up to $168,000.

You see, in 1989 Congress passed a bill providing for an automatic “cost of living” increase to its own pay every year unless there’s a specific vote to cancel it. For the past six years Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) has introduced an amendment to require a separate up-or-down vote on the annual raise. Each time he has been defeated. This year the margin was 249-167.

The general lack of outrage (notable exception: Citizens Against Government Waste) shows that the 1989 move to make raises automatic without a vote was shrewd. Somehow a vote not to vote doesn’t get as much attention as an actual vote on raising one’s pay.

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