- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate on Tuesday voted to scrap the system that awards members of Congress an automatic cost-of-living pay raise every year.

The Senate’s move to abandon the annual pay increase came on a voice vote, but it doesn’t mean that the pay raise is dead. Earlier Tuesday, the No. 2 Democrat in the House came out in opposition to the bill.

“I’m not for it, so I’m not going to commit to bringing it to the floor,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Still, with the economy in a recession, pressure is certain to build on the House to vote on the measure.

Congress has raised its own pay in stand-alone bills more than two dozen times, according to the Congressional Research Service. But in 1989, it passed a law providing for annual cost-of-living adjustments unless Congress votes otherwise.

Lawmakers voted to skip their annual pay raises for several years in the 1990s and in 2007. They voted to forego next year’s pay increase because of the recession.

Their latest pay raise of $4,700 took effect in January and brought congressional salaries to $174,000.

In the Senate, Tuesday’s action was orchestrated by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who followed through on a pledge to bring the measure up as soon as possible after working to kill the idea last week in a battle with Louisiana Republican David Vitter.

The battle between Vitter and Reid centered on whether the pay raise issue should have been resolved in an omnibus spending bill. Reid said no, arguing that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had announced that the House wouldn’t accept any changes to the spending bill and that adding the provision would have killed it.

Vitter then argued that the House would never take up the freestanding measure to kill the pay raise.

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