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By: T. Cahill
Washington, D.C. (May 2) – The Senate voted unanimously not to give themselves a pay increase for fiscal year 2011. The Congressional Pay Freeze Act of 2010 eliminates an annual cost of living adjustment or “automatic pay adjustments for Members of Congress during any fiscal year, until the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) average of monthly unemployment rates for a quarter decreases for four consecutive quarters with respect to quarters which begin after the enactment of this Act.”
The House, also displaying overwhelming support of the bill (402 votes for), held a few surprises. As expected, Nevada’s representatives Shelley Berkley (D) and Dina Titus (D), both outspoken about no pay raise for Congress, voted accordingly. They were joined by fellow Rep. Dean Heller (R). H.R. 5146 was sponsored by Rep. Harry E. Mitchell [AZ-5] and cosponsored by 79 additional representatives. The House vote had a handful of hold outs who voted against the majority and deserve closer inspection.
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D) of Michigan’s 13th District, was against the freeze. She addressed the House floor April 29th, “I voted today in opposition to H.R. 5146, Blocking the Cost of Living Adjustment for Members of Congress.” Her argument in favor of receiving more money when millions are unemployed, and millions more receive no unemployment benefits, is odd. She cites the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 that included a salary freeze for members of Congress, and reiterated her support of that measure at that time.
On H.R. 5146, she continued, “I also oppose this bill because this bill denigrates public service and the institution of Congress. Like all other public servants, Members of Congress work for the people of this country.” She further went on to say, “In order to serve the people of America, Members of Congress must establish two residences and fly between Washington, D.C. and our homes almost every week. Members of Congress spend hours, days and sometimes weeks away from our homes working for 600,000 or more constituents in our districts. We travel throughout the world to investigate and understand how America can make a positive difference.” Her full explanation can be found at kilpatrick.house.gov/floor_statement.aspx?f_id=1013.
In an election year, where every move in Congress is scrutinized, those voting no or abstaining to vote run a huge risk. Six Democratics and seven Republicans abstained from casting their vote. Fifteen Democrats voted against the 2011 freeze. While Congress will not be giving themselves more money next year, they have managed to work in stipulations to restart the money machine in the future, using unemployment figures as part of their get out of jail free pass.
A complete list of House votes regarding H.R. 5146 can be found at www.opencongress.org/vote/2010/h/226.