The House votes today whether to give Congress, judges and top federal executives a pay raise of 12.9 percent, 7 percent, 5.5 percent or nothing at all.
More than 9,000 Washington area government officials at the $47,500 pay level have a stake in what Congress decides about its salary situation.
House members, fearful that any raise could drive them to early retirement, are getting a you-deserve-a-raise-today boost from some unusual sources: nonpartisan 'good government' groups. Common Cause and the biggest federal union. Normally the outfits shoot harpoons at Congress for some real or imagined boondoggle or other.
Today is the third -- some believe last -- time Congress will try to launch a "modest" raise for itself while working out of a Houdini-like legislative strait-jacket.
Unless Congress acts before Sept. 30 it will automatically get a 12.9 percent raise. That is politically out of the question. The amount represents a 5.5 percent federal raise Congress refused last year, plus the 7 percent other civil servants are due in October.
Originally Congress thought it could whack the 12.9 percent down to 7 percent or less. But earlier votes have shown members afraid to approve any kind of raise. Meanwhile the 12.9 percent sword hangs over Congress.
Concerned that federal executives frozen at the $47,500 level may go elsewhere, retire or lose their zest for being good executives, a coalition of six national groups has been hand-delivering pro-pay raise letters to each member of Congress. They say a modest raise would be good for the U.S.A., and pledge not to say nasty things about congressional pay if Congress allows the government executives their first increase in more than two years.
Groups endorsing an executive federal pay raise are the Business Roundtable; American Federation of Government Employees; National League of Cities; National Civil Service League, International Personnel Management Association and National Academy of Public Administration. AFGE is a union made up almost exclusively of civil servants below the executive pay ranks. The others represent individuals, cities, counties of other government groups.
In addition, Common Cause, the "citizens lobby," contacted House members urging them to take a pay raise. Common Cause's argument is that a modest raise from $57,500 isn't too much to ask for good government, and that failure to raise pay might push members to look for additional back door income. It pointed out that while the House, so far, has held firm on outside income the Senate (in a dead-of-night sleight of hand) decided to allow its club members to keep getting fat fees for speeches delivered to special interest groups.
Washington area House members would like to unlink congressional-executive pay raises and have them voted on separately. Even if it worked, members of Congress are not likely to kill their own raises and then approve them for federal officials.