In one of the first congressional responses to the Supreme Court decision striking down the legislative veto, an obscure section of the fiscal 1984 defense authorization bill was amended this week to take back some of the president's control over military pay increases.
In remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, the amendment's sponsor, Sen. Roger W. Jepsen (R-Iowa), said, "In many situations, Congress will be reluctant to continue to extend a grant of authority to the executive branch which was otherwise checked by a legislative veto."
As originally drafted, the Senate bill changed the procedures for approving military pay raises. But it continued to allow the president to override his subordinate's recommendations and set his own pay scales--subject to a veto by either house of Congress.
After Jepsen's Armed Services subcommittee approved the measure, the high court voided the legislative veto in a decision on June 24. During the full committee markup, Jepsen attached an amendment prohibiting presidential intervention. To set a different pay scale from the one proposed by the defense secretary, the president would have to propose separate legislation and win congressional approval.
The amendment, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said during a floor debate, "will be the first Senate action, I believe, on a pre-existing legislative veto." Jepsen added, "Without the tool of a one-house veto, we were faced with the choice of either giving the president full authority to set the pay adjustment for military personnel at a level different from . . . the recommendation of the secretary of defense or to require that the president follow the full legislative process in obtaining an alternative."
The measure still would give the executive branch the authority to set military pay increases, but specifies that they be based on a Labor Department calculation called the Employment Cost Index.
The defense authorization bill approved by the House Armed Services Committee also severed military pay raises from civilian raises, but set a one-year, across-the-board increase of 4 percent for all military personnel except those in the two lowest enlisted ranks. The House and Senate measures are awaiting floor action.