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Matheson, Vitter Resume Fight Against Automatic Raises

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Sen. David Vitter wants the Senate to consider ending the automatic pay raise for lawmakers, and he plans to offer a proposal next week.

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) has resurrected a bill that would do away with the automatic cost-of-living adjustment to Members’ salaries, and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said he hopes to soon bring a similar proposal before the Senate.

Members’ salaries automatically increase based on inflation, unless lawmakers vote to forgo the raise. Matheson has long fought to end the automatic adjustment, and this time his cause is getting a boost from someone who has the attention of House GOP leaders. Assistant Majority Whip Michael McCaul (Texas) is one of three Republicans co-sponsoring the reprisal of Matheson’s 2009 bill, in addition to three Democratic co-sponsors.

“I don’t think it’s right. Why should Members of Congress have a very opaque process put in place where the COLA happens without any vote?” Matheson asked. “For the integrity of the institution, it’s important that this is done in a transparent way.”

Vitter wants the Senate to also consider ending the automatic pay raise, and he plans to offer a proposal next week in the form of an amendment to an as-yet-undetermined bill, a spokesman for the Louisiana Republican said.

“Particularly in these tough economic times, having Members of Congress granted virtually automatic pay raises every year is really offensive. That’s why I’ve long advocated this change,” Vitter said in a statement. 

Vitter has pressed the issue before. His attempt to amend a fiscal 2009 omnibus spending package with language ending the automatic adjustment was rejected, but only after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised to offer the proposal as a stand-alone bill. The Senate passed that bill in March 2009, but then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) never brought it to a vote in the House.

Prospects for a floor vote in the House may have changed with the GOP’s takeover of the majority. Speaker John Boehner supported Matheson’s bill in 2009 when Boehner was Minority Leader, the Ohio Republican’s spokesman told Roll Call at the time.

McCaul said he will speak to Boehner personally and whip his Conference, especially the 87 Republican freshmen, many of whom ran campaigns built on fiscal conservatism and transparency.

“I can’t imagine any of those guys being opposed to this thing,” McCaul said. “If we’re going to have YouCuts every week and we’re talking about spending, this plays right into our Pledge to America and our theme.” YouCut is the GOP’s online budget-cutting initiative, and the pledge is the House Republicans’ agenda.

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