Only one Maryland congressman voted against both the congressional and presidential pay raises that were passed by the House last week, and he is pledging to give his raise to charity.
Under the legislation approved last week, congressional pay will increase 3.4 percent, from $136,700 to $141,300. The president’s pay will double, from $200,000 to $400,000.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, said through a spokeswoman this week that “it’s hard to justify the COLA [cost-of-living adjustment] to taxpayers who are working two jobs and still earning a lot less.”
But while Bartlett did not like the pay raises, he wound up voting for final approval of the overall Treasury and Postal Service appropriations bill, saying the raises were only a small part of the $28 billion bill.
In the same sort of reversal, all four Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation supported the pay raises in preliminary votes, but wound up voting against the final version of the bill, in part because it contained cuts to the Internal Revenue Service budget.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, argued strongly on the House floor for the pay raises, particularly the proposed salary for the president, which he called appropriate for the toughest job in the world. But Hoyer ended up voting against the overall appropriations bill.
“The congressman is a strong supporter of IRS reform, and this bill would have caused the IRS Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 to fail” by cutting funding for customer service and Year-2000 compliance, said press secretary Deborah Dejong. “If the IRS’s computers stopped working in January, no one would get a tax refund.”
While the final bill passed by a single vote, attempts to strip out the congressional and presidential pay raises were defeated by overwhelming margins July 15.
Under a 1989 law, members of Congress get an annual raise tied to the COLA given to federal workers. Since 1993, Congress voted to deny itself the increase every year except 1998. The bill passed by the House last week would grant Congress a raise on Oct. 1 and grant the president a raise in January 2001.
The Senate passed its own version of the bill July 1 and final approval is expected.
Besides Hoyer, Maryland Democratic Reps. Benjamin Cardin and Elijah Cummings and Republican Reps. Robert Ehrlich and Constance Morella voted for raises for both themselves and the president. Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, voted for the presidential pay boost, but missed the vote on congressional pay for personal reasons, his office said.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, did not vote on any of the measures.
Bartlett did not think that the presidential pay raise was justified, since “100 percent of his living expenses are paid,” said staffer Sally Taylor.
Bartlett also thinks it is hard to justify a raise for members of Congress, even though he “does feel for colleagues who come to Washington, have to maintain two homes, send their kids to college, and face all of the usual financial obligations,” said Taylor. “Maybe compared to football players, congressmen don’t earn very much, but congressman Bartlett feels that they are adequately compensated.”
Bartlett “plans to give the amount of the COLA to charity, which is what he has done with previous COLAs,” said Lisa Wright, his press secretary. Bartlett has donated previous raises to the Salvation Army, the Crisis Pregnancy Center and his church.
But Morella, R-Bethesda, supported the presidential pay raise as “appropriate compensation for the nature of the position,” said Jonathan Deane, her press secretary.
Deane said Morella was more interested in the overall bill, “because it included a measure that the congresswoman had crafted that authorizes federal agencies to use already appropriated funds to help federal employees pay for child care.”
The Federal Employee Child Care Affordability Act passed the House in October but did not get out of the Senate before adjournment. Morella reintroduced the bill in January.
“She supported it in large part to get this measure voted on and passed, which it was,” said Deane. “This bill will help thousands of people in Maryland.”
Both Morella and Ehrlich, R-Timonium, voted for the final version of the appropriations bill, along with Bartlett.