The Supreme Court on Monday left intact the current system for giving members of Congress pay raises.
The court, without comment, rejected arguments that the process - which produced a $12,000 congressional pay raise last year - gives too much power to the president to determine salary levels.The justices also declined to use the case to examine what power members of Congress have to challenge the constitutionality of federal laws.
The system for approving congressional pay hikes, established by a 1967 law, was challenged by Sen. Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H., and five Republican House members after congressional pay was raised $12,000 last year to $89,500.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here upheld the pay-raise system last May 31.
The system also controls salary increases for federal judges and high-ranking executive branch officials. But the challengers to the law did not attack those provisions.
The appeals court said the system is constitutional because it allows Congress to override salary increases granted by the president.
From the founding of the nation until 1967, Congress passed legislation to set its salary scale.
Seeking to share the responsibility for giving itself pay raises, Congress passed the Federal Salary Act in 1967.
The law calls for convening every four years a salary study commission appointed by all three branches of government. The commission makes a recommendation to the president, who then submits his pay plan to Congress.
The president's recommendations become effective unless Congress disapproves them within 30 days of receiving them.
The act was amended in 1985 to require action by both houses to override the president's recommendations. The original law permitted either house to veto a pay hike. But that so-called legislative veto was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1983.
The appeals court also rejected the challenge to the pay-hike statute on independent grounds. It said federal courts have an obligation not to rule in disputes where Congress has the power to remedy the problem itself.
The court also:
- Refused to let a Jewish organization display a menorah, symbolizing the Hanukkah holiday, on the steps of a Pittsburgh government building next month.
- Agreed to referee an important railroad industry dispute affecting the ability of railroads to sell off their lines and reduce their work forces.
- For the second time this month refused to grant husbands legal power to prevent their wives from having an abortion.
- Allowed prosecutors investigating labor union corruption in New York to use subpoenaed membership lists obtained from four carpenters union locals.
- Left intact a North Dakota law that requires parents who teach their children at home to be certified by the state.