Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, says Congress should abolish the current system that could give congressmen a 50 percent raise early next year without forcing them to vote on it.
So he announced Wednesday that he will co-sponsor the proposed Congressional Pay Reform Act with Rep. Tom Tauke, R-Iowa, to require Congress to vote on all pay increases."I believe Congress has abused the privilege of setting its own salaries," Nielson said. "I was one of 17 out of the 435 members of the House who fought efforts to raise congressional pay during the last session and I plan to do the same this time around."
Currently, an independent commission recommends pay increases for congressional, executive and judicial branches to the president. He may alter them. But once he submits his pay recommendations to Congress, they automatically become law unless Congress votes to override them within 30 days.
The pay commission this year recommended raising congressmen's salaries from $89,500 to $135,000 - but recommended that Congress at the same time ban honoraria, which are the fees members receive for giving speeches to outside groups that are often interested in swaying their votes on key issues.
Rumors on Capitol Hill say once President Reagan submits his pay recommendations to Congress on Jan. 9, the Senate will likely vote to turn down any raise. But House Speaker Jim Wright reportedly is considering delaying any vote on the issue until the 30-day deadline has passed - meaning the raise will take effect for both houses. Wright reportedly would then immediately take a vote to ban honoraria.
Those who support the system say congressmen can never safely vote for any pay increase - no matter how justified - without suffering politically. Opponents of the system say it allows congressmen to hide whether they were really for or against a pay increase.
Sen. Jake Garn and Rep. Jim Hansen, both R-Utah, have made no comments on the proposed raise.