Just as sure as death, taxes, and snow in winter, the 50-percent pay hike for Congress will become law.
Sure, many congressmen have blasted it, including four of five members of Utah's delegation so far. But the die is cast - it is going to pass. Don't even waste a postcard to protest it to your congressman if you don't like the idea. The fix is in.The main reason is that the raise from $89,500 to $135,000 a year will take effect unless Congress votes to reject it before Feb. 8 - 30 days after it received the recommendation from President Reagan.
Congressional aides say the Senate will vote on the raise, and probably reject it. But House leaders - who favor the raise - won't let it come to a vote before the deadline passes, meaning it will take effect for both the House and Senate.
But the House will apparently take a vote the day after the deadline passes to abolish honoraria - the ethically questionable fees congressmen receive for giving speeches to special-interest groups.
House leaders easily have enough power to stop any vote to derail the pay hike. So, other lawmakers will get a raise and the political opportunity of saying they would have opposed it if they had the chance - and no one else will know for sure if they are telling the truth.
To show that Congress is willing to bite the bullet a little, it should consider cutting some of its perks. Here is a partial list:
- Free health club facilities with a gym, steam room, swimming pool, handball, volleyball and basketball courts.
- Free parking in Capitol Hill garages plus immunity from parking tickets in the District of Columbia.
- Foreign travel on congressional business, worth $6.7 million in 1987.
- A staff of doctors, nurses and medical technicians on stand-by at the Capitol.
- Limousines and drivers for Congressional minority and majority leaders, and for the speaker of the House and the Senate president-pro tempore.
- Use of Capitol recording studios for producing TV and radio spots, and a staff of still photographers to take pictures for congressmen.
- Franking privileges allowing unlimited amounts of official mail to be sent at taxpayer expense, worth $113.36 million in 1986. The House currently will not even disclose how much individual members use the frank.
- Discount barber and beauty services at the Capitol.
- Office furniture including leather couches and chairs, smoking stands, made-to-order bookcases and rugs, plus the right to buy their used furniture at a discount upon leaving office.
- Allowances for such office expenses as unlimited long-distance phone calls, travel, office equipment, automobiles, work-related education, food and beverages for staff meetings, magazines and newspapers, even motor home expenses for "mobile offices" in their districts.
Somehow, it seems Congress could find one or two things they could cut back a bit.