Two days after the House voted by an 8-1 margin to bury a 51 percent congressional pay raise last week, Speaker Jim Wright was asked if he would consider a smaller increase.
"That question has been answered," he told reporters, referring to the rejection vote. "I can count.""Everyone wants to change the subject and move on," said Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif., who was a supporter of the raise. "It (the pay raise battle) left deep scars that won't be quickly healing. There's a mutual frustration with each other."
Such comments are not surprising in the aftermath of the 380-48 House vote, and the 94-6 Senate tally, to reject a raise that brought howls of protest on talk shows across the nation. As tired as lawmakers may be of the painful affair, however, at least some issues linked to it won't go away.
Common Cause, the self-styled citizens lobby, says it will maintain pressure on Congress to eliminate the outside income lawmakers receive from special interest groups.
The Senate voted two weeks ago to bar members from pocketing fees for speaking to various groups, including special interest lobbies. But it made the change contingent on approval of the pay raise.
The House had been planning to vote on the honoraria issue last Thursday, coupled with a plan by Wright to scale the raise back to 30 percent. The issue went on the back burner Tuesday, when the House decided the public wouldn't stand for any raise.
While House members are still eligible to keep $26,850 in honoraria, the question of outside fees has been bucked to a new bipartisan panel co-chaired by Fazio and Rep. Lynn Martin, R-Ill. Lawmakers say there's no chance the House or the Senate - where members can retain $35,800 in honoraria - will give up the system without a raise, since that would amount to a pay cut.
Still simmering is the issue of raises for judges and top federal executives.
Congress' rejection of its own increase prevented raises for: 1,100 judges; 834 top executive branch appointed officials; 7,000 career federal managers, 12,000 foreign service officers and 155 generals and admirals.
Lawmakers have shown little interest in resurrecting these pay raises without considering their own.
"I don't think it's a sound idea, because of the branches being equal," said Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., and chairman of the House Post Office civil service subcommittee. "The forefathers didn't say we should have a lower branch."