Move to block congressional pay raise would not affect senior executives

A proposal that would force lawmakers to vote on an already approved congressional pay raise for next year would not affect senior executives' salaries, according to a staffer for Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. Feingold has crafted an amendment that would force lawmakers to vote on a 3.4 percent raise for members of Congress, which was automatically allowed in the 2002 Treasury-Postal spending bill when it was signed into law by President Bush earlier this month. Feingold, who pledged during his 1998 Senate campaign not to take a pay increase and has previously tried to force a vote on congressional raises, has not yet been able to attach the amendment to any pending legislation. Feingold's amendment does not call for a vote on the salary increase for senior executives already included in the Treasury-Postal bill, said the staffer. Senior Executive Service salaries are tied to congressional salaries under the government's Executive Schedule. "The amendment is worded so that it only affects members of Congress, and not members of the SES, judges, or other cabinet officials," he said. Annual pay adjustments for salaries included in the Executive Schedule automatically take effect, unless Congress votes to block them. Congress has not voted against political pay raises since 1999. Although the language in the Feingold amendment calls on lawmakers to vote only on their own pay raise for 2002, it does not sever the tie between congressional and SES salaries that is mandated by law. It is not clear from the amendment's language how lawmakers will be able to vote on their own pay without bringing other Executive Schedule salaries into the mix, said Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association. SEA has been trying for several years to convince Congress to raise the cap on executive pay, which is $161,200 in total compensation this year. Feingold's amendment fails to address the real issue, which is that SES pay should not be tied to congressional pay at all, Bonosaro said. "We think that members of Congress should take regular cost-of-living increases, and if they decide not to, then senior executives should not be held hostage to freezes on Executive Schedule pay."