House gets unusual raise

posted at 8:46 am on May 7, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

In tough economic times, one would expect most people and institutions to do a little belt-tightening to save money.  Not Congress, however, although that’s hardly news in Year 1 of Porkulus.  However, Pelosi & Co have slipped into the budget a $90 million increase in incumbency protection that has gone almost completely unnoticed — and unquestioned:

The House wants to increase Members’ office budgets next fiscal year by almost 15 percent, partly because 2010 is an election year and lawmakers anticipate a surge in franked mail.

In a recently released budget request, the House Chief Administrative Officer asked appropriators to raise the Members’ Representational Allowances — which fund everything needed to run offices, including salaries, travel and supplies — by $90 million, citing increases “due to the election year cycle.”

“In an election year the expenditures increase and then decrease in a non-election year,” the request reads.

There is only one problem with this rationale; incumbent candidates are not supposed to use public resources for their campaigns.  We have laws against that, and every blue moon someone gets investigated for it.  Salaries, travel, and supply costs should all be borne by the campaign and their contributors, not the American taxpayer.

In other words, an election year should present the same cost as any other year, not a biannual drain on the Treasury to allow incumbents to protect themselves at public expense. Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union calls foul:

“It’s an incredibly naked admission that Members of Congress abuse the franking privilege for electoral purposes, even though the rules say they don’t,” said Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union. “This sends the worst possible message not only to the taxpayers, but to the electoral system as a whole.”

But House officials contend that they use the phrase “election year” without meaning to draw a link to the election. The phrase is “generically used to reference the second year of a Congressional cycle,” said Jeff Ventura, spokesman for CAO Dan Beard.

“The increase occurs because in the second year of any Congress, there is traditionally more legislative news to convey to constituencies as various bills evolve through the legislative process,” he said.

Anyone buying that explanation?  They use “election year” not generically but because members suddenly discover a need to communicate every single detail of their courageous attempts to represent their constituents when elections draw near.  Representatives bury their districts in a blizzard of newsletters informing them breathlessly that their incumbent’s letter to the assistant undersecretary of the Bureau of Taxpayer Waste Management got them an extra $534.33 spent on the sidewalk in front of Katie’s Kitchen so Grandma won’t trip over the crack from now on.

There should be no year-to-year difference in staffing, travel, and franking costs if campaigns cover their expenses — as they should, in order to allow for a fair election.  This is just another way to keep an entrenched political class in Washington DC by putting challengers at a bigger disadvantage, and it should be stopped.  Under Nancy Pelosi’s “most ethical Congress ever,” though, don’t hold your breath.


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Under Nancy Pelosi’s “most ethical Congress Never,” though, don’t hold your breath.

FIFY

Immolate on May 7, 2009 at 11:39 AM

If what has been done doesn’t work,do something else.Don’t rely on a corrupted system to police corruption,take personal action.
DDT on May 7, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Excellent argument FOR TERM LIMITS
The bastards have rigged the system by giving away “freebees” to their constituents and hiding them in monsterous spending bills.

They have made it almost impossible to get rid of them.

Byrd, Murtha, Kennedy, Spector, and any of the other senile old crooks are testament to the fact that the American voter is more interested in American Idol than paying attention to who is stealing their paycheck

If these old fossils just send a few of the scheckles back to their states that the citizens have contributed they get voted back in thus self preservation rules at the expense of the taxpayers.
Doesn’t matter if the project is an interstate or bike trail. The incumbant looks like a hero when in fact he is fleecing the taxpayer as the money should have stayed in state in the first place!

The only way to take the control back is to change the old way of doing things and limit the damage they can do and the fortunes they can accumulate for themselves.

Citizens doing public service is what the Founding Fathers envisioned and what will work. We are far from that these days.

dhunter on May 7, 2009 at 11:39 AM

I say term limits, and a few million calls to all the house reps. Enough is enough!!!!!!

capejasmine on May 7, 2009 at 11:53 AM

When is the rest of America going to wake up and kick these bastards out of office.
We dont need 51 % of the total population, just a slim majority of those of us that vote.
I am so damn disgusted with them.
I saw a bumper sticker that said, ” 3 terms for congress, 2 in congress 1 in prison”
I am so f*cking there with that idea.
WAKE UP AMERICA!

ColdWarrior57 on May 7, 2009 at 11:53 AM

If the Republicans want to get elected then they should do something worthy of being elected…like running against the Congressional incumbency machine. They should run on lowering their pay, reducing their budgets, returning money to the people that have earned it and slash their own consumption.

If you or I were faced with a budgetary crisis (and this is a crisis of gargantuan proportions), we’d slash spending. We’d get by with less. We’d look for another job, tighten our belts and act like adults. Instead, we get variations on this crap day in and day out without any repercussions. It is unrelenting.

If Republicans want to get elected, start sounding like adults who are facing a massive budgetary crisis instead of fighting at the margins.

moxie_neanderthal on May 7, 2009 at 11:54 AM

I look at it like this:
Sending a new Senator/Congressperson to D.C. is like sending a 17 year old shoplifter to prison.

the prisoners soon educate the new guy on how to really be a crook, not get caught, and stay in office.

If they pass Barney Franks initiation of course!

dhunter on May 7, 2009 at 11:59 AM

In a week where a 80 year old man’s pathetic desperation to cling to his Senate seat of 30 years is on full display, term limits seem like common sense.
Another idea, cap Congressional pay to the mean national income. Reestablish the meaning of public servant and end our self imposed ruling-class.

Sorax on May 7, 2009 at 12:03 PM

Please explain again why 435 corrupt criminals professional politicians can rule over 300+ MILLION (those same 435 egomaniacs) Americans.

Then tell me why we let them rule over us.

SeniorD on May 7, 2009 at 12:04 PM

And turn in the car keys! I’m tierd of paying for your damn freight!

We have a cohort of some of the wealthiest people in America and we’re stuck paying for their car leases. Gee, I didn’t know there were so few job applicants for Congress that we needed to sweeten the deal with a free car. Who knew?

Republicans want to get elected? Then start taking notes because Americans are fed up. I’m fed up! You want to run the show? Then you can start by getting your own damn house in order and leave us the Hell alone until you do.

moxie_neanderthal on May 7, 2009 at 12:05 PM

If they pass Barney Franks initiation of course!

Unfortunately, we’re the ones who go through the initiation ritual every damn time and we don’t even get a thank you.

moxie_neanderthal on May 7, 2009 at 12:08 PM

We didn’t even get a kiss or an offer of KY jelly.

workingforpigs on May 7, 2009 at 12:24 PM

“Most ethical Congress, evah”!

GarandFan on May 7, 2009 at 12:31 PM

I don’t agree that term limits are any sort of answer. First, it is a restriction on freedom. I should be free to vote for whomever I choose and anyone should be free to run for office as often as he or she chooses to do so.

Absolutely wrong. Your exercise of personal freedom ends the moment you step into the voting booth. At that point, you are wielding power over others, in one of the two lowest-ranking offices in a republic (voter and juror).

The main goal of the constitution for a free people is to limit the power of government, and restricting someone’s ability to have power over others for extended periods of time is appropriate.

The Monster on May 7, 2009 at 12:36 PM

The Republicans should wait for this to pass, then hold a news conference where every one of them presents a big fake check made out to U.S. Taxpayers for the increase that they are returning to the Treasury, and then have a big check made out to “House Democrats” from the U.S. Taxpayer. The NRCC should announce it is going to run ads in every Democratic district where the member accepts this raise.

It seems trivial, but voters get more exercised about politicians raising their pay than almost anything else. Pennsylvanians threw out 26 incumbents, including the Senate Majority Leader, two years ago after they voted themselves a pay raise in the last minute of the session.

This is the stuff more Tea Parties are made of.

rockmom on May 7, 2009 at 12:43 PM

Id’ just love to see the perky Cattie Couric ask Senator FogHorn LegHorn in his second, Limited Term,

“well Senator, The Honorable Senator McCain once came on my show and said Republicans suck and need to get a clue and let the illegal aliens have their amnesty what do you think Senator FogHorn LegHorn?”

Well Cattie not to be impolite or anything but since I am term limited I think you suck, your journalistic abilities are that of a third grader and your IQ must be in the high single digits!

By the way how is the Honorable S,enator doing these days now that his ranch down in Arizona is now the property of Mexicazona?

dhunter on May 7, 2009 at 12:52 PM

Vote them out.

DaveC on May 7, 2009 at 1:10 PM

It’s crap like this that crys out for term limits on these cretins who think their royalty instead of public servants.

TrickyDick on May 7, 2009 at 1:36 PM

It’s crap like this that crys out for term limits on these cretins who think their royalty instead of public servants.

TrickyDick on May 7, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Term limits are not the answer, as another poster pointed out, we have term limits on the Presidents and it still doesn’t do any good.
Revert back to what the founding fathers had in mind…a part time job, with most all the decisions at the state level.
Get rid of all lobbyists, make it illegal to lobby…take the money out of the hands of congress, or at least limit their access to it.
Then put a cap on the number of bills they can pass in a session.
Force a balance budget amendment…it is the money, not the length of time in power.

right2bright on May 7, 2009 at 2:02 PM

That explanation sounds ridiculous to me. Why would bills “evolve through the legislative process” any more frequently in even-numbered years?

mikeyboss on May 7, 2009 at 2:04 PM

Are those Repubs still on that listening tour? I don’t think they’re listening!

scottjenn on May 7, 2009 at 2:07 PM

Absolutely wrong. Your exercise of personal freedom ends the moment you step into the voting booth. At that point, you are wielding power over others, in one of the two lowest-ranking offices in a republic (voter and juror).

OK, so we have all sorts of personal freedoms, just not the freedom to form our government the way we see fit. Wonderful.

Your argument is illogical. If voter is an office then everyone’s an officer. How about a term limit on the lowest ranking officers? Sounds like a good idea?

I agree that term limits are unconstitutional and stupid. To see the latter one has to realize that members of Congress don’t work by themselves. They have staff, which is not subject to any limits.

To expect that simply by changing a figurehead you will achieve any sort of policy change is naive.

radiofreevillage on May 7, 2009 at 2:13 PM

That explanation sounds ridiculous to me. Why would bills “evolve through the legislative process” any more frequently in even-numbered years?

mikeyboss on May 7, 2009 at 2:04 PM

It’s bullshit. NOTHING passes in an election year, except for pork-laden appropriations bills.

Congressional rules prohibit sending franked mass mailings within 60 days of an election. But you should see the basement of the Cannon Building in August. Stacks and stacks of franked “constituent newsletters.” And before that, they use franked mail to send out invitations to townhall meetings, which are little more than campaign events funded by taxpayers.

rockmom on May 7, 2009 at 2:42 PM

OK, so we have all sorts of personal freedoms, just not the freedom to form our government the way we see fit. Wonderful.

That’s not a personal freedom. That’s the exercise of power over others.

We deliberately restrain the power that government holds over us.

Your argument is illogical. If voter is an office then everyone’s an officer. How about a term limit on the lowest ranking officers? Sounds like a good idea?

We do put term limits on the office of “juror”. If you’ve already served on many juries, when that’s revealed in voir dire, you’ll almost certainly be stricken from the pool rather than be allowed on another.

The office of “voter” doesn’t hold much power, so there’s little reason to limit how often one can exercise it. Instead, we limit the range of choices a voter has, by not allowing the vote to go to a candidate for House under 25 years of age, for Senate under 30….

The Monster on May 7, 2009 at 8:58 PM

Can someone tell me how in the hell these asshats can walk the streets and no one pops then upside the head???

BallisticBob on May 7, 2009 at 9:22 PM

I don’t know either BallisticBob I guess they never go out in public without a body guard cause it would sure be worth a couple of days in the slammer for assualt to smack that weasel Harry Reid right in his nose. Kind of like when the skinheads broke a chair over WhoreAldos’, totally worth it.

Which reminds me tomorrow morning is my Fox free morning. I can’t stand that sactimonious whiny ass WhoreAldo ever since his screechin over the dumbasses in New Orleans.

dhunter on May 7, 2009 at 10:38 PM

Yes, they vote themselves a raise with the election but has anyone every seen them reduce their income after the election?

MSGTAS on May 8, 2009 at 10:23 AM

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