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House Gives Itself Pat On Back

With little debate, House lawmakers on Tuesday included themselves in a pay raise that all federal employees will receive next year.

The cost-of-living raise would be the sixth straight for members of the House and Senate, boosting the salaries of lawmakers, now $158,100, by about $4,000 in the new calendar year.

The civil servant COLA is part of an $89.9 billion Transportation and Treasury Department spending bill that the House is expected to pass Wednesday. The Senate has yet to take up the legislation.

The measure stipulates that civil servants get raises of 3.5 percent, the same as military personnel will receive next year. Under a complicated formula, that translates to 2.5 percent for members of Congress.

Like last year, the only House member to speak out against the automatic raise was Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. "Now is not the time for members of Congress to be voting themselves a pay raise," he said. "Let us send a signal to the American people that we recognize their struggle in America's economy."

But by a 235-170 vote, the House rejected Matheson's procedural attempt to get a direct vote on the pay raise. In 1989, Congress decided to make annual cost-of-living pay increases automatic unless the lawmakers voted otherwise.

The pay raise would also apply to the vice president — who is president of the Senate — congressional leaders and Supreme Court justices.

This year, Vice President Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Chief Justice William Rehnquist receive $203,000. Associate justices get $194,300 and House and Senate party leaders get $175,700.

President Bush's salary of $400,000 is unaffected by the legislation.