Vail Daily letter: That’s inappropriate |

Vail Daily letter: That’s inappropriate

John A. Valersky
Edwards, CO Colorado

Many of your readers are aware that Congress passed legislation years ago guaranteeing them an annual pay raise unless they specifically acted to stop or defer the raise.

I consider this process inappropriate. Senator Russ Feingold’s comments summarize my feelings: “The automatic pay raise for members of Congress is inappropriate. As every working American knows, it is an unusual thing to have the power to raise your own pay. Few people have that ability. Congress should exercise that power openly, subject to regular procedures that include debate, amendment, and a vote on the record.”

Congress, in fact, received a substantial pay raise (roughly $4,700 each) as a result of this system in January of this year. Fortunately for taxpayers, Congress did cancel its raise for the coming fiscal year (2010) in the big omnibus spending bill it passed last week. But it was a small sacrifice in light of the raise in January.

I have repeatedly asked our representatives to discard the current system and to take a voluntary pay cut this year and reduce the operating expenses of their offices. (Each member of the House and Senate receives an annual allowance to run his or her office. These office allotments may be spent on staff salaries, travel, printing, mailing, and other items and services for their offices. Office allowances generally range from $1.3 million to $1.6 million for each House member, while members of the Senate receive more than $2.7 million each.).

Congress had the opportunity to end the automatic pay raise. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) tried to add an amendment to the Omnibus Bill that would have ended the automatic pay raises, period.

It was voted down (tabled) by roll call vote in the Senate. It was defeated by a vote of 52 to 45. Both our senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, voted – to my extreme displeasure – to table the amendment, effectively killing it.

The House of Representatives also also voted to allow Guantanamo detainees to enter the United States. I previously cautioned our representatives – based on extensive experience in counterinsurgency/counterterrorism – that this would be a bad move, and in fact endanger American citizens. Nevertheless, Diana DeGette, Betsy Markey, Ed Perlmutter, John Salazar and Jared Polis all voted in favor of this action. Only Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn opposed it.

As an aside, not one representative has responded to my requests for “belt-tightening” by reducing office expenses. Congress also tacked on earmarks to the Defense Appropriations Bill that took money from the operations and maintenance accounts (used to train and maintain our soldiers and their equipment ) for non-defense-related special projects.

John A. Valersky


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