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Loebsack "optimistic" about Congressional Pay Cut bill

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | JANUARY 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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Following recent progress from fiscal negotiations, Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, is optimistic his Congressional-pay bill will bring “momentum” for further deficit cuts down the road.

“We know that Iowa families are hurting … and we need to make every effort to reduce the deficit,” he told The Daily Iowan. “Congress needs to have a personal stake in this.”

Loebsack introduced the Congressional Halt in Pay Increases and the Cut Congressional Pay Act on Jan. 24. Loebsack’s bill follows recent efforts by other members of Congress to halt automatic pay increases and address Congressional benefits. According to the Congressional Research Service, average members of Congress — not including such positions as Speaker of the House — make $174,000.

One political expert said while many of these bills “haven’t gone very far,” there is a possibility for momentum.

“There’s always a possibility that people get really fired up and support something like Loebsack’s bill,” said Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science.

While Hagle said most bills of this nature die in committee, Loebsack remains optimistic that parts of his bill will be passed.

Joe Hand, a spokesman for Loebsack, said he is “aggressively” seeking cosponsors for his bill, which currently has the support of one other Democrat.

Republicans included another provision related to Congressional pay in a bill allowing for a three-month suspension of the debt ceiling. The suspension allows for an increase in the total amount the United States is allowed to borrow to meet its existing obligations. The provision would hold salaries in an escrow account until the House and Senate pass a budget or the last day of the 113th Congress occurs.

One local Republican says the actions Republicans in Congress took were was the “proper outlook,” and he spoke against the proposed 10-percent cut in pay in Loebsack’s bill.

“The 10-percent cut is meaningless,” said Bob Anderson, the chairman of the Johnson County Republicans. “Lately, the action taken in the House is the best thing I have heard. It’s critical for Congress to fulfill its responsibilities, which includes both houses passing a budget.”

UI law Professor Todd Pettys said such actions could run into problems with the 27th Amendment, but it’s unlikely such a challenge would occur.

“It’s been so sparsely regulated that we don’t have enough cases to know what it means,” he said. “However, someone who directly suffered would have to sue, and it’s not politically popular to do that especially if there is a perception you’re not doing your job.”

Loebsack said even though he does not have professional experience on this issue, he thought that escrow fix would not violate the amendment. While there are many reasons bills relating to pay and benefits may fail, some members of Congress may just want to avoid the issue by letting the bills die, Hagle said.

“They may not be all that forthcoming to avoid the issue by saying, ‘All right, it’s just a sideshow or stunt,’ ” he said.

Hand said while Congressional pay may make up just a small part of the budget, it’s a great place to start.

“Congress needs to set the example,” he said. “Every bit helps, and Congress needs to set an example and deal with less serious issue … before taking steps forward to cut the deficit.”


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