Raises for Congress? What for?

Huelskamp’s opposition justified

By The Mercury

To no one’s surprise, 1st District Rep. Tim Huelskamp on Thursday didn’t support U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s effort to keep his leadership position.

In what he acknowledged was a protest vote, Rep. Huelskamp supported Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican.

Rep. Huelskamp has plenty to protest, philosophically and personally. An absolutist in his opposition to tax increases and insistence on spending cuts, Rep. Huelskamp objects to the willingness by the speaker and other moderate Republicans to compromise with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. Rep. Huelskamp voted against the New Year’s Day tax increases.

Rep. Boehner, who kept his post with a margin that wasn’t as comfortable as the numbers suggest, probably hadn’t counted on Rep. Huelskamp’s support. Last month Rep. Huelskamp was stripped of his seats on both the House Budget and Agriculture committees, actions that stemmed from a committee action but that would not have occurred without Rep. Boehner’s support.

From the leadership’s perspective, Rep. Huelskamp’s intransigence, like that of some other tea party favorites, hinders progress toward budget deals. From Rep. Huelskamp’s perspective, the problem lies not with him and his principles but with leaders and other members of Congress who have compromised their own principles.

Though a little mellowing on Rep. Huelskamp’s part would serve his constituents well, we can’t fault him for his objection to salary increases that members of Congress will receive beginning in March, courtesy of an executive order from President Obama. The lawmakers’ raises are a comparatively small item in an order that performs other functions, including outlining higher pay schedules for members of the armed forces. Moreover, the congressional raises are modest — $900 a year added to present pay of $174,000 — and are the first raises since 2009. Still, they’re not justified.

The 112th Congress was ranked among the least productive, if not the single least productive, Congress ever. It approved comparatively few pieces of legislation, and rather than be remembered for confronting the nation’s problems, it was characterized by partisan infighting that obstructed progress on multiple fronts.

If ordinary workers got as little done, they would be fired, and businesses that were as ineffective would be shuttered. Instead of raises, Congress has earned the low marks it has consistently received from the American public.

Maybe the new Congress can do better. In the meantime, efforts by Rep. Huelskamp, 2nd District Rep. Lynn Jenkins and others to block these raises are worth pursuing.









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