Saturday, December 09, 2006

Democrats still sounding good

As the lame-duck session of Congress drew to a close, the Democrats are still managing to make the right noises on reform.

Several days ago, they announced the new Congress would work a five-day week -- a far cry from the current Congress, which was lackadaisical on a historic scale, tending to put in three-day weeks and notching the fewest days of work of any Congress since reliable records were first compiled in 1948.

One legislator's complaint, while understandable, isn't likely to land on many sympathetic ears:

But Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said: "Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families, that's what this says."

Right. Tell it to all the people who have to do such things every day. Maybe this will make him more sympathetic to working conditions, labor laws and bills dealing with child care and flexible scheduling.

Opponents have a point when they say that lawmakers' work away from Washington can be just as important as the work done in the Capitol. But it's hard to argue things are fine when this same light-load Congress failed to pass nine of 11 appropriations bills, which after all is their main job.

The news provoked some interesting perspectives from WaPo readers, including several who weren't thrilled at the prospect of a Congress with more time to do mischief.

Separately, the Democrats also blocked a proposed Congressional pay raise unless Congress also ups the minimum wage. It's a bit of a gimmick -- the pay raise will go into effect in several weeks unless Congress votes to block it again. And several critics objected to it being tied to the minimum wage, claiming the two issues aren't related. And they're right to an extent. One involves Congress changing its own pay structure; the other involves the government intruding on private pay structures nationwide.

But I for one don't mind. Legislators are well-paid already, so it's hard to show an overwhelming need for a pay raise. In fact, indexing Congressional pay to inflation was a way for Congress to avoid the politically unpopular act of voting itself a pay increase while still getting the money.

And the minimum wage is exactly that -- a minimum -- and hasn't been increased in nearly 10 years. Raising it isn't going to have a major effect on the economy; it will simply keep the minimum wage from becoming irrelevant.

As with many things, however, we must now wait and see what the Democrats actually do when they take control. The table has been set; let's see what they serve up.

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Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

I'm not sure I necessarily agree that Congress is well-paid. Obviously, it's a matter of perspective and they certainly make more than most Americans. But, in fairness, this is an expensive place to live and they have to maintain two residences. It's very difficult for someone not already well-off to serve in Congress. I don't really have a problem with increasing the pay, but I agree they should recognize that there are others in much worse shape.

As for the complaints about the work schedule, it's sort of laughable considering the hours their staffers have to put in. I guess their families don't count.

12/11/2006 3:11 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Agreed. I don't have a particular problem with their pay going up. But they're well-enough paid that I don't mind the Dems tying the raise to movement on other people's pay as well.

12/11/2006 3:20 PM  

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