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COURT CONSIDERS LEGALITY OF ’93 PAY RAISE FOR CONGRESS

SHARE COURT CONSIDERS LEGALITY OF ’93 PAY RAISE FOR CONGRESS

A federal appeals court is considering whether the $341-a-month pay raise members of Congress got last year violates the Constitution.

Since 1992, when the 27th Amendment was ratified, the Constitution has required that lawmakers face the electorate before pocketing any extra pay they approve.A lawyer for Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued Monday that the amendment applies both to new raises and the automatic cost-of-living adjustments set up in 1989.

The amendment requires a vote of Congress and an intervening election before any money is added to a congressional paycheck, lawyer John Armor told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Voters then decide if they are "satisfied with the dollar amount and are they satisfied with the position their congressman took on that," Armor said.

Senate lawyer Morgan Frankel told the judges the law that created COLAs was in sync with the new amendment because the first payout was delayed until after the 1990 congressional election.

And he argued that Boehner had no reason to be in court. Members of Congress have no special standing in lawsuits, and Boehner has not shown that he's been harmed by the COLA payment, Frankel said.

"It's not a suit for money," Frankel said. "His beef is about his view of the Constitution."

Boehner's legal standing is a significant question. If the judges conclude he has no reason to sue, they can throw out the case without ruling on whether COLAs for Congress are constitutional.

Judge Douglas Ginsburg suggested to the lawyers that Boehner might have a stronger case if he challenged the 1993 actions Congress took to block the 1994 COLA.

If a law increasing pay has to wait until after a congressional election, "then it also follows that the statute de-scheduling a COLA would have to hold over during an election period," Ginsburg said.

The 1989 law that created the system for small yearly increases was intended to eliminate problems.