The House, avoiding a recorded vote, changed its rules today to boost by one-third the amount of money lawmakers can earn beyond their congressional salaries, setting the new limit at $30,040 a year.
The change, approved with almost no discussion, brings the House in line with the Senate and sets the limit on outside income at 40% of legislative salary, which represents an increase of $7,510.
One Republican member later complained that the Democrats had engineered the change without consulting the GOP leadership and slipped the change through a nearly empty House chamber.
The previous limit on outside income for House members was set at $22,530--30% of the members’ annual pay, which now is $75,100. The new rule was made retroactive to Jan. 1.
Most Common Source
Fees for giving speeches--called honoraria--are the most common source of outside income for members of Congress. The changed rule leaves in effect a $2,000 limit on the fee members can receive for each appearance.
The rule change was presented at the start of the House session by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.).
“This has been cleared by the leadership on both sides. It just changes the rules to comply with the Senate rules,” Murtha said.
The resolution was approved under a procedure known as “unanimous consent,” by which a bill or rule is considered passed if no member objects.
Only a few members were in the chamber at the time, and Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.) later insisted that the GOP leadership had not been notified of the proposed rule change.
‘People Just Got Stung’
“The American people just got stung,” Walker said. “It was an end run done around the committee process and an end run done around the procedure supposedly established on this floor for unanimous consent resolutions coming to the floor.”
Walker made a motion to “vacate” or undo the earlier action, but that also required unanimous consent and was blocked by an objection from Rep. Robert Garcia (D-N.Y.).