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House Does Turnabout on Pay Ceiling

Associated Press

The House, nervous about the political consequences of a move to boost members’ outside earnings capacity, reversed itself today and reimposed the old limits by an overwhelming majority.

The lawmakers voted 333 to 68 to undo Tuesday’s quickie maneuver that had lifted the ceiling on outside earned income. Today’s vote was far more than the two-thirds majority needed to reimpose the old rule.

The action came even as many members who voted to restore the limit agreed that the cost of living and of maintaining residences both at home and in Washington has outpaced the buying power of the $75,100 congressional salary.

They called on colleagues to come back to the issue later and address the question of salaries head-on.

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“They don’t give themselves the proper salary. They don’t have the guts and the courage,” said House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill Jr. (D-Mass.), adding that members of Congress should make a minimum of $100,000 a year instead of the $75,100 they now receive.

He said the effort to remove the limit on outside earnings and to increase the total amount that could be accepted for speeches had been “backroom gossip” in the House for four months.

The rules change was approved quietly Tuesday--with apparent concurrence by leaders in both parties--without extensive floor discussion. Few members were on the floor at the time.

By this morning, some members apparently were having second thoughts and asked for a vote.

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