President Clinton signed a $12.8-billion spending bill Friday that lacks a provision to block an automatic pay raise for members of Congress.
The bill covers the Treasury Department and several other agencies and never mentions giving lawmakers more money. But under a 1989 law, members of Congress get cost-of-living raises unless they take action to prevent them, as they had done in this spending bill from 1993 through 1996.
"House Speaker Newt Gingrich got exactly what he wanted," said Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project, a watchdog group affiliated with Ralph Nader. "He wanted to take advantage of the taxpayers to give himself and his overpaid colleagues a raise, and they're going to get it."
Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) had no immediate comment. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle "has indicated that he will give the cost-of-living increase to South Dakota charities," said spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer.
The 2.3% pay raise will lift the basic pay of lawmakers from $133,600 to $136,672 early next year. The measure also includes $131 million for combating violent crime and $195 million for a national media campaign against drugs, Clinton said in a statement. He did not make an issue of the congressional pay raise.
In addition, the law bans imports of goods produced by indentured child labor, much of it coming from India and Pakistan. Human rights groups estimate that millions of children are held in bondage there, producing a wide range of goods for export to the United States, including rugs, carpets, soccer balls and fireworks. The United States imports about $100 million worth of such products annually from around the world.