Who will hold the line on spending?

Congratulations to Nevada representatives Jim Gibbons, Shelley Berkley and Jon Porter for voting against a 2.2 percent pay raise that neverthless passed the House last week 240-173.

The raise puts the annual salaries of U.S. representatives at $158,100. It's the fifth year in a row they have given themselves cost-of-living pay raises.

If politicians wonder why they're not trusted, here is all the evidence they need. The pay raise was contained in a spending bill giving raises to federal civilian and military employees, so members of Congress wouldn't have to vote on it directly.

Fortunately, lawmakers led by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, used a procedural move to force an actual vote. So now we have a record of where they stand, and we're glad to see Nevada's three representatives on the right side.

For the 240 who voted to go ahead with the raise, though, we would like to hear an explanation.

What have you done to merit a raise? What about the condition of the federal budget makes you think it can bear this raise? What direction did you have from voters -- taxpayers -- that made you believe the raise is justified?

In the deafening silence, we are left with another clear signal that the U.S. House cannot resist spending tax money any opportunity it gets -- particularly if that tax money goes straight into their own pockets.

It's particularly disappointing that the House, where Republicans hold a 229-205 majority, not only couldn't hold the line on their own salaries, but went against President Bush's request to keep raises for federal civilian workers to 2 percent. Instead, they granted a 4.1 percent increase, spending $2 billion more than Bush had planned.

The U.S. Senate will have a chance to kill it. We can only hope.


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