Beltway Beat: Mandatory raise

Posted: Jul 26, 2002 12:00 AM
Among the congressmen voting to reject their annual congressional cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), who says he doesn't deserve a pay increase at a time when so many American workers are struggling in their local economies. "At a time when rural economies across the nation are struggling, I believe it is inappropriate to support a measure that, in effect, increases congressional pay," says Hayes, a two-term congressman who still owns a hosiery mill in North Carolina. Under law, an elected member must accept a pay increase or COLA if it is approved by Congress. So Hayes says he will be donating his 3.1 percent COLA (this year it increases a member's base salary by $4,900, to nearly $150,000) to charity. ILLEGALLY ILL There was considerable reaction when we wrote recently of birthright citizenship and the related phenomenon dubbed "anchor babies." (The United States grants automatic citizenship to babies born in this country to illegal aliens, temporary workers, even tourists. These babies can eventually "anchor" their extended families in the United States, thus precipitating an unlimited number of "chain immigrants" with the right to immigrate.) Now, due in large part to Sept. 11 and the resulting closer examination of U.S. immigration policy, Congress finds that illegal aliens have been flooding the nation's hospitals. This week, Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) announced that the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, agreed to his request to study the financial burden of illegal aliens on the hospital system. "The parasitic effects on our health care system must be inoculated immediately," Foley said. "The world must realize that, while we gladly accept its tired, poor and huddled masses, we also have rules that govern their entrance." POT FOR PAIN What could conservative Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger and liberal Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts have in common? They both support marijuana for medicinal purposes. Wednesday morning in the U.S. Capitol, Nofziger joined Frank and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Executive Director Keith Stroup to offer support for the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act. SORRY, KIDS The For Our Grandchildren Campaign held a debate Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington on personal-investment alternatives to Social Security. Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) and White House aide Chuck Blahaus were present and ready to debate. There was just one problem: Of the 45 Senate Democrats and 53 House Democrats invited to participate in the debate, none showed up. We're told that in hopes of reaching out to the Democrats beforehand, For Our Grandchildren hired Kevin Keefe, president of TheNewsNet and the son of a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee. Apparently to no avail. The For Our Grandchildren campaign is headed by Denison Smith, an investment banker who has raised more than $1 billion for American business. He has dedicated himself to the reform of Social Security and has devoted much of the past two years to this crusade. Smith says every American family deserves to participate in the American dream and is convinced that failure to successfully reform the Social Security program is a threat to American civilization. AMERICA'S GOT MILK The federal government has a $1 billion stash of milk powder buried in caves beneath Kansas City, a product of 70-year-old farm subsidies that reportedly cost $20 million a year to maintain. The powdered stash under scrutiny "is a layover from the bad old days of command-and-control agriculture policy," charges Tom Schatz, president of the Citizens Against Government Waste. Equivalent to 1.3 billion gallons of skim milk, the government has purchased enough of the white powder to supply the country for 16 months. Although the Freedom to Farm Act of 1996 was written to phase out the dairy subsidies, it was subsequently extended and repealed by the $170 billion Farm Bill just signed into law. "Weak-willed legislators brought this Depression-era boondoggle back to life and now we're paying $20 million a year to warehouse milk the government wants to keep off the market," says Schatz. "This is a program that would have made Soviet policy-makers proud." You will recall that Vermont Sens. James M. Jeffords and Patrick J. Leahy, independent and Democrat respectively, toasted glasses of milk in May in celebrating the successful passage of the 2002 farm bill. Overproducers or not, milk farms are a major industry in Vermont. SUMMER READING Here's what top Washington politicos are reading this long hot summer, reports World magazine's Joel C. Rosenberg: -- Vice President Richard B. Cheney: "Six Days of War," by Israeli historian Michael B. Oren; "The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin," by H.W. Brands; "Seabiscuit: An American Legend," by Washington-based scribe Laura Hillenbrand. -- Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice president: "Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation," by Richard Norton Smith; "Lincoln's Virtues," by William Lee Miller; "America: A Patriotic Primer," by Lynne Cheney. (Mrs. Cheney is reading her new children's book on American history and patriotism to groups all over the country.) -- White House strategist Karl Rove: "Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson," by Robert Caro. -- Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans: "John Adams," by David McCullough. -- James Carville: "Barbarossa," by David Glantz; "When Titans Clashed," by David Glantz and Jonathan House. -- House Majority Leader Dick Armey: "In Harm's Way," by Doug Stanton.