Members of Congress Headed for a Pay Raise as President Clinton Signs $12.8 Billion Spending Plan

The bill signed Friday covers the Treasury Department and several other agencies. It never mentions giving lawmakers more money. But under a 1989 law, they get cost-of-living raises unless they take action to prevent them, as they have done in this spending bill from 1993 through 1996. They did not do that this year.

``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 and Senate Republican leader Trent Lott had no immediate comment. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle ``has indicated that he will give the cost-of-living increase to South Dakota charities,'' said spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer.

The raise will lift the basic pay of lawmakers from $133,600 to $136,672 early next year _ unless they take action to stop it.

The measure also includes $131 million for combatting 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 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 worldwide.

As for the congressional pay raise, lawmakers passed a measure in 1989 granting themselves annual cost-of-living increases like other federal workers. But from 1993 to 1996, they attached a provision to the annual spending bill for the Treasury Department and other federal agencies that barred the increase.

Congressional leaders stripped out that provision this year.

Gingrich supported allowing the pay increase and worked with Democratic leader Dick Gephardt to throw his support behind it, to be demonstrated only on the final vote on the overall spending bill.

The Democrats wanted to be sure a majority of Republicans would support the bill. When it became clear during the vote that a majority of the Republicans would vote against it, Gephardt did, too. Nevertheless, it passed the House 220-207, with Democratic support. It passed the Senate, 55-45.