Congressman Cannot Challenge Automatic Pay Increases As Unconstitutional

2001

In Schaffer v. Clinton, Rep. Bob Schaffer and three others challenge the automatic cost-of-living increases in the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 as a violation of the 27th Amendment. They argue that the automatic increases effectively grant legislators raises before a new congressional session begins. The District Court dismisses three of the plaintiffs (a state legislator and a taxpayer and a voter), on the ground that they are not harmed by the law and thus have no legal right to bring the case. Although the District Court finds that Schaffer could bring the lawsuit, it dismisses his case, finding that the 27th Amendment is not violated by the automatic pay increases. According to the court, the cost-of-living raises accomplish the goal of the 27th Amendment because they “eliminate the possibility that Congress will grant itself a new pay raise during its current session.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit dismisses the appeal because that Schaffer is not the appropriate person to bring the case – by receiving the pay increase, he did not suffer any real injury.