Vitter to block Salazar’s salary increase

Under the Constitution, members of Congress who have voted to raise the salary of a Cabinet secretary cannot accept that higher salary if they later join the Cabinet. Salazar voted to raise the Interior secretary’s salary as a member of the Senate. As a result, he was forced to accept the previous pay level for the position when he left the upper chamber to become Interior secretary.

Salazar was entitled to the higher salary in January, when his Senate term would have come to an end. Salazar currently makes $180,1000 a year.

Vitter blocked a unanimous consent agreement offered by Reid last week to bring up the bill, a spokesman for the Louisiana Republican said.

And he’ll continue to block the bill until Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) issues more deepwater permits for new offshore exploratory wells in the Gulf, Vitter said Monday.

“The history behind your pay raise proposal and the insider support it may have here in Washington is irrelevant,” Vitter said in his letter to Salazar. “Mr. Secretary, the fact is your polices and your department’s mismanagement of permits is causing more Gulf energy workers literally to lose their jobs every day.”

Vitter said he would agree to Salazar’s pay increase once BOEMRE begins issuing deepwater permits for new exploratory wells in the Gulf at a rate of six per month.

While BOEMRE has issued 14 deepwater permits in recent months, all but one have been for projects that were halted in the aftermath of last year’s Gulf oil spill.

An Interior Department spokeswoman said Salazar’s salary should be on par with other members of the Cabinet.

“The Secretary of the Interior's salary should be equal to that of the other Cabinet members.  It is that simple, no more, no less,” Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said in a statement.

It’s not the first time Vitter, a vocal opponent of the administration’s energy policies, has put his foot down over offshore drilling. In February, he blocked lawmakers from approving the nomination of a key Interior Department official over BOEMRE’s pace of approving drilling permits.