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Campus Notebook: Members Look to Cut Raises

A bipartisan team of Senators on Wednesday introduced the chamber’s first bill this year to end Members’ automatic annual raise.

Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) teamed with Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) on the legislation, which would force Congress to vote each year to raise its own salary rather than vote every year to prevent a raise, as has been the practice since 1989.

“There’s no reason Congress should be getting a pay raise each year,” McCaskill said in a statement. “We hear a lot of talk about cutting back, and the automatic pay raises should be the first item on the chopping block.”

Tester said, “Most folks don’t have the luxury of automatic pay raises, and Congress ought to lead by example ... when families across rural America are forced to pinch pennies, their representatives in Congress should do the same.” McCaskill and Tester are up for re-election in 2012.

In recent years, former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) had been the driving force behind the bill in the Senate, but he was defeated in his re-election bid in November. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who has teamed with Feingold in the past, has said he will introduce a similar bill, but he hasn’t yet. 

Several Members have introduced similar bills in the House, including Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). Latta and Wilson co-signed a letter to Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday asking that the Ohio Republican bring it to the floor.

“While Members of Congress have not received pay increases since 2009, we strongly believe that Members should not continue to receive an automatic pay raise while our constituents suffer through these tough economic times,” the letter read. “We believe this is a necessary step in bringing transparency and accountability back to Congress.”

Latta said in a interview that he wasn’t aware of Matheson’s bill, but he still hopes Boehner schedules a vote on “whatever bill they use as the vehicle” because “the time has come that we’ve got to move on this.”

Members have already voted to forgo a raise this year and in 2012. The current yearly salary of rank-and-file Members is $174,000. Majority and Minority Leaders receive $193,400, and the Speaker earns $223,500.

Since 1969 the salaries of Members of Congress have increased by 309 percent, according to a December Congressional Research Service report. Average wages among all workers in the economy have risen by 632 percent since 1969.

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