Pay Cut Solidarity: Don't Look for Congress to Match Obama's Team

Don't look for congressional leaders to follow the president's lead in returning some of his paycheck to the treasury. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama promised this week to give back 5 percent of his salary so long as federal workers were facing sequester-fueled furloughs, and at least seven members of his Cabinet have quickly followed the boss’s lead.

There’s been no such groundswell of solidarity from members of Congress, and there probably won’t be.

A relative handful already turn back some of their salaries as a gesture of fiscal discipline. (The money goes to a special Treasury deficit-reduction fund.) And a few more will be doing so for political reasons in the coming months, and especially if their re-election prospects look dicey next year.

But beyond sticking by the salary freeze they imposed on themselves four years ago, don’t look for any legislative groundswell to reduce congressional paychecks across the board. So many members have such safe seats that they see no need to make such a move, plus many of them are having trouble managing their two-city lives on $174,000 a year.

Senators cast a non-binding vote last month urging one another to give up a chunk of their pay while the across-the-board cuts are in effect, but so far only a handful have done so — including two facing possibly tough re-election races — Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska — and one who hardly needs the money — Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. There’s not been any such symbolic move in the House, where the Democratic leadership has discouraged the rank-and-file from making a gesture they view as an unnecessarily demeaning gimmick.

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