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Senate Votes to Kill Its Own Pay Raise

Buried in the fiscal cliff deal passed by the Senate early Tuesday morning is a provision to halt a scheduled salary increase for members of Congress themselves.

The bill contains a one-sentence provision that would block a scheduled cost-of-living adjustment for representatives and senators that is due to take place when the continuing resolution under which the federal government is currently operating expires on March 27. Congressional pay has not been increased since 2009, in part because the vote is so unpopular with the public given the recent recession, the push for deficit reduction and the high disapproval ratings of Congress.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said Monday that she planned to introduce legislation to stop the Congressional salary hike. But she made those comments before an agreement was reached between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. That deal included a provision rescinding the pay hike tucked inside of the 157-page package.

The provision has bipartisan support, including from Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

Some Republicans, however, want to go further and extend a blockade on most federal civilian pay raises. President Barack Obama issued an executive order last week that would increase pay for the bulk of civilian employees by 0.5 percent, which has drawn the ire of Republicans on both ends of the Capitol.

“At a time when our country is facing record debt and trillion dollar deficits, the last thing Washington should do is reward itself with a pay increase. I am calling on President Obama to withdraw his recent Executive Order raising federal salaries — including for Members of Congress,” Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, a former Office of Management and Budget director, said in a Dec. 31 statement.

“Until a long-term deficit reduction agreement is reached, we should not consider increasing the pay for Congress,” Portman said.

The House schedule for New Year’s Day includes a bill that would halt not only the pay hike for members of Congress but also other federal workers. The proposal would keep the pay freeze in effect through the end of the 2013 calendar year.

Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick plans to introduce that bill before any potential fiscal cliff vote Tuesday. He also wrote a letter to Obama on Monday encouraging him to reconsider the executive order without Congressional action.

“For the past four years, many private sector workers have seen their salaries reduced and small businesses have tightened their belts to ensure our economy remains afloat in these difficult times,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “Families are making sacrifices to make ends meet, and Congress must follow their lead.”

Federal civilian employees will not have seen a cost-of-living increase in more than two years even if Obama’s executive order actually takes effect.

Adam Schank contributed to this report.

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