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No Pay Raise for Lawmakers Next Year

By Ben Pershing

They're not exactly headed for the poor house, but members of Congress will soon be getting the same pinch from the economic downturn that millions of other Americans are -- a pay freeze.

House Democratic leaders informed their members at a party caucus meeting this afternoon that they will move legislative language blocking lawmakers' regularly scheduled salary increase for 2010. "I told our colleagues that because of the condition of our economy and the crisis our country is in, that the leadership will be instructing the Appropriations Committee not to include a COLA for next year," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said after the meeting.

That "COLA" is a cost-of-living-adjustment -- the automatic pay raise that members receive each year under permanent law unless Congress actively passes legislation to block it. The last time members didn't get a raise was 2007; otherwise members' pay goes up by a few percent per year, based on a Labor Department formula. Rank-and-file lawmakers are earning $174,000 this year, though top elected leaders make more (Pelosi is taking in $223,500).

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a longtime proponent of annual raises for members, said the freeze was warranted by these trying times. "We're in a context today where we have extraordinary pain in our community, people losing their jobs, the economy in great stress. The Speaker and I discussed that it would not be appropriate to take a COLA adjustment in the coming year," he said.

If Democratic leaders hadn't made this decision today it likely would have been made for them. Every year there is an effort on the House floor, usually by fiscal conservatives, to block lawmakers' annual raise. In most years that effort gets voted down, but given the current economic climate members would likely have been chomping at the bit to vote for a pay freeze. Dozens lawmakers had already signed on to measures to block the COLA for 2010.

Though members of both chambers currently make the same amount, the language being pushed by House leaders would apply only to their members. The Senate would have to move separately to freeze its own pay.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 10, 2009; 4:23 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders , House  
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Next: Today on the Hill


The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.

$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$550 billion: U.S. Defense budget

Posted by: atsegga | February 10, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Well that's a start of the government's "practice what you preach" mentality. However, $14,500/month, is plenty for anyone (elected government official or not), especially with all the other perks they receive. Perhaps the exorbitant wages the corporate CEO's and the likes earn could suffice on this amount as well. Since a mass majority of American's (I'm sure), make less than $50,000/year and then there are those like me whose never seen more than $30,000/year and rarely get a COLA raise (even w/a BS degree---do they call it a BS degree for a reason???). The wage disparity in our world economics is pathetic and I hope as a society we can reign in on this issue. Money is truly the root of all evil.

Posted by: jac3 | February 10, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Why should Congress members deny themselves a raise? Pay for performance works in Washington as well as it does on Wall Street. Things are going well, right?

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | February 10, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

If members of Congress had any morals or ethics, they would refuse their salaries. Many (if not most) are already stinking rich and do not need the money. Maybe they could donate their salaries to charity?

But I am not holding my breath for such a grand gesture... believe me!

Posted by: winoohno | February 10, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I regret that everyone in our congress suffer because of poor judgment exhibited by few. However, once our economy improves I would like for this administration to place some serious thought into public housing for all of our elected officials. Despite my disgust with some of them, it's unfortunate they have to roommate or stake out headquarters in their respective offices. I think we should constuct or renovate a building in D.C. with top notch security, with one and two bedroom options, restaurant/cafeteria, laundry room, parking and a nice swimming pool with one and two bedroom options at a rate not to exceed $5,000.00 per session and five round trip tickets home at the costs of their constituents. Again, despite my disgust, the sacrifices associated with being apart from their families is tremendous. Yes, the salaries some of them make are hefty compared to most people, but when you factor in the fact that most of them don't jump in the car after work and return home and incur substantial living expenses, I think the american people should reward our officials in the event they work with our president and get us out of the mess. Maxine, Douglasville, Ga.

Posted by: desertbrown | February 10, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse


If these thieves were serious, if they had any morals or ethics at all, they would repeal the automatic pay raise law altogether. Instead of having some law that automatically gives raises unless there is a vote to deny it, thereby bypassing the 27th Amendment, if they want a raise, they should have to vote for the raise. That is what is consistent with the intent and spirit of the Constitution.

Posted by: ooyah32 | February 10, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

I think they should go further. No pay increases/COLA or government pension accruals until the DJIA & S&P 500 pass previous highs. Only grits, cold cereal, oatmeal, peanut butter, grilled cheese or bologna sandwiches for lunch in Congressional, Treasury, Commerce dining rooms/cafeterias until there are four quarters of positve economic growth erasing any recessionary period.

Congress keeps telling us they feel our pain-so its about time they share it.

Posted by: johngurgle | February 10, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree with ooyah32:

"If these thieves were serious, if they had any morals or ethics at all, they would repeal the automatic pay raise law altogether. Instead of having some law that automatically gives raises unless there is a vote to deny it, thereby bypassing the 27th Amendment, if they want a raise, they should have to vote for the raise. That is what is consistent with the intent and spirit of the Constitution."

Well said. Worth repeating.

Posted by: Observer44 | February 11, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

If they had any morals at all they would not except their 2009 raise and would cut their pay in half until the economy recovers. Put your money where your mouths' are.

Posted by: glillis | February 11, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

$174,000.00 salary this year?!!? Automatic pay raises?!!? For "leaders" who obstruct "liberty and justice for all" and allow millions of Americans to struggle, stress, and suffer just to survive, while they sit on their behinds at the upper end of the economic class system and continue their pursuit of keeping the interests of them and theirs intact --- instead of what's best for mankind?!!?
Most people are not aware of where the term Politician comes from, or it's true meaning. The term politics is Latin in origin, and it means "many tics". Yes, that's right --- many bloodsuckers.
How long will we sit back and let them manipulate and drain us of our God given rights to prosperity, liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness?
Let's Stand up --- Speak out --- Take some action!

Posted by: lelon2222 | February 11, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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