In Midst of Recession, Lawmakers Still Get Their Pay Raise
The stock market may be down 50 percent from a year ago, housing prices might be at 2003 levels, unemployment might be gaining momentum and recovery may be along ways off. But none of those things prevented Senate lawmakers — primarily Democrats — from voting to give themselves a pay raise late Tuesday evening.
A bill that would have blocked automatic congressional pay raises — and forced lawmakers to vote on their own annual salary increases — was shot down by a vote of 52 to 45.
To be fair, the pay-raise freeze was being offered as an amendment to the $410 billion omnibus spending bill, which Democrats were dying to be rid of so they can move on to other issues. Attaching the salary amendment would have jeopardized the spending bill, leaving even those Democrats who support a pay freeze in the tough spot of voting against it for the sake of the larger proposal. Also, the omnibus contained a provision blocking the automatic pay raise for 2010, though it will be restored afterward. The omnibus bill ultimately passed the Senate Tuesday evening by a margin of 62 to 35, and will now move to President Obama’s desk for signing.
As a result of today’s votes, most lawmakers will make $174,000 this year — up $4,700 from 2008.
One vocal opponent of the automatic raises, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), issued a statement after the vote blasting the day’s developments. “Automatic pay raises for members of Congress are never appropriate,” he said, “but now, in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they are truly outrageous.”