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Congress Votes Itself a Pay Raise

Salary will jump by $3,400 a year in 2004


Capitol Building
Brian Lawrence/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Want a raise? Don't beg to your boss. Just vote yourself one. That's what the United States Congress just did. For the fifth year in a row, lawmakers voted not to reject their automatic "cost of living" raise that will increase the annual salary of members by $3,400 to a total of $158,103 per year.

In 1989, Congress passed an amendment allowing for the automatic raises, unless lawmakers specifically voted to reject it. Which Congress did, until 2000.

The fiscal year 2004 Transportation and Treasury Department Appropriations bill included Congress' 2.2 percent pay raise, along with a 4.1 percent raise for federal workers and military personnel.

"Members of Congress have the only job in the country whose occupants can set their own salary without regard to performance, profit, or economic climate," said Tom Schatz, president of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste in a press release. "Clearly, members must think that money grows on trees. With a $480 billion deficit, the escalating cost of the war in Iraq, and a stagnant economy, Congress should be curbing spending, not lining their pockets at our expense."

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Jim Matheson's (D-Utah, 2nd) motion to bring the pay raise to a separate vote was rejected 240-173. The Senate must still pass the bill and it must then be signed by President Bush before the pay raises can take effect. Individual members are free to refuse their pay increases, and some choose to do so.

Congress has now voted itself a total of $16,700 in raises over the last six years. Since 1990, congressional pay has increased from $98,400 to $154,700 in 2003.

Individual members are free to refuse their pay increases, and some choose to do so.

From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815, when they were paid $1,500 per year.

"This underserved pay raise is no surprise, as the 108th Congress has shown a voracious appetite for spending," Schatz concluded. "It goes to show how out of touch with reality politicians can be. They forget that their salaries are paid by taxpayers. Americans are being forced to tighten their belts—if they even have a job—yet members of Congress will have an extra $3,400 to do with as they please."

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