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Members Seek to Curtail Their Own Paychecks

On the heels of Thursday’s vote to cut House operating budgets by 5 percent, two Members have separately introduced bills that would reform the way Members are paid.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced a bill Thursday that would end the automatic cost of living adjustment for Members and force an up-or-down vote on pay increases every year.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), meanwhile, has introduced a bill that would slash Member pay by 5 percent.

Under the current system, Member pay automatically increases each year unless Members vote to freeze it. They have done so each of the last two years.

Wilson introduced legislation similar to his bill in the 111th Congress, but it was never brought to the floor, he said, because of Democratic partisanship.

“I’m confident that it didn’t get considered last year is because they didn’t want a Republican to get credit,” he told Roll Call. “But I think the current environment is a lot more positive in terms of reform.”

Other Congressmen introduced similar measures last term, including then-Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.), whose bill racked up more than 100 co-sponsors.

Leadership never supported the cause, and despite a similar measure passing in the Senate, no such bill came to the House floor.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) were co-sponsors of the Senate legislation.

There’s no matching Senate bill yet this year, but Wilson said he’s looking for someone to introduce companion legislation.

He said he’s in the process of sending out “Dear Colleague” letters to get more co-sponsors and will present his bill in a meeting of the Republican Study Committee next week.

Giffords has gathered 18 co-sponsors for her bill, including seven fellow Blue Dog Democrats. The only Republican to sign on to her bill so far is Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

“The House today voted to cut the office budgets for members of Congress by 5 percent,” Giffords said in a statement Thursday. “I strongly support that cut. But our salaries should not be exempt. Members of Congress must set an example and there’s no better way to do that than by cutting our own salaries.”

Former Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) introduced a similar bill last session, but it never came to the floor.

The last time Members of Congress took pay cuts was during the Great Depression, when Members’ salaries went from $9,000 per year to $8,500 annually.

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