Paying attention to congressional pay

We’re glad to see that 3rd District Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, and two other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation have signed on to a bill that would freeze congressional salaries for the next two years.

At a time when the national economy is in its worst condition since the Great Depression — when unemployment is at its highest level in decades and each day seemingly brings new reports of major layoffs — members of Congress shouldn’t be receiving automatic pay raises. They should be able to scrape by on their current salary, which is just under $170,000 a year for members not in leadership posts.

However, simply putting their names on the legislation won’t be enough. People like Rep. Salazar, and his freshmen colleagues from the Front Range, Democrat Betsey Markey and Republican Mike Coffman, will have to actively fight to hold the line on pay.

That’s because congressional pay raises based on inflation are now automatic, thanks to legislation adopted by Congress 20 years ago. Tired of dealing with the public outcry every time they raised their pay, members of Congress in 1989 passed the Government Ethics Reform Act with the automatic cost of living increase.

Congress can, by a majority vote, prevent the pay increases from taking effect, but it has not often found reason to do so. Members froze their salaries from 1994 through 1997 and again in 1999, according to the National Taxpayers Union.

If ever there were a time for Congress to freeze its own pay again, that time is now. We hope Reps. Salazar, Markey and Coffman will pay more than lip service to that notion and vigorously work to make the freeze for the next two years become law.


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