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Senate Agrees to Take Annual Pay Increase

October 24, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — For the fifth straight year, members of Congress will see a jump in their paychecks in 2004, with salaries rising from $154,700 to about $158,000.

The Senate, on a 60-34 vote Thursday, rejected a proposal to exempt senators from a cost-of-living increase going to all civilian federal workers and military personnel. Last month the House, by a similar convincing margin, also turned back an attempt to deny lawmakers an automatic share of the increase.

As in past years, the effort to deny senators their pay raise was led by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who has a policy of returning to the Treasury any pay he receives that is above his salary when he began his six-year term.

"How can Congress give itself a $3,400 pay raise while nearly 9 million people are unemployed and 2 million have been out of work for more than half a year," Feingold asked.

With the latest increase, he said, members will have received five consecutive pay hikes totaling more than $21,000.

Congressional salaries showed little movement in the 1990s, when Republicans gained majorities in Congress under a platform of curtailing government spending, but in recent years, lawmakers have accepted pay increases with little fanfare.

"I think that our representatives of government deserve a pay raise consistent with the work that we've produced," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

"This is not a pay raise. This is an increase that's required by law," said Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Senate Appropriations Committee chairman. The question, Stevens said, "is whether the cost-of-living provision in this bill should provide to members as it does to other people who work for the federal government."

The $90-billion spending bill for the Transportation and Treasury departments in fiscal 2004 includes a 4.1% cost-of-living increase for most federal workers and military personnel. Under a complicated formula, that translates to 2.2% for members of Congress, Vice President Dick Cheney and Supreme Court justices. The raise goes into effect automatically unless lawmakers vote to exempt themselves from it.

The raise does not affect president Bush's salary of $400,000. Currently, the vice president, top leaders in the House and Senate and the chief justice receive $198,600.

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