Dem wants to slash member pay

A Democratic lawmaker wants to slash the paychecks of members by 5 percent, or $8,700 each.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.) on Thursday introduced a measure that would stop members of Congress from receiving an automatic pay raise in 2012. It would also reduce the salaries of lawmakers by 5 percent in the 113th Congress — the next time a pay reduction would be possible. 

The pay cut would save taxpayers about $4.7 million by freezing the base pay of House and Senate lawmakers at $174,000. Majority and minority leaders each make $193,400 per year, and newly elected Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is to receive an annual salary of $223,500. 

Members of Congress automatically receive a cost-of-living pay adjustment each year unless they vote against it. President Obama signed a bill in May halting Congress’s automatic cost-of-living increase for 2011 after it easily passed both the House and Senate.

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Giffords's bill has 18 co-sponsors, including Republican Rep. Ron Paul (Texas). Separately, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) has offered a measure to halt the automatic cost-of-living increase for 2012. 

Lawmakers could find it tough to vote against either measure given the continued struggle of the economy as well as pledges by the new House Republican majority to cut spending. 

In November, The Hill reported that several taxpayer groups were pressing Boehner to cut member salaries as an initial gesture toward reducing spending. 

Boehner so far has opted not to take a stance on members’ salaries and instead thrown his support behind slashing the operating budget of Congress by 5 percent. That resolution easily passed the House on Thursday with only 13 lawmakers — all Democrats — voting no. 

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who opposed the measure, said Boehner should cut his own salary before cutting staff pay. 

“This vote was a Republican gimmick designed to confuse the American people,” said Honda in a statement. “If Speaker Boehner wants to lead by example then he should cut his own quarter-million-dollar salary first. Instead, he and his Republican colleagues attack the hard-earned salaries of our staff, most of whom only make a fraction of what members get paid.”

Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), who lost her reelection bid in November, tried to get Democratic leaders to bring a similar pay-cutting measure to the floor last Congress. But despite garnering more than 30 co-sponsors and the endorsements of the National Taxpayers Union and Senior Citizens League, the measure never came before the lower chamber. 

If Giffords’s bill is signed into law, it would be the first time Congress has taken a pay cut in 77 years — the last time being in the midst of the Great Depression on April 1, 1933.

“We are living in tough economic times,” said Giffords in a statement. “Everyone is being forced to make sacrifices. Members of Congress can’t ask any American to cut back before we are willing to make some sacrifices of our own. I’m prepared to do that, and I want my colleagues to join me.”