Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) said Tuesday that the pay increase that lawmakers are getting in 2009 is not really a "raise."

Responding to a critical caller while appearing on C-SPAN, Kanjorski said the raise that kicked in for members at the beginning of this year is a cost of living increase and that the media "fans the flames" by labeling it a raise.

The $4,700 raise increases lawmakers' annual salaries to $174,000. Government watchdogs say the hike will cost taxpayers more than $2.5 million.

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In one of his first acts as commander-in-chief, President Obama froze the salaries of top White House staffers.

"Across the country, families are tightening their belts in this economic crisis, and so should Washington," Obama said in a press release last week.

Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) has introduced a bill that would halt the congressional pay increase. The measure attracted only 34 cosponsors last year, but the worsening economy has triggered more support for the legislation in 2009. It has 90 cosponsors, with seven lawmakers endorsing it on Monday.

Mitchell said he hopes Obama's act "gives Congress a nudge because I think it really shows that the president understands what people are going through."

-Bob Cusack