House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she opposes a cut in congressional pay because it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers' jobs.
"I don't think we should do it; I think we should respect the work we do," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "I think it's necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded."
The comments were made in the context of the looming sequester, which would force across-the-board cuts affecting most federal offices, including Congress. With lawmakers nowhere near a deal to avert those cuts, federal agencies are bracing for ways to absorb them with minimum damage to programs and personnel.
Pelosi, whose husband is a wealthy real-estate developer, was quick to note that a cut in her own pay would be far less significant than that for both staffers and less wealthy members of Congress.
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"It's a hard question to ask me because most of my colleagues are the breadwinners in their families," she said. "A pay cut to me doesn't mean as much."
She also emphasized that Congress should do everything it can to preclude such decisions by preventing the sequester cuts from taking effect at all.
"A sequester should be out of the question," she said.
Still, with the clock ticking down to March 1 — and with both chambers of Congress out of town next week — the chances of reaching a deal to replace the across-the-board spending cuts are growing slimmer. With that in mind, some lawmakers say they're hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
"We are, in fact, obviously contemplating a sequester," Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said this week. "Obviously we are going to take a cut, like everybody else, and we will have to accommodate that."