It has been 78 years since Congress took a pay cut. In the midst of the Great Depression Congress voted to cut their pay from $9,000 to $8,500. Now, with the economy still struggling to get on its feet under the crushing weight of historic deficits, a bipartisan group of Representatives is once again pushing to cut Congress’ salaries.
The effort began under the leadership of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who introduced H.R. 204, the “Congressional Pay Cut Act”, in January. NTU endorsed the bill soon after as a common sense measure to reduce spending and to have Members of Congress endure what millions of American have in this economy: a pay cut. While she recovers from the horrifying shooting that left her hospitalized, Representatives David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) have taken up the lead to bring the legislation to the floor.
In a joint op-ed, the two Representatives spoke of the importance of setting an example at a time when Americans are still feeling the effects of the lingering recession. “American families are adapting to these challenging economic times by tightening their belts and learning to do more with less,” write Reps. Schweikert and Schrader. “They have the right to expect their government to do the same.”
This echoes the sentiment of Representative Giffords who, upon introducing the bill, said that “Members of Congress can’t ask any American to cut back before we are willing to make some sacrifices of our own.
The “Congressional Pay Cut Act” would create this shared sense of sacrifice by imposing an across-the-board five percent pay cut on all Members of Congress salaries. This would match the House of Representative’s earlier budget cutting effort in which they returned all office budgets to 2008 levels – a five percent cut.
Our nation is facing unprecedented fiscal problems. “The American people are looking for bold action to reduce spending,” write Reps. Schrader and Schweikert. “They want to see members of both parties show a renewed commitment to cutting spending in every corner of the government, including our own.”
Representative Gifford’s bill is a step in the right direction. It is a small demonstration that Washington can move beyond the politics of pain for thee but not for me. It won’t solve the problem on its own, or anything close to it, but it’s a reasonable step that all Members should support. While Americans are struggling to find work and America’s spending problem will necessitate bold action, it is good to know that some Representatives are willing to share with us in the sacrifice.