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