(Alexandria, VA) -- Although freezing Congressional salaries would save the Treasury a relatively modest $2 million, this gesture would give symbolic encouragement to the passage of more significant spending restraint measures, according to the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The non-partisan citizen group has mobilized its grassroots activists in support of a measure contained in the Senate version of a federal appropriations bill that would block an automatic pay increase for lawmakers.
"For a few thousand dollars apiece, Members of Congress can demonstrate their readiness to cut federal spending and give disenchanted taxpayers some hope that fiscal discipline will be restored to Washington," said NTU Vice President for Communications Pete Sepp. "Congressional pay increases usually pass into effect with little or no debate, so this provision is a good reminder for lawmakers that spending increases of any size should be critically evaluated."
Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) sponsored the successful amendment to the Transportation/Treasury/Judiciary/HUD Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3058) that stopped the scheduled salary increase, but since the provision is not contained in the House's version the issue will be resolved in a conference committee. By way of an interactive e-alert today, NTU urged its online activists to contact Conferees in support of halting the pay hike, which would boost the salary for rank-and-file lawmakers by $3,100, to $165,200.
NTU also sent a letter to Conferees encouraging them to include the pay freeze in the bill's final language and noting that since 1989 (when the automatic pay increase process was enacted) Congressional salaries have risen by $72,600. "Lawmakers have accepted pay increases for seven of the last eight years, even after the horrific events of September 11th," NTU wrote. "With the cost of rebuilding the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast looming large on the federal balance sheet, now is an equally unseemly time for another Congressional pay grab."
In addition to e-mail alerts, NTU plans to activate its members through initiatives such as talk radio appearances, grassroots lobbying, and, possibly, coalition efforts. According to NTU, in previous troubled times lawmakers have actually reduced their salaries (during the Depression) or have done without salary increases (such as during World War II).
"Against these historical standards, taxpayers are asking Members of the current Congress to do far less," Sepp concluded. "On behalf of our 350,000 members we urge House and Senate Conferees to seize this unique opportunity to show personal leadership in bringing the federal budget back in balance by including the 2006 pay hold for Senators and Representatives in the final version of H.R. 3058."
NTU was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and more accountability from elected officials. The group has been involved in government pay and perquisite issues for three decades. Note: NTU's letter to House and Senate Conferees is available at www.ntu.org.