Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., last week introduced legislation that would tie congressional salaries to changes in the federal budget. Under the bill, lawmakers would see a decrease in pay equal to the percentage of budget growth over the previous fiscal year. If spending increased by 5 percent, salaries would decline by 5 percent the following year.
"As public servants, we have a lot of work to do to bring down our national debt and reduce deficit spending," Forbes said in a statement. "It will not be easy. It will take hard work. It will not happen overnight."
Rank-and-file members of Congress earn $174,000 annually, while party leaders make more. Lawmakers determine their own pay and receive automatic annual raises, which take effect on Jan. 1 of each year, unless they vote to decline the increase as they did in both 2010 and 2011.
Forbes' bill is not the first proposal to cut congressional salaries. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., in January introduced legislation that would cut lawmaker pay by 10 percent -- in addition to mandating two-week furloughs for all federal employees. Reps. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., sponsored similar legislation. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in January introduced a bill that would reduce lawmaker pay by 5 percent. These bills are caught up in committee, however.
Other lawmakers are proposing to end benefits paid out to families of colleagues who die in office. Reps. Bill Posey, R-Fla., and Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., last week sponsored a bill that would end the congressional death gratuity, equal to a year's salary, awarded to members' survivors. Lawmakers should buy life insurance like everyone else, they said.
"Life insurance is accessible," said Posey spokesman George Cecala. "There's no reason why we shouldn't ask members to purchase life insurance instead of having to pay their families death gratuities . . . They're wealthy. Why are they paying their families more when they have all these money already?"