Nearly a quarter of House lawmakers gave bonuses to their staff in the months leading up to expected tax hikes and spending cuts dubbed the fiscal cliff, according to a CNN report.
Representatives from both parties defended the late 2012 bonuses as a reward for good work and an incentive to maximize efficiency.
"We have not had raises or bonuses in several years. The small compensation reflects an increased workload each person had to take on after our staff was downsized because of budgetary cuts,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told CNN.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., said he only gives bonuses if there is “money leftover” at the end of the year. Rank-and-file House members have annual budgets of about $1.3 million for their offices, while leadership offices are allotted as much as $1.9 million.
“[I] have a hardworking, dedicated team…and I want to pay a salary that reflects their service,” Thompson said.
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., said his staff is doing more work with fewer employees.
“I believe performance-based pay is an important incentive in the workplace,” he said. “Also, in the past year we’ve reduced our staff. The bonuses are to reward those remaining for taking on additional duties.”
Most awards and bonuses given to federal employees are canceled indefinitely under sequestration, spending cuts that began taking effect in March.
House members have faced cuts of about $100,000 per office since 2009, according to the chamber’s chief administrative officer.