Panel OKs pay hike for federal judges

Bill will now move to the full House for consideration.

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to give federal judges a 31 percent pay increase, a move denounced by a senior Republican as failing "the smell test."

The bill cleared on a 28-5 vote and moves to the full House for consideration.

Advocated by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts, the legislation was backed by Democrats and Republicans as needed, they said, to avoid losing judges to higher paying legal positions outside government.

Supporters of the pay raise said a U.S. district court judge's current $165,200 annual salary is less than what a law associate fresh out of law school receives in the first year with a New York law firm.

But Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said "a 31 percent increase -- it does not pass the smell test. ... Public service is its own reward."

The legislation, a compromise worked out by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would set up an annual cost-of-living schedule for judges.

The bill severs the long-time link between congressional pay raises and that of the federal judiciary that gave pay hikes to active and senior federal judges only when Congress raised its pay.