Republican seeks to cut lawmakers’ pay

Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder Charlie Riedel/AP

A House lawmaker has introduced legislation that would slash the salaries of congressional members and eliminate any future cost-of-living increases.

Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder wants to reduce by 5 percent the pay rates of lawmakers by amending the 1946 Legislative Reorganization Act. The bill (H.R. 4399) also would prevent members of Congress from receiving annual cost-of-living adjustments. It was referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Administration Committee.

Rank-and-file members of Congress currently earn $174,000 annually, while party leaders make more. Lawmakers' annual pay adjustments cannot exceed the annual base pay adjustments of General Schedule employees. When Congress approved a two-year pay freeze for government workers beginning January 2011, it effectively froze its own pay. Unlike the increases for federal workers, lawmakers' pay adjustments take effect automatically unless Congress prohibits it, which they did in 2010 and 2011. The 1989 Ethics Reform Act created the current formula, which is based on changes in private sector wages as measured by the Employment Cost Index.

Under the pay adjustment formula and figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in January 2012, members could receive a maximum pay boost of 1.1 percent, or $1,900, in January 2013. Congress, however, likely will vote against giving itself a pay raise in 2013, as it has done since 2009, given the current political and fiscal environment. Federal employees are under a two-year pay freeze that extends through 2012.

Yoder also is co-sponsoring legislation that would eliminate the current federal pension program for lawmakers. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., last fall introduced that bill (H.R. 2913), which would take lawmakers out of the Federal Employees Retirement System. The legislation is now in subcommittee.

There are several bills floating around both chambers that would cut or freeze congressional pay. Most notably, in February, the House passed a bill (H.R. 3835) that would freeze congressional and federal civilian salaries through 2013.

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