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Congress hasn’t raised its pay in 8 years, and Vern Buchanan wants to keep it that way

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Although there doesn’t appear to be much publicly expressed sentiment for members of Congress to raise their salaries, Vern Buchanan wants everyone to be aware that he really doesn’t want that to happen. That’s why the Sarasota Republican is introducing the No Pay Raise for Congress Act, which would prohibit pay raises for members of Congress in any fiscal year they fail to balance the budget.

“Successful businesses do not reward an employee who fails to do their job,” Buchanan said in a statement. “This same common sense must be used in Washington. Members of Congress should not be eligible for pay raises if they cannot fulfill one of their most basic responsibilities.”

The level of debt with the federal government is now at $19.9 trillion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected on Tuesday that unless Congress acts, the federal deficit is estimated to balloon by nearly $10 trillion over the next decade.

It should be noted that the last pay raise that members of Congress received took place more than eight years ago, on January 1, 2009. That raise boosted their salaries by $4,700 – from $169,300 in 2008 to the current level of $174,000. Last year’s budget maintained the freeze on lawmakers’ salaries that has been in effect since 2010 (and was enacted as part of the fiscal 2009 legislative branch spending bill).

That upset South Florida Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings, who said in a House floor speech last summer that lawmakers should get salary increases so that more of them can afford the costs that come with serving in Congress.

“We’re deserving, as are our staffs, deserving of being paid appropriately,” Hastings said.

Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer from Maryland later said he agreed with Hastings that lawmakers deserved a cost-of-living adjustment to their salaries.

A fiscal hawk, Buchanan says Congress’ failure to rein in the debt is “downright immoral” as millions of American families are forced to make tough financial decisions each day. Buchanan also noted that the U.S. has joined a short list of industrialized nations – along with Greece and Iceland – whose debt exceeds its total economic output.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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