Commentary: Congress must vote on pay raises

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.

Symbolism counts for a great deal in Washington.

Back in November, for example, members of Congress roasted automakers' CEOs for traveling to the nation's capital in private jets to seek a bailout for their industry.

"Those types of symbolic things, they really matter. They set a tone," said U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican.

So what sort of "tone" should Roskam and other members of the Senate and House of Representatives set when it comes to their own pay?

At the very least, Congress should hold an up-or-down vote on whether the members will insist on receiving the $4,700-a-year raise they are otherwise automatically scheduled to receive this year.

The 2.8 percent increase would raise their salaries to $174,000 annually, placing them near the top 5 percent of all wage earners in the country. Office perks, gold-plated health care and pensions sweeten the deal beyond the salary, benefits that outstrip those received by many private workers.

A vote — which for now is not scheduled to occur — would show which members of Congress are on record in favor of the higher pay. And which members think it’s time to forgo the added money.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.

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