June 9, 1997
Speaker Newt Gingrich
Minority Leader Richard Gephardt
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Majority Leader Trent Lott
Minority Leader Tom Daschle
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Representatives Gingrich and Gephardt, and Senators Lott and Daschle:
We are writing to oppose a Congressional pay raise.
Some members of Congress want to raise their salaries. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper
Roll Call, the powerful chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Rep. Bob
Livingston and Sen. Ted Stevens, say they support a Congressional pay raise.
We stand with the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that members of Congress
should not vote themselves a pay raise. A November 1995 poll conducted by Maricopa Research
found that 95 percent of Americans want members of Congress to cut -- not increase -- their
Members of Congress are public servants. They are trustees of the public purse. Their job is --
in part -- to safeguard the taxpayers' money from raids by the greedy, the self-serving, and the
undeserving. Our federal government is more than $5 trillion in debt. With such an enormous
debt, it is fitting that members of Congress should decline to raise their pay.
Sadly, too many members of Congress have wished to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense.
Consequently, members of Congress now earn $133,600 per year -- many multiples of the
median annual individual income in the United States. They receive generous perquisites, many
of which detract from the dignity of the Congress. Many members of Congress will be pension
millionaires when they retire.
Many members of Congress receive large raises when they come to Congress. A Roll Call study
last year found that "all but six of the 73 newly elected House members will receive large pay
hikes when they take office" compared to their previous employment.
Members of Congress have repeatedly voted themselves generous pay raises, while many
Americans have not received a real raise in a generation or more. Just over ten years ago, in
January 1987, members of Congress were paid $77,400 per year. Since then, members of
Congress have voted themselves a real salary increase of $22,000 above inflation, in 1997
dollars. House members have enjoyed five pay raises, and senators six since then.
Compare that to other Americans. Adjusted for inflation, the median male income for full-time
year-round workers was higher in 1969 than it was in 1995. For women, median full-time year-round income was higher in 1986 than it was in 1995.
Members of Congress are paid too much, and receive too many emoluments from the taxpayers -- the vast majority of whom earn far less than members of Congress. One small step towards
restoring humility and moral authority to our Congress would be to forsake this inappropriate pay
Gary Ruskin, Director, Congressional Accountability Project
Paul Jacob, Executive Director, U.S. Term Limits
Russell Verney, Chairman, Reform Party, and Executive Director, United We Stand America
Paul M. Weyrich, National Chairman, Coalitions for America
Steve Dasbach, National Chairman, Libertarian Party
Cleta Mitchell, Director and General Counsel, Term Limits Legal Institute
Tom Tancredo, Executive Director, Independence Institute