Ralph Nader said that "members of Congress should not bilk the taxpayers" by voting themselves a pay raise. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, the powerful House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairmen Bob Livingston (R-LA) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) are supporting a Congressional pay hike. Members of Congress earn a base salary of $133,600 per year, plus pensions, and a generous list of perks.
Members of Congress have repeatedly rewarded themselves with pay raises in recent years. Just over ten years ago, in January 1987, members of Congress earned $77,400 per year. Since then, House members have received five pay raises, and senators six.
"Chairmen Livingston and Stevens have buckled under the weight of their own greed," Nader said. "They have no self-restraint, no strength of character. They want to fatten their wallets to the detriment of the federal government's $5 trillion debt, and their own moral authority to govern."
"Members of Congress have got to stop trying to pocket benefits like a 15-year-old with free use of mother's credit card," said Gary Ruskin, Director of the Congressional Accountability Project.
An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that members of Congress are overpaid. According to Roll Call, a November 1995 poll by Grass Roots Research showed that 95 percent of Americans think that members of Congress should cut their salaries.
"Congressional salaries, pensions, and perks are so generous that they put members of Congress out of touch with the economic standard of living of ordinary Americans," Nader said.
Many members of Congress receive large raises when they come to Congress. A November 11, 1996 Roll Call study 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 are public servants. Their job is -- in part -- to safeguard the taxpayers' money from raids by the greedy, the selfish, and the undeserving, " Ruskin said. "But Chairmen Livingston and Stevens have become weak-kneed squanderers and wastrels when it comes to the pay, perks, and benefits of their colleagues. They do anything but govern by example. They are not protecting the public purse."
"In the current wave of efforts to win a balanced federal budget, members of Congress should not boost their own salaries while cutting programs which provide assistance to Americans who need it," Nader said.
Members of Congress currently receive: