On Thursday, members of Congress were voting on a pay raise for millions of government workers and among those scheduled to get the 4.1 percent pay hike were members of Congress themselves. The House approved the measure and it was headed for a Senate vote most likely before you read this column.
With an election year just around the corner, some members of Congress wanted to approve the pay hike for about a million civilian government workers but to exclude themselves. That move however failed on a narrow vote that was evenly split between the two major parties.
So when election time rolls around, get ready to hear time and time again that current members of Congress are irresponsible for voting themselves a pay raise. The new salary for a Congressman will nudge up to just over $160,000 a year if the measure gains approval.
Don't get me wrong - $160,000 is a lot of money. But I find no objection to the salary increase and here's why. I guarantee that without exception, any current member of Congress could make much more than that amount each year working in the private sector. There's not a doubt in my mind that many of these Congressmen sacrifice salaries in the million-dollar range to serve their country.
Granted, I would have favored Congress going along with President Bush's proposal for a modest two percent increase in salary. But 4.1 percent isn't a giant leap by any stretch of the imagination.
If you examine the hours of sacrifice and the awesome responsibility, members of Congress earn their salaries. I could argue that Dick Gephardt, who has missed over half of the votes this year, may not deserve that salary since he isn't showing up for work. But that's the exception.
I won't argue nor complain about this salary increase. It takes some level of compensation to attract a higher level of individual to serve in Congress. The vast majority provide this service not as a stepping-stone for higher office but rather because they truly want to serve. And a salary of $160,000 a year is not out-of-line for that caliber of individual.
So next year when you hear that a member of Congress voted a pay raise for themselves, just remember what's involved in the job. And if you like the salary and think you can do a better job, jump right in - the water's just fine.