(12/12/2001)
Members of Congress will be receiving a $4,900 pay raise in January, the Senate used a late-night vote to obstruct lawmakers who tried to block it.

After a debate that lasted only five minutes late Friday night, (December 7) the Senate voted 65-33 to defeat Senator Russ Feingold's, (D-Wis.,) effort to stop the increase from taking effect. Under a 1989 law, legislators get an annual cost-of-living raise unless the House and Senate vote to block it, a mechanism that often lets the increases take effect with little or no notice. Feingold's Amendment purpose was to provide that Members of Congress shall not receive a cost of living adjustment in pay during fiscal year 2002.

The latest increase is 3.4 percent and will raise annual salaries to $150,000.

Feingold questioned the congressional pay raise, "When our economy is in a recession and hundreds of thousands of workers have been laid off." He also noted that the string of four straight budget surpluses is expected to end.

Fourteen of the 30 senators running for re-election next year voted against the pay raise. Two who will retire in January, Senators Phil Gramm, R-Texas, and Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., voted for the increase, while a third retiree, Jesse Helms, R-N.C., did not vote.

Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., voted not to block the increase.

West Virginia's Senators, Byrd and Rockefeller were among the 65 voting to defeat the amendment.

The House has already passed legislation opening the door for the pay increase.

The January increase will be the third congressional pay raise in the last four years.


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