Fiscal cliff fail: Should Congress reject its pay raise?

Obama is lifting a freeze on federal employees, meaning the disgraceful Congress that can't even fix its own self-imposed fiscal wreck will get a pay bump

House Speaker John Boehner
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Despite more than a year of warning, weeks of negotiations, and a flurry of last-minute brinksmanship, "the fiscal cliff commeth," say Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Vice President Joe Biden, brought in Sunday evening to jump-start stalled talks, apparently made what Politico calls some "major progress" overnight on a deal with House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But even if a last-minute stop-gap measure is approved before the tax increases and spending cuts kick in at midnight, "one lesson is already crystal clear: Congress has failed." That's probably not news to most Americans: Gallup found that Congress had raised its approval rating to a still-dismal 18 percent in December, largely on the assumption that lawmakers would reach a deal, but noted that "Congress' job approval could fall significantly if the 'cliff' is not avoided by the deadline."

Given the public disdain for Congress, it's not surprising that people across the political spectrum are unimpressed that their representatives in Washington are scheduled to get a raise next year, even a modest 0.5 percent bump. Here's what happened: On Dec. 27, President Obama extended a freeze on federal salaries he ordered in 2010, but only until March 27, 2013. After that, he expects an end to the three-year freeze, with federal employees — including all members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden — getting a raise of about half of 1 percent. That means rank-and-file senators and House members will get a $900 annual raise, to $174,900; House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will see a $1,100 increase, to $224,600; McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will each get $1,000 more, at $194,400; and Biden will earn $231,900, or roughly $5,000 a year more.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.