The U.S. House of Representatives
United States of America

[What you see below is the background section as it existed when this petition was closed. Some links may therefore no longer work and others may prove inaccurate --- especially the number of the bill's Cosponsors. To view the original petition itself, please scroll to the bottom of this page.]


News reports (POLITICO, Washington Post, etc.) have confirmed that the next automatic cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) will be canceled. Speaker of the House Pelosi: "I told our colleagues that because of the condition of our economy and the crisis our country is in, that the leadership will be instructing the Appropriations Committee not to include a COLA for next year."

That fulfilled the goal of the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act, so this petition was closed to further signatures on 11 February, 2009. Thanks to all the concerned citizens who took the time to support this petition and all the other citizen-based actions like it nationwide. Without your help, it's unlikely that our LEAD BY EXAMPLE message would ever have gotten through to those in charge.

Special thanks are due as well to Democratic Senator Feingold, Republican Congressman Lee, and all the other members of Congress who made a special effort to block the next automatic pay raise.


The central purpose of this petition is to get the congressional leadership to block the next automatic pay raise by allowing the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act to be openly DEBATED and VOTED ON. Once that happens, the author is confident that members of Congress will be compelled to do what's right and lead by example for a change. After all, under somewhat similar circumstances in 1932 (during the Great Depression), the House and Senate actually cut their pay by 10%, and then cut it again by another 5.5% in 1933!

20 years ago, members of Congress created a cost-of-living adjustment system for themselves that automatically raises their pay each year unless members block it. Since then, a relative handful of citizen groups and dedicated public servants have periodically opposed this system, calling for these pay raises to be openly debated and voted on. For example:

Citizens Against Government Waste
2003: "Congress should not be rewarded for putting our fiscal futures at risk and should have to vote to give themselves a pay raise instead of it being an automatic occurrence."

Senator Feingold
2004: "I object to the process. This automatic, stealth pay-raise system is absolutely wrong. Especially now, when we're running the biggest deficits in US history, when so many people are out of work -- I find it startling that Congress would feel comfortable voting itself a pay raise."

Congressman Matheson
2008: "At a time when people are losing their jobs, their homes and their retirement, I think the least we could do is openly debate whether we should take the pay increase this year or do some belt-tightening."

Taxpayers for Common Sense
2009: "To regain some credibility and demonstrate shared sacrifice, Congress should immediately move to suspend the pay raise and swear them off until the economy is in full recovery."

In recent years, one of the most outspoken advocates for open debates and votes has been Democratic Congressman Mitchell. Since first coming to our nation's capital in 2007, he has made two unsuccessful attempts to block these automatic annual pay raises. Those 2007 and 2008 bills had little support from his colleagues, only acquiring 29 and 34 Cosponsors respectively, but this year's version has already gained 107 Cosponsors. Getting that number up to 218,* which is the number of votes needed to ensure passage, is one of the goals of this petition.

Although there are a number of other bills related to congressional pay raises, only his Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act (short title) has generated broad bipartisan support. Not only did he jointly introduce it with Republican Congressman Paul, but 61 other Democrats and 45 other Republicans have now joined them as Cosponsors.

Here are excerpts of what Congressmen Mitchell and Paul had to say upon their introduction of this legislation:

Congressman Mitchell
"The American people didn’t get a pay raise this year. I do not know how in good conscience, we, as their representatives in Congress can not only accept one, but insist on another one for next year."

Congressman Paul
"Turning down our automatic pay increase this year is the least Congress could do to demonstrate fiscal responsibility and solidarity with our constituents in these tough economic times. Much more needs to be done to reduce the size and expense of government, but passing this legislation would be a start."

The 107 Cosponsors this legislation has acquired are nearly half of the 218* votes needed to ensure passage, and are far more than any similar bill has acquired. It normally takes fewer than 218 supporters to pressure the congressional leadership into bringing a bill up for a vote, and that's all this petition is really asking them to do: Move this legislation out of the committees where it and its previous versions have been bottled up each year (2007, 2008, 2009), then openly debate and


218 constitutes just over half of the 435 members of the House of Representatives. Once it passes the House, the resulting publicity should be enough to pressure the Senate into passing it as well.

[Since the beginning of February, the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act has acquired 14 more Cosponsors. Counting the bill's Sponsor, that makes a total of 108 members of the House of Representatives who are now officially in favor of its passage. As the number of the bill's Cosponsors grows, so does the pressure on the congressional leadership to allow this bill to be debated and voted on. If we the people keep calling for more Cosponsors, through this and other means, our elected representatives will eventually get the message that we expect them to LEAD BY EXAMPLE!]

To: The U.S. House of Representatives

Last year, 2.6 million of your fellow Americans lost their jobs, raising unemployment to its highest level in 15 years. Countless others have had their pay reduced or frozen. To set an example of shared sacrifice under these dire economic conditions, one of President Obama's first acts was to "freeze the salaries of senior members of the White House staff." Meanwhile, Congress awarded itself a $4,700 cost-of-living increase, raising average salaries to about $174,000.

We agree with Democratic Congressman Mitchell that, "For Congress to give itself a pay raise at a time when so many hardworking Americans are suffering is unconscionable." That is why we are urging each of you to join him and Republican Congressman Paul in freezing congressional pay by cosponsoring and passing their bipartisan Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act as expeditiously as possible!

The Stop the Congressional Pay Raise! petition to The U.S. House of Representatives was written by Tom Foreman and is in the category Politics at GoPetition.