WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Dick Armey on Sunday defended new pay raises for Congress, saying lawmakers work hard and deserve more money.
House members cleared the way last week for a 3.3 percent cost-of-living increase. If the raise of about $5,000 a year goes into effect in January, it would be the fourth in four years and boost annual salaries of rank-and-file members of Congress to about $155,000.
"I don't know why anybody in America would say, `Mr. Big Shot, get yourself elected to Congress and then be stupid enough to deny yourself the pay and benefits that your job warrants,'" said Armey, R-Texas.
"It's bizarre that people would have that kind of an unrealistic expectation of hardworking people,'' he said on NBC's Meet the Press.
Armey, who is retiring after this year, said the formula gives members of Congress smaller cost-of-living increases than government workers. Raises go into effect automatically unless lawmakers vote to block them.
One lawmaker spoke against increases. Rep. James Matheson, D-Utah, said with the country "swimming in red ink," the raises were ill-timed.