WASHINGTON – Fortunately for members of Congress, their pay isn't tied to their approval ratings.
Lawmakers in 2008 will receive salaries of $169,300, a boost of $4,100 over the pay they have lived with since January 2006.
That 2.5 percent increase is mirrored by similar raises for associate justices of the Supreme Court, who will see their pay go from $203,000 to $208,100, and Chief Justice John Roberts, whose pay will rise to $217,400 from $212,100.
The salary figures were published in Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register.
Last year was the first since 1999, when the pay was $136,700, that members of Congress did not receive a cost-of-living allowance raise along with other federal employees. Democrats, newly elected to the majority, had vowed to block an increase in their paychecks until Congress raised the minimum wage.
With the minimum wage increase accomplished last year, House Democratic leaders joined with their Republican counterparts to oppose a procedural vote to bring the COLA issue to the floor, leaving the way clear for their automatic raise.
The congressional COLA is linked, under a complicated formula, to the cost-of-living increase awarded civil servants. As part of a 1989 ethics bill, Congress gave up its ability to accept pay for speeches and made annual cost-of-living pay increases automatic unless lawmakers voted otherwise.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, a leading critic of the COLA process, said in an interview that he's not proposing that members of Congress never get a pay raise. But he said that, in a time of budget deficits when many people are undergoing economic hardships, "at least we ought to have an up-and-down vote on it. The whole process appears so secretive."
Reluctance to openly discuss the salary issue comes at a time when Congress has been suffering low public approval ratings. In a December AP-Ipsos poll, 25 percent of those surveyed approved of the job Congress was doing.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will get a pay boost from $212,100 last year to $217,400, the same as Chief Justice Roberts. The majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate and Senate president pro tempore Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., will get increases from $183,500 to $188,100.
Dick Cheney, in his last year as vice president, will receive $221,100, up from $215,700. President Bush's salary of $400,000 is unchanged.