Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are leading a bipartisan group of senators in urging the House of Representatives to take up legislation to end the automatic pay raise system for members of Congress.  In a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, 20 senators asked that the House vote on a bill passed by the Senate last year requiring members of Congress to pass legislation if they want to give themselves a pay raise.  Currently, members of Congress receive an automatic pay increase unless they pass legislation to block it.  The Senate bill ending automatic pay raises would save roughly $80 million over ten years.  Feingold has regularly introduced legislation over the last ten years to end the system.  The letter was cosigned by Senators Barrasso (R-WY), Bennet (D-CO), Brown (D-OH), Casey (D-PA), Coburn (R-OK), Collins (R-ME), Dorgan (D-ND), Enzi (R-WY), Gillibrand (D-NY), Isakson (R-GA), Johanns (R-NE) Klobuchar (D-MN), McCaskill (D-MO), Merkley (D-OR), Murray (D-WA), Snowe (R-ME) and Vitter (R-LA).

"While many Americans are struggling to find jobs, members of Congress still get a raise unless they act to stop it," Feingold said.  "I'm pleased Congress acted to give up its raise next year but it's time to end this system once and for all.  The House should follow the Senate's lead and end this back-door pay raise system."

"The automatic pay raise sends a bad message to the American people who are already cynical about government. There's no reason, in any circumstance, that members of Congress should automatically receive a bump in pay, but it's a slap in the face to do it when people across the country are tightening their own belts," Grassley said.

A copy of the letter is available here and the text is below:

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House

H-232, US Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

We urge you to bring up for a vote legislation passed by the Senate last year, S. 620, that would end the system of automatic, annual pay raises for members of Congress.  Passing this bill would save roughly $80 million over ten years, and help demonstrate that Congress is willing to tighten its own belt as we work to reduce record deficits. 

We appreciate your efforts to prevent members of Congress from receiving a pay raise in 2011.  While that was an important step, it is time to end a system that guarantees members a pay hike unless they act to block it.  The burden should be on members of Congress who believe they deserve a raise to pass legislation, not on those who want to block one.  Few of our constituents have the power to raise their own pay -- Congress should exercise this power openly, on the record. 

We thank you for considering our request and hope the House will soon take up S. 620.

Sincerely,

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI)

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA)

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Senator David Vitter (R-LA)

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Senator Olympia Snow (R-ME)

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY)

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)

Senator Robert Casey (D-PA)

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

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The fact that summer's here isn't a license to forget about good nutrition and good choices for kids and families. It's why many parents will remind their kids that reading books and riding bikes around the neighborhood are better choices than eating potato chips and turning into a couch potato while school's out.

At the same time, federal lawmakers need to wrap up important policy decisions that will impact the wellbeing of the nation's school children when they return to school this fall.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I helped advance "The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010" this spring. The bipartisan bill reauthorizes federal youth nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.

The economic downturn has put increased pressure on neighborhood food pantries and federal nutrition programs to help those in need. Our legislation bumps up federal spending by $4.5 billion spread over the next decade to help thwart the pangs of hunger in America. That comes to a nearly ten-fold increase reflecting the considerable need that exists to channel more resources to those who still go to bed on an empty stomach.

Federal policymakers also must address the other end of the nutrition spectrum. It's no secret the United States is battling an obesity epidemic, including an alarming rise among children and teenagers. America's growing waistline poses significant health risks to individuals and a costly burden to the nation's public health systems as research tells us obesity leads to chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

The Senate's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 does not increase the deficit, and it includes measures designed to give parents, schools and communities additional tools to promote healthy habits that will lead younger generations to enjoy longer, high-quality, productive lives. The legislation would increase the number of children eligible for free or reduced cost meals, encourage schools to adopt better nutritional standards as outlined by the USDA and automatically enroll foster children for free school meals.

The current federal school nutrition law expires on September 30. I'm pushing the Senate leadership to get this bill passed before we start the next school year. The federal government obviously shouldn't dictate what every child in America eats for lunch. But taxpayers have a vested interested to know Uncle Sam expects quality, wholesome, nutritious foods to be served by taxpayer-subsidized food programs.

Whether it is spring, summer, fall or winter, parents obviously never stop worrying about the wellbeing of their children.  The earlier we all start teaching healthy eating habits, the better.