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McNerney votes to nix pay raise, Lee doesn’t

The House today passed a bill, HR 5146, that would cancel an automatic $1,600 pay raise for members of Congress in Fiscal Year 2011, keeping their salaries at $174,000. The bill passed on a 402-15 vote; the U.S. Senate passed a similar measure by unanimous consent last week.

Among the 15 House members voting against the bill today were Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

“Congresswoman Lee has consistently voted in favor of cost of living increases for federal workers,” said Nicole Williams, Lee’s communications director.

All other Bay Area members voted for the bill. Even its supporters admit it’s mainly symbolic, saving about $1 million amid an estimated $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit this year – that’s about .07 percent.

But it’s the thought that counts, said Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, probably the Bay Area’s only embattled House incumbent in November’s midterm elections. He issued a statement saying he’d been among the bill’s cosponsors and consistently has worked to eliminate automatic pay raises for Congress.

“At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, it’s just not right for Members of Congress to get a pay raise,” he said. “That’s why I’ve donated my automatic pay increase to local charities and why I’m going to keep fighting to stop these unnecessary increases.”

UPDATE FROM LISA VORDERBRUEGGEN: Josh beat me to the punch on this one, but I have some additional information about McNerney that readers might find interesting.

This the second year that Congress and McNerney have voted to suspend the automatic pay raise. But in the past couple of years, McNerney contributed his pay raise to local charities. He will have donated an estimated $9,400 to groups such as Tri-Valley Haven in Livermore and Village Commmunity Resource Center in Brentwood.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    BaLee able to fly 1st-class as it is. Don’t deny her free champagne!

  • John W.

    McNerney’s not a high impact player in D.C. thus far, but I like the guy’s down-to-earth style and basic decency. A family friend, who, unlike me, opposed the health care bill, wrote to McNerney expressing his concerns. He received back the most point-by-point detailed response I’ve ever seen from a member of Congress. I don’t know if the family friend was convinced, but he was definitely surprised and impressed.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Upon further reflection, I agree with B. Lee’s vote. I can’t imagine her earning a comparable salary in the private sector. She’s cashing in while she can.