Fiscal Cliff 2013: Obama Gives the Least Productive Congress in History a Raise


President Obama signed an executive order that gave a raise to all federal employees, including Congress, effective March 2013. The salary bump is the first for Congress since 2009 and ends a pay freeze that was in effect since 2010.

The next time you walk into your manager’s office to discuss your performance and salary review remind him/her that a satisfactory performance is not a prerequisite for a salary bump. Explain that if you were a congressperson you could have the worst performance in history and still be given a raise.

In the midst of a budget negotiation that has the country hurdling towards the fiscal cliff a raise for this “do-nothing” dysfunctional Congress is the last thing that should have been approved by Obama. If anything he should have signed an executive order stopping all salary payments to Congress until they signed a budget deal. Tack on a daily fine as well until a deal is struck, that would have got some attention.

The 112th Congress had the worst approval rating of any Congress in recent history.  Only 18% of Americans feel that Congress is doing their job. Their approval rating hit an all-time low of 10% in August. Only 5% of likely voters believe Congress is doing a good or excellent job. 69% believe they are doing a poor job. How do you warrant a raise when you are not meeting expectations, in fact are significantly below expectations?

In 2011, their intransigence led to the first downgrade of America’s credit rating in history. A second downgrade occurred in 2012. They are the “most unproductive Congress since the 1940’s” passing only 219 bills. The previous low was the 333 bills passed by the 104th Congress (1995-1996). Even the 80th Congress (1947-1948) from which they inherited their name passed 906 bills.

The 112th Congress record is even worse when you consider that 40 of the bills involved “renaming of post offices or other public buildings. Another six dealt with commemorative coins.” Amazingly this Congress has earned a pay increase for the incoming 113th Congress by not passing a budget deal, causing the country’s credit rating to be downgraded, failing to renew the Violence Against Women Act and allowing the indefinite detention of terrorism suspect without charge or lawyers. The Violence Against Women Act had been “reauthorized consistently for 18 years until, for the first time, it was left to expire in September 2011.” The historical bipartisan support for the bill fell apart because of the Senate proposal to expand coverage to include additional three vulnerable groups: “undocumented immigrants, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and Native American women.”  

The hallmark of the 112th Congress was dysfunctional government. No group of legislators has done less to deserve a salary let alone a salary increase. For some reason the American people voted to send this group of people back to Washington, but we certainly didn’t expect them to get a salary raise. As an example of how broken the process is in Congress, writers from the left leaning Brookings Institution and the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute penned a joint op-ed saying “We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.”

If the 113th Congress has any pride and self-respect they will refuse the raise.