Commentary

Not a Joke: Congress Is About to Give Itself a Bonus

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The approval rating of Congress is near a record low — but that hasn’t stopped America’s lawmakers from essentially giving themselves bonuses.

As part of the bloated “omnibus” spending package that was passed by the House and Senate this week, salaries for congressional staffers have been inflated by over ten million dollars… and that’s just a drop in the bucket.

“The Senate increased its total salaries of officers and employees by $12.6 million in the 2,232-page bill that lawmakers had fewer than 48 hours to read and vote on,” reported The Washington Free Beacon.

If you think that’s a lot, look at the overall spending: The omnibus package, so named because it funds a long list of unrelated programs, totals $1.3 trillion dollars.

A significant portion of that money is staying right in the capitol. “The legislation increases the Senate budget to $919.9 million, up $48.8 million from fiscal year 2017,” explained the Beacon. “Meanwhile, the House of Representatives increased its budget to $1.2 billion, which is $10.9 million above 2017 levels.”

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The actual salaries of lawmakers will stay unchanged, but representatives voted to pump millions of dollars into their offices through other means.

“Salaries of staffers in the Senate are also set for an increase,” the Beacon continued. “Division I of the legislation breaks down the total salaries of officers and employees, which are being raised from $182 million in 2017 to $194.8 million in the final bill, an increase of $12.58 million.”

“The Senate also increased its expense account, as expense allowances are going from $177,000 to $192,000, an increase of $15,000. Committee offices got an increase of $22.9 million in salaries, from $181.5 million in 2017 to $204.4 million in the final bill,” stated the online newspaper.

A million here and a million there, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money. It looks like being a “public servant” is becoming a lot closer to a taxpayer-funded king.

Should Congress have passed this omnibus spending bill?

Even President Trump, a man known for his expensive tastes and gold-plated luxury furnishings, seemed ashamed by the out of control spending. On Friday, he scolded lawmakers for the “ridiculous situation that took place over the last week,” after previously threatening to veto the massive funding package.

“There are a lot of things we shouldn’t have had in this bill but we were, in a sense, forced if we want to build our military, we were forced to have,” Trump said, according to CNN.

“There are some things we should have in the bill. But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again,” the president declared. He ended up signing the bill after all on Friday, avoiding a government shutdown.

Included in the convoluted spending package, which was over 2,000 pages long, were many programs that were not vital and could almost certainly be considered “pork barrel spending.”

“Aside from giving their own institutions a bonus, the omnibus also gives away millions to prevent ‘elderly falls,’ promote breastfeeding, and fight ‘excessive alcohol use,'” said The Beacon. Maybe congressmen are the ones who need to quit drinking.

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What has Congress done to deserve this windfall? If recent polls are any indication, not much. According to the well-respected Gallup poll, the American people give lawmakers a shockingly low 15 percent approval rating.

A whopping 81 percent of citizens disapprove of how Congress is doing its job, while 4 percent have no opinion. Those are among the worst approval ratings on record.

It would be one thing if this throw-money-around spending happened during a liberal administration. Deficit-loving Democrats would at least be consistent if they were the ones behind this.

But no: Republicans control the House, Senate, and the Oval Office, yet this appalling monstrosity of a bill has still become law.

“I ran for office because I thought the Obama spending and trillion dollar annual deficits were a real problem for our country and now Republicans are doing the same thing,” scolded Senator Rand Paul, one of the few Republicans in Congress who apparently still believes in fiscal conservatism.

“Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses – and parties. $1.3 trillion. Busts budget caps. 2200 pages, with just hours to try to read it,” Senator Paul posted on Facebook.

He’s not wrong. This kind of out-of-control spending needs to stop, and lawmakers voting bonuses for their own offices is an absolute sham. The American people are watching… and just might have a few things to say at election time.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.




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