Mikulski fought Senate pay raise, citing hard times from recession


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., blasted the surprise vote that would grant her and her colleagues a $23,200 pay increase, arguing that a recession is the "wrong time" to raise Senate salaries since "many Marylanders aren't getting any paycheck at all."

But it looks as if she'll pocket the money anyway.

"If it becomes law, I believe she'll take it," said press secretary John Steele, when asked whether the Democratic senator would return the raise that would boost her pay to $125,100. The senator could not be reached for comment.

And Ms. Mikulski's spokesman said the senator was not casting an eye toward her re-election contest next year when she voted against the measure, which passed, 53-45, with her Maryland colleague Paul S.Sarbanes voting with the majority. "No, she voted on the merits of the bill," said Mr. Steele.

During a floor statement Wednesday night, Ms. Mikulski sharply criticized the salary increase.

"This is the wrong time to raise senators' salaries," she said.

"America is in the midst of a serious recession. Many Americans, and many Marylanders, aren't getting any paycheck at all," Ms. Mikulski said.

Freshman Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, has vowed to donate an increase voted for House members before his election to various causes.

"He's going to give part of his pay away," said an aide, Tony Caligiuri, although he was uncertain whether Mr. Gilchrest had started that process.

Supporters of the Senate pay raise, including Mr. Sarbanes, justified it as the price of banning honorariums and the perception that those fees buy influence.

And Mr. Sarbanes also brushed aside talk that the measure was pushed through late at night. "It was debated at prime time on television, openly, then a vote was taken," he said.

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