Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence, said Friday that he opposes an automatic pay raise for Congress next year, and if it happens anyway, he will donate his raise to charity.
At a news conference in Lockport City Hall, Lee said he is co-sponsoring a bill written by Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., called the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act.
The bill has picked up 104 co-sponsors, but that's fewer than half of the 218 needed to spring it from the two committees to which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent it and guarantee passage.
Lee, a former business executive who has been in Congress for just over a month, released a letter he wrote Thursday to Pelosi, urging her to schedule an immediate vote on the bill.
Congress, under legislation passed 20 years ago, receives a raise every January unless members vote to skip it. This year's was $4,700, bringing congressional pay to $174,000 a year.
"In these tough times, with a $1.2 trillion deficit already on the books and a nearly $1 trillion in the pipeline, it is hard to argue that Congress deserves a pay raise," Lee wrote.
He admitted that matched against those huge numbers, the congressional raise is budgetary small potatoes, but foregoing the 2010 hike would be a worthwhile signal to send to the American people.
He said most of the bill's co-sponsors are less-experienced members of Congress. "We've got to focus on the elder statesmen who are out of touch with America," Lee said.
Lee told reporters if the raise goes through despite his opposition, "I'm willing to pledge my $4,700 and give it to charity. I'm going to show my sincerity."
Lee is the only congressman representing Western New York to appear on the list of co-sponsors of the anti-raise legislation.