WASHINGTON -- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) may not be back in Congress yet, but her staff is leading a bipartisan effort to pressure the super committee to slash lawmakers' salaries as part of deficit reduction.
In a Thursday letter put together by Giffords' office, 25 lawmakers call on the 12-member super committee to "send a powerful message to the American people that Congress should not be exempt from the sacrifices it will take to balance the budget."
The letter notes that House and Senate lawmakers are paid $174,000 per year -- 3.4 times what the average American with a full-time job earns. A 5 percent cut, which Giffords proposed in January legislation, would save $50 million over 10 years. Adjustments to members' benefit packages, which can be worth 47 percent of salaries, could result in millions of dollars in additional savings.
Giffords filed her bill two days before she was shot in Tucson. The bill hasn't advanced since then.
"We are living in tough economic times," she said when she introduced the bill in January. "Everyone is being forced to make sacrifices. Members of Congress can't ask any American to cut back before we are willing to make some sacrifices of our own. I'm prepared to do that and I want my colleagues to join me."
Thursday's letter includes the signatures of 14 Democrats and 11 Republicans. It also comes just days before the super committee is charged with finding trillions of dollars in debt reduction through some combination of spending cuts and new revenues. If the panel fails to pass something by Nov. 23, about $1.2 trillion in spending cuts that nobody is particularly happy about will automatically take effect in 2013.
"Congresswoman Giffords strongly feels that members of Congress must lead by example as we tighten federal spending," Pia Carusone, Giffords' chief of staff, said in a statement.
Carusone said that while Giffords "remains totally focused on her recovery," she "also is engaged with her staff's work to advance the legislation and ideas she has proposed. This includes moving forward with the only bill she has been able to introduce this session -- instituting member pay cuts at a time of economic uncertainty and large deficits."
The super committee, still scrambling for a deal, is expected to meet over the weekend.