Taxpayers fund more than $200,000 in bonuses for congressional staffers of the VT delegation

Why not a membership to the jelly-of-the-month club? After all, that’s “the gift that keeps on giving!” But, no, nothing so affordable for the members of the staffs of three Vermont congressmen:

As demands for fiscal austerity dominated debate in Washington, Vermont’s three congressional lawmakers gave their staffers a combined $236,830 in bonuses last year. …

Of the three lawmakers, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, gave the most in bonuses. Twenty-nine of his personal office staffers received bonuses ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 last year, totaling $138,830. Leahy, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, also gave bonuses to 25 committee staffers, totaling $112,048. …

[Sen. Bernie] Sanders gave $2,000 bonuses to 32 people on his personal staff, totaling $64,000. He also gave $2,000 bonuses to two staffers on the Senate health subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, which he chairs.

Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat, gave each of his 17 staffers a $2,000 bonus, totaling $34,000. House office budgets are authorized by calendar year and Senate office budgets are authorized by fiscal year.

Actually, this doesn’t outrage me for a couple of reasons:

  1. While it’s true that federal employees in general are overcompensated, that doesn’t necessarily apply to lower-level congressional staffers, who often work long hours and are typically so poorly paid as to struggle to pay bills in a high-cost-of-living city like Washington D.C. (Higher-level and committee staffers are a different story, though.) In fact, part of the reason federal employee compensation needs to be revamped is to make it fairer across the board — fairer both to taxpayers who overpay most federal employees and to underpaid federal employees.
  2. All three members of the Vermont delegation came in under budget and returned money back to taxpayers at the end of the year. That means they implemented the cuts from last year to this year. If they managed to cut, I don’t think end-of-the-year bonuses were wholly out of line.
Might the bonuses have been a bit smaller? Sure. But, if the Vermont delegation — and the many other members of Congress who gave out end-of-the-year rewards — truly dispensed bonuses as a way to reward hard and worthy work, then, as a taxpayer, I’m OK with it.