Congress almost gave themselves raises last night

Now that Congress has voted to avoid the fiscal cliff, all kinds of juicy details are coming to light about the intricacies of the white-knuckled negotiations. For instance this morning Politico reported that as negotiations kicked off this weekend Republican House Speaker John Boehner walked up to Senate leader Harry Reid outside the Oval Office and said, “Go fuck yourself,” and then bragged about it to House Republicans. Reid was apparently so shocked he could only come back with “What are you talking about?”

But another detail about the legislation itself popped up in a Wall Street Journal report last night:

[The legislation] also became a last-minute vehicle for all manner of year-end miscellany. It included a stopgap extension of farm programs that averts a spike in milk prices, and it blocked a congressional pay raise that could have provoked the wrath of voters who view Congress with disdain for its chronic brinkmanship and failure to solve major problems.

So let’s break this down: What this means is that baked into the default fiscal cliff scenario, which would have automatically triggered tax hikes on everyone and spending cuts on all kind of programs from defense to education to the farm subsidies that keep milk prices low, somehow automatically included a pay raise for Congress.

Eventually they stepped up and did the right thing (at least partially—it sounds like the deal that was cut was pretty half-baked). And they did have the political good sense to vote against the pay hikes.

But the fact that the fiscal cliff plan initially created raised the financial pain level on essentially everyone in the country while giving Congress raises is totally insane.

Maybe this is why Congressional approval rating hasn’t been over 10%-20% in years.