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Carnahan calls for congressional pay cut so they can feel the pain

only 300 wide. robin carnahan campaigning for senate
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Beacon | 2010

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Robin Carnahan called today for members of Congress to take a 10 percent pay cut until they balance the federal budget.

Robin Carnahan talked about economic pain and the need for Congress to understand what the public is feeling.

Carnahan, currently Missouri's secretary of state, told supporters at a Clayton pharmacy that a pay cut would force Congress to feel some of the economic pain that many Americans now suffer, and shift legislators' attention.

"It'll get their attention focused on what they need to do," said Carnahan, who then blasted her Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, for his votes to allow a dozen pay hikes during his 14 years in the U.S. House.

"Up to now, there's been too much focus on the big special interests," Carnahan said as she stood behind the soda counter at Jennifer's Pharmacy. She was introduced by the owner, Jennifer Rich, who (unlike some recent Carnahan-event hosts) is a staunch Democrat and Carnahan supporter.

Rich said that Carnahan understands the plight of small businesses and "knows that it's not just about me and my store. It's about the people I touch every day."

Carnahan also accused Blunt of proposing to return to old Republican policies that "got us into this mess in the first place," citing the GOP's control of Congress for 12 years.

"I don't buy that he's got some magic cure for our economy," Carnahan said. "We can't fix (the economy) by sending to Washington the same old people to do the same old thing."

Carnahan also quoted scientist Albert Einstein: "You don't do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result."

As part of what she touted as her fresh approach, Carnahan proposed a temporary "payroll tax holiday" for American workers, a cut in the capital-gains tax and a heightened focus on helping small businesses borrow the money they need to keep going. Carnahan said she's repeatedly hearing from business owners who blame their current troubles on banks' unusually tight fiscal policies.

She said that federal spending cuts can be made without endangering the economy, and cited her own office's 20 percent cut in spending since she's been in office in 2005.

But while defending the general Democratic approach to changing course, Carnahan said that she wanted to remind Blunt that he's running against her -- and not Democrats running Washington.

"Roy Blunt would like to run against Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, anybody except me," Carnahan said in an interview afterward.

Carnahan's Clayton stop comes as she launches a new attack ad -- and the Missouri Republican Party announces a new anti-Carnahan web site that "allows Missourians to demand answers from Robin Carnahan about why she supports the reckless Obama agenda," the state GOP says.

The state Republican Party's executive director Lloyd Smith dismissed Carnahan's congressional pay-cut proposal as "another desperate campaign gimmick."

Smith added, "And despite the state of Missouri’s budget crises over the past several years, we are not aware of any offer by Carnahan to return a single penny of her salary to the state treasury.”

Meanwhile, Carnahan said that Vice President Joe Biden's visit next month to help her raise money doesn't mean that she always agrees with the White House.

That's certainly true for Rich, who acknowledged in an interview that she refused to vote for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.

Rich said she was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, now secretary of state, and strongly believes that Clinton would have done a better job righting the economy than Obama.

In fact, Rich says she won't vote for Obama in 2012. But she emphasized she won't support any of his likely Republican challengers, either.

Rich's strong support for Carnahan, she said, reflects her belief that "we need new blood all the way across" in Washington.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.