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Congressional Millionaires To Weigh Obama's Proposed 'Buffett Rule'

Michael Beckel

President Barack Obama's plan for a new minimum tax rate for people who earn more than $1 million a year will likely affect some of the people who will have a say on whether the rule becomes law.

Namely: Congress.

Obama's new tax proposal, which has been dubbed the "Buffett rule" after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, may include a change in how capital gains are taxed.

According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, about 40 percent of members of the U.S. House of Representatives and nearly half of all U.S. senators reported capital gains in 2009.

Among the 176 current members of the House and 48 sitting senators to do so? Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

In contrast to Obama, many of the Republicans running for the GOP presidential nomination have proposed eliminating the capital gains tax.

Currently, according to the Tax Policy Center, the richest 0.1 percent of Americans pay 44 percent of all capital gains taxes, and 68 percent of the tax is paid by the richest 1 percent. The bottom 80 percent of Americans account for less than 3 percent of all capitals gains taxes paid.

Furthermore, according to the Center's research, 244 current members of Congress were millionaires in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. That figure includes 138 Republicans and 106 Democrats.


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That lofty financial status is claimed by only about 1 percent of Americans. The median American family had a net worth of $96,000 in 2009, according to the Federal  Reserve Board.

Of course, not all millionaires make more than $1 million in income annually -- that's an even loftier financial status enjoyed by an even more elite slice of Americans.

No matter how you look at it, though, members of Congress as a whole are a wealthy bunch -- typically several times wealthier than most of their constituents.

The median net worth for a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives was $725,000 in 2009, according to the Center's research, and the media net worth of a U.S. Senator was $2.4 million.

The richest member of Congress is Issa, whose net worth was valued between $156 million and $451 million. (When members of Congress disclose information about their financial assets and liabilities, they are allowed to do so by giving broad ranges.)

Here is a list of the 20 wealthiest current members of Congress, according to the Center's research, based on their financial reports covering calendar year 2009. (The Center plans to unveil its analysis of lawmakers' 2010 financial disclosures later this fall.).

Rank Name Party Min. Net Worth Average Net Worth Max. Net Worth
1 Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) R $156,050,022 $303,575,011 $451,100,000
2 Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) D $182,755,534 $238,812,296 $294,869,059
3 Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) D $65,692,210 $174,385,102 $283,077,995
4 Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) D $36,694,140 $160,909,068 $285,123,996
5 Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) D $89,358,027 $160,302,011 $231,245,995
6 Rep. Vernon Buchanan (R-Fla.) R -$69,434,661 $148,373,160 $366,180,982
7 Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) R $73,685,086 $137,611,043 $201,537,000
8 Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) R $38,936,114 $109,034,052 $179,131,990
9 Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) D $61,446,018 $98,832,010 $136,218,002
10 Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) D $64,210,256 $94,870,116 $125,529,976
11 Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) D $46,055,250 $77,082,134 $108,109,018
12 Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) D $49,083,204 $76,886,611 $104,690,018
13 Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) D -$7,356,915 $58,436,537 $124,229,990
14 Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) R $19,365,053 $51,833,526 $84,302,000
15 Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) R $9,778,047 $50,717,522 $91,656,998
16 Rep. Diane Lynn Black (R-Tenn.) R $14,673,049 $49,409,519 $84,145,990
17 Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) R $19,898,179 $43,797,589 $67,697,000
18 Rep. Richard Berg (R-N.D.) R $19,347,579 $39,164,515 $58,981,451
19 Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) D $14,900,036 $39,012,518 $63,125,000
20 Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) R $13,303,385 $38,204,868 $63,106,351

Center for Responsive Politics senior researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report.

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