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A PAY RAISE FOR THE SENATE? YES!

At long last, the U.S. Senate seems to be on the verge of repairing an unnecessary wound it inflicted on itself two years go.

Though the repair work will hit the taxpayers in the pocketbook, it should be well worth the price because the change can help build public confidence in the Senate by making it more ethical.We're referring to this week's report from Congressional Quarterly that the Senate may be on the verge of increasing its pay more than 20 percent in return for banning the acceptance of speaking fees from special interest groups.

It's a step that should have been taken long ago.

Anyway, the Senate is said to resent the fact that its members are paid $101,900 a year compared with $125,100 for members of the House of Representatives.

Though the resentment is understandable, the Senate itself created the pay disparity in 1989 when it declined to accept a House-engineered trade - a ban on speaking fees known as honorariums in exchange for a 25 percent raise.

There is nothing honorable about honorariums, which put the lawmakers in the position of taking money from people who are trying to influence their votes. A judge who did the same thing would be impeached.

Legalized bribery is still bribery. If a pay raise is what it takes to get the U.S. Senate to abandon this shoddy practice, so be it.