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As in past years, Congress could face an embarrassing debate over whether lawmakers deserve a pay raise.

Rep. Jim Lightfoot, R-Iowa, was beginning an effort Tuesday to block a $3,473 pay increase for Congress that is scheduled to take effect automatically in January. Rank-and-file lawmakers currently earn $133,600 a year, while a handful of leaders earn more.Lightfoot said he has drafted a procedural resolution that will force the House to vote on the pay issue. The measure would instruct House members on a conference committee to restore a raise-blocking provision to an appropriations bill.

If Congress blocks the raise, 1995 would be the second straight year that Congress denied itself an increase.

Lightfoot said pay raises should "reward people doing good work," adding that he didn't believe one American in 100 thought Congress earned an increase.

Lightfoot said leaders of both parties have tried to persuade him to abandon his effort. An appropriations bill - carrying money for the Treasury Department, postal service and several other agencies - has passed both houses and includes a 2.6 percent pay raise for federal workers next year.

When the bill passed the House earlier, it barred a raise for Congress. The Senate stripped out that provision.

If a House-Senate conference committee fails to block the raise, Lightfoot said, he will urge the House to oppose the legislation when it returns for a final vote.

Members of Congress received their last increase, 3.2 percent, in January 1993.