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Number of Millionaires in Congress: 261

California Rep. Darrell Issa is the wealthiest member of Congress, according to an analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

For Congress, debating the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is personal.

While the base pay for members of Congress is $174,000, nearly half -- 261, to be exact -- are millionaires, according to an analysis of 2009 data from the Center for Responsive Politics (there are 535 total members of the House and Senate). Just 1 percent of Americans overall can say the same.

While the economy has generally faltered over the past two years, congressional members actually saw their collective personal wealth increase by more than 16 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to the study, which analyzed financial disclosure data released earlier this year.

As many as 55 members had an average calculated wealth of $10 million or more in 2009, according to the Center.

According to the Center's estimates, the wealthiest member of Congress is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose holdings exceed $303.5 million. Rep Jane Harman (D-Calif.) is close behind with $293.4 million, and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) rounds out the top three at $238.8 million.

Members of Congress are only required to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges, so the Center calculated each member's average estimated wealth by determining the minimum and maximum value of their assets. Additionally, federal financial disclosures don't require members of Congress to report certain assets such as personal residences.

The list of Congress' wealthiest members is bipartisan. In the House, five Democrats and five Republicans make up the 10 wealthiest members, while in the Senate, six Democrats and four Republicans make up the top 10.

The median wealth of a House member in 2009 stood at $765,010, while the median wealth for a senator in 2009 was nearly $2.38 million.

Members of the House and Senate made investments last year in a number of companies that have a strong presence on Capitol Hill, spending large sums on lobbying efforts and political donations. The most popular company among members of Congress, CRP found, was General Electric, in which 82 current members invested. The second most popular company was Bank of America, which 63 members invested in.

The CRP's report comes as Congress considers what to do about the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year. President Obama has long advocated for extending the tax cuts for everyone except individuals making over $200,000 or families making over $250,000 -- the top 2 percent of income earners. Republicans and some moderate Democrats, however, want to extend all of the tax cuts, and the White House has signaled it is willing to compromise to a degree on the matter.

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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