WASHINGTON – Times might be tough for most Americans, but not for the well-heeled lawmakers in Congress.

The personal wealth of members of Congress collectively increased 16 percent between 2008 and 2009, even as the broader economic downturn eliminated thousands of jobs for ordinary Americans, according to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics released Wednesday.

In the House, the study found, median wealth grew to $765,010, up from $645,503 in 2008. In the Senate, median wealth grew from $2.27 million in 2008 to $2.38 million in 2009.

The new data comes as lawmakers consider whether to extend tax cuts for couples making $250,000 or more — a move that apparently would benefit many members of Congress.

The Obama administration wants to confine the tax breaks to earnings under $250,000, although it has signaled it might be open to a compromise with Republicans over the issue.

Researchers at CRP also identified 251 millionaires in Congress, including eight lawmakers worth $10 million or more.

The top three on the list were Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., with holdings exceeding $303.5 million; Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., with $293.4 million; and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at $238.8 million.

Lawmakers are required only to list ranges of wealth in the personal financial disclosures that they file each May.