Congress is doing such a bang-up job managing the country that it’s considering asking itself for a pay raise.
Democrats in the House are beginning to put together budget requests for 2020, Politico reports, and they’re considering breaking the “decade-long” Congressional pay freeze, which has kept Congressional salaries at a modest $174,000 since the time of President Barack Obama’s tenure.
The request would end the pay freeze and give Members of Congress a $4,700-per-year boost in pay to keep their salaries “current” with what the market apparently demands for legislators.
Members of Congress say the pay bump is only fair, and that they’ve been forgoing cost-of-living increases for a decade, even though they are guaranteed regular bumps in pay to coincide with “inflation” and hikes in “cost of living” expenses. The team authoring the measure calls the raise “modest.”
“There is strong bipartisan support for these modest inflation adjustments,” a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee told Politico, adding that if other Members of Congress feel the raise is unfair or untoward, there are avenues to block the pay increase.
“If members want to alter or eliminate the [cost-of-living adjustment], they should do so through the authorizing process — not appropriations bills,” he said.
The pay increase appears, so far, only in the House version of the budget — the one authored by a Democratic majority. The Senate is working on its own version of the budget, and coming to a compromise on the issue will likely take months. Budget negotiations are expected to begin when Congress returns from its summer break in September.
Democratic members of Congress have been vocal about the “privileged” and many of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are taking aim at the “1%” of wage earners they say do not pay their fair share in taxes.
The $174,000 Congressional salary isn’t exactly one-percenter territory, but it does put federal legislators in the top 5% of all wage earning households in the United States — and for many of them, it’s just chump change. Longtime members of Congress, like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), have net worths in the millions. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is running on a platform of making the rich pay their “fair share,” has an estimated net worth somewhere between $5 million and $14.5 million, depending on what is calculated into her assets. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), easily the most “socialist” member of Congress, has a net worth easily over a million.
But members of Congress have also been complaining about the pittance they’re receiving for doing what they believe is a tough but important job. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), for example, has routinely called for a bump in pay for federal legislators.
“Members are paid more than avg – but job reqs 2 residences + we can’t take tax deductions for work costs,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted back in March. “No one wants to be the one to bring up increases, so instead ppl take advantage of insider trading loopholes & don’t close them for the extra cash.”
Unfortunately for Congress, most Americans don’t agree that their legislators deserve a higher salary. A Business Insider poll taken at the time Ocasio-Cortez was campaigning for higher wages for the downtrodden in the U.S. Capitol, found that a majority of Americans — 55% — believe Congressional salaries should be cut, not raised. Only around 9% of respondents said that they believe Congress makes too little.
A lot of that likely has to do with Congressional popularity. Right now, Congress has barely a 20% approval rating. The group regularly polls lower than cockroaches, Herpes, and Nickelback.