House Democrats are moving forward with a spending package that would allow for a $4,500 cost-of-living pay increase for members of Congress, despite pushback from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
What are the details?
The annual salary for rank-and-file members has been frozen at $174,000 since 2009, when lawmakers began a decade-long trend of suspending their automatic 2.6 percent annual pay bump that is written into existing law. But with the economy now humming, appropriators say it is time to reward Congress after such a long reprieve.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) defended the move last week, saying, “I think when times are bad, then members of Congress ought to as well. But in times when it’s not, I think of cost of living adjustment…was a reasonable thing to do,” The Hill reported.
Democratic socialist and freshmen congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also hailed the decision, telling The Hill, “I think that people in the country should get cost-of-living adjustments. I think the entire country should have the health care that we have. I think the entire country should have cost-of-living adjustments. Which is why I’m comfortable with it because I fight for those consistently across my platform.”
Other congressional newbies in the party say asking for their own raise so soon after taking office isn’t a good look. Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) declared on Twitter, “The Lowcountry elected me to ban offshore drilling, help our vets, and tackle our skyrocketing debt. One thing they didn’t elect me to do is put more money in my own pocket.”
“Congress should focus on balancing the budget, not raising its own pay,” he added.
Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) fired out a similar tweet explaining his opposition to the proposal, saying, “The federal budget deficit adds almost $1 trillion per year to our national debt (which is already over $22 trillion!) When you’re in a hole this deep, the first step is to stop digging.”
Roll Call reported that as of Friday, three Republicans and two Democrats in the lower chamber had offered amendments to block the cost of living increase. But a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee appeared confident the pay raise will survive in the upcoming budget, telling Politico, “There is strong bipartisan support for these modest inflation adjustments.”
Even if the $4,500 pay bump passes the House, the Republican-held Senate could quash it. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters of the prospect of a congressional salary increase, “I think the American people would think that Congress ought to earn it first.”