Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who sparked a firestorm for suggesting that members of Congress are "underpaid," expressed disappointment on Thursday that the House did not consider his proposal to provide members with a housing stipend.
"If you're not going to show respect for yourself as an institution, you can't expect the public to show much respect for you either," Moran said. "We deserve that respect. We ought to stand up for ourselves."
Rank-and-file House members and senators receive an annual salary of $174,000. Moran submitted an amendment to the House Rules Committee earlier this week that would have created a $25-per-day housing stipend for members of Congress who live at least 50 miles outside Washington, D.C. It was not made in order, however.
Moran acknowledged that his proposal to increase lawmakers' pay was not popular with the public, but defended his pursuit.
"I'm retiring. But I will never lose my love for the institution, and that's why I'm doing it," Moran said.
The Virginia Democrat, who lives only about 10 miles outside the District, argued that the city's high cost of living made it hard for lawmakers to maintain multiple residences. He said that his proposal would help prevent Congress from becoming a place in which only wealthy people could afford to serve.
"It is so difficult for members to maintain two residences," Moran said. "We need to be as representative of the country as possible. For all our failings, for all our deficiencies … We need to be able to empathize with people who have the same kind of financial constraints."
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Moran's proposal was a point that "deserves to be heard." But he argued that members of Congress should not institute pay increases for themselves while cutting federal programs.
"I think if you're going to ask people to make painful reductions, you've got to lead by example," Cole said.