By Erik Wasson - 04/03/14 04:43 PM EDT
Lawmakers deserve per diem, says retiring Dem
A retiring Democratic lawmaker from Virginia says most members of Congress are paid too little.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says lawmakers can't afford to stay in Washington, D.C., and he wants to grant them a per diem expense reimbursement.
Moran said he would offer an amendment to the 2015 legislative branch spending bill to reinstate a per diem payment for members traveling from remote districts.
“There are too many members living and sleeping in their offices and it’s wrong. They can’t afford to live here and it’s wrong,” Moran told his appropriations committee colleagues.
Moran acknowledged the provision has no chance of passage, given public disdain for Congress. But he said he wanted to highlight that on $174,000 per year, many lawmakers have difficulty supporting a family back home and maintaining a Washington house as well.
“I understand that is widely felt that [members] under perform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world and a lot of members can even afford to live decently when they are at their job in Washington,” he said.
A Moran aide explained that the amendment being developed would create a housing allowance for members.
Legislative Branch subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said the effort is doomed.
“You won’t get a lot of votes but you will make a lot of friends,” Cole told Moran at a markup for the legislative branch spending bill, which was approved on voice vote.
Lawmaker pay is frozen in current law and for next year under legislation moving through the Appropriations Committee.
Overall, Cole’s bill spends $3.3 billion, not including for operations of the Senate. It cuts $40.5 million in construction costs from the Architect of the Capitol in order to increase funds for the Capitol Police, Library of Congress and Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Sequestration has caused the Capitol Police to shutter some entrances to Capitol buildings, to the irritation of many lawmakers, and the new bill requires police to come up with an action plan to reopen closed entrances.
The police get $9.5 million more, while the GAO gets $14.2 million to ramp up its auditing activities.