House votes to keep lawmaker pay freeze
© Hill file photo

The House passed funding for legislative branch operations on Tuesday that maintains a lawmaker pay freeze in place since 2010.

Passage of the annual $3.3 billion legislative branch appropriations bill that funds congressional offices, Capitol Police, the Congressional Budget Office and the Library of Congress came easily by a vote of 357-67.

Another provision of the bill effectively ends the Capitol Hill sledding ban by directing the Capitol Police not to enforce regulations that prohibit the activity. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) won the language's inclusion after District residents staged a "sled-in" on the Capitol grounds during a snowstorm earlier this year to protest the ban.

"Now I will be working in the Senate to have them follow suit and ensure that our kids have a ball on America's front lawn next snowfall," Norton said after the vote.

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However, the legislation did not include floor debate on a proposal from Reps. Rod Blum (R-Iowa), Gwen Graham (D-Fla.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) to ban first-class airfare for members of Congress on taxpayers' tab after House GOP leaders denied it a vote.

Republicans noted that funding for House operations has been cut by 14 percent since they took over the majority in 2011.

"It is a bill that is going to honor and respect our taxpayers," said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees legislative branch spending.

Two senior Democrats questioned whether members of Congress should maintain the pay freeze for themselves. House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe case for congressional pay raises Approve USMCA before it's too late Lawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress MORE (D-Md.) became the highest-ranking lawmaker to endorse giving members of Congress a pay raise to reflect the increased cost of living.

"I think personally that it was appropriate at the time of the recession in 2009 for us not have to have a cost-of-living adjustment," Hoyer told reporters at a Capitol Hill briefing on Tuesday. "But to continue that on simply will dictate that the only people who can serve are the rich. I don't think that's what the Founding Fathers had in mind."

Hoyer's comments came after Rep. Alcee HastingsAlcee (Judge) Lamar HastingsNFL players: Corporal punishment in schools is unacceptable Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party Florida lawmaker diagnosed with pancreatic cancer MORE (D-Fla.) similarly warned that keeping lawmaker salaries stagnant for too long could result in limiting the types of people who can serve in Congress.

"Members don't like to talk about it, but it's kind of a sad state of affairs that we are entering the seventh year of Congress not receiving a raise," Hastings said at a Monday House Rules Committee hearing on the legislative branch funding bill.

Rank-and-file members of the House and Senate earn $174,000 annually. Members of leadership earn more, with the Speaker earning the most at $223,500 per year.

But Hastings went farther than Hoyer to argue that lawmakers' salaries should simply get a cost-of-living adjustment like in the private sector. The Florida Democrat complained that he had to move out of a luxury Capitol Hill apartment complex when the rent reached $3,100 a month, instead opting to live in a building where the rent is $2,100. 

"I moved in December to yet another building that's comfortable, not nearly as comfortable as that one, but back to the $2,100 in that six-year period of time in order to be able to have any discretionary income at all," Hastings said.

Most lawmakers maintain two homes in their districts and Washington, with many splitting the high cost of D.C. rent with fellow members in shared apartments or houses.

The House has now passed three out of 12 annual appropriations bills after approving the Military Construction-Veterans' Affairs and Energy-Water measures last month. Congress has not cleared all 12 individual bills under so-called "regular order" since the 1990s.

This story was updated at 8:10 p.m.