Lawmakers push to block pay raises for members of Congress

Stefani Reynolds
Lawmakers in both parties, including multiple House Democratic freshman in swing districts, unveiled measures Friday to prevent the first pay raise for members of Congress in a decade from going into effect.
Members of Congress would receive a $4,500 pay bump, or a 2.6 percent raise, under a spending package that the House is expected to consider next week. The package would leave out language that has blocked an annual cost-of-living adjustment for members of Congress since 2010.
Multiple freshman Democrats who are top GOP targets have introduced amendments to the spending bill to maintain the pay freeze, including Reps. Ben McAdams (Utah), Joe Cunningham (S.C.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Susie Lee (Nev.) and Jared Golden (Maine).{mosads}
They are distancing themselves from the decision by Democratic leaders to let the cost-of-living increase to go forward. At least two swing-district Democratic freshmen — Reps. Cindy Axne (Iowa) and Dean Phillips (Minn.) — have already said they’d turn down the pay bump for themselves if it goes into effect.
“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,” Cunningham tweeted.
McAdams similarly invoked the deficit in his opposition to the lawmaker pay raise.
“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,” McAdams tweeted. “Today, I introduced an amendment to make sure Congress doesn’t get a pay increase.”
Those Democrats were joined by multiple Republicans as well, including Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jack Bergman (Mich.) and Scott Perry (Pa.).
“Congress has failed to pass a budget, failed to pass appropriations bills, repeatedly shut down the government, and allows our immigration and heath care systems to continue to deteriorate. Members of Congress don’t deserve a pay raise while failing to do their job as hardworking Americans show up to work every day, complete their work, and still live paycheck to paycheck,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
The House Rules Committee, which determines how legislation is considered on the floor, is expected to meet Monday and Tuesday to decide which amendments to the spending package will be considered.
Lawmakers instituted a pay freeze that began in 2010 amid the recession, but have been wary of the optics of voting to give themselves a raise to reflect the growing cost of living given the legislative gridlock ever since.
Rank-and-file members of Congress currently earn $174,000 annually. Members of leadership earn more, with the Speaker making $223,500 while the House majority and minority leaders earn $193,400.
Despite the six-figure salary, many lawmakers find it difficult to maintain two residences, one in Washington — which has a high cost of living — and back home. Dozens of lawmakers have taken to sleeping in their offices to avoid paying expensive D.C. rent.
Advocates for the cost-of-living increase also point to the effect on congressional staff retention, since aides can’t make more than their bosses but can get higher pay in lucrative lobbying jobs.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who has advocated for allowing lawmakers to get a cost-of-living adjustment in recent years, defended the move this week.
“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,” Hoyer told reporters. 
Other Democrats also say they’re comfortable with letting the cost-of-living adjustment take effect.
“I think that all people in the country should get cost-of-living adjustments,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told The Hill this week. “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 freshmen sought to make clear the member pay issue wasn’t something they hoped to focus on less than a year into their terms.

“I came to Congress to make government work for my neighbors in the Second Congressional District, bring down the price of healthcare and prescription drugs, and expand economic opportunity for farmers and small businesses. I will not support pay increases for Members of Congress,” Craig tweeted.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ben McAdams Brian Fitzpatrick Cindy Axne Dean Phillips Joe Cunningham Scott Perry Steny Hoyer Susie Lee

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