McCarthy offers support for lawmaker pay hike

McCarthy offers support for lawmaker pay hike
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump touts Washington Post story on GOP support Pence extends olive branch to Cummings after Trump's Baltimore attacks Marijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis MORE (R-Calif.) on Tuesday expressed support for a proposal that would give members of Congress their first pay hike in years.

McCarthy said he would support legislation giving lawmakers a cost-of-living adjustment for the first time in a decade, saying he didn’t want the House and Senate to become a place where only the rich could afford to serve.

The remarks from the House Republican leader came a day after Democrats pulled a bill from the House floor that would have provided the pay hike following a backlash from swing-district freshmen — many of whom feared their votes for the bill would be attacked by GOP opponents.


“I do not want Congress at the end of the day to only be a place that millionaires serve. This should be a body of the people and I think it's something that should be looked at,” McCarthy said at a press conference.

McCarthy acknowledged that sensitivity of the issue but said it's something Congress should consider.

“I know when you talk this subject about a COLA, a cost of living increase, it does an invoke an emotion — kind of an impulsive emotion. I think it's one we should pause and look at,” McCarthy said.

The House was initially set to consider a spending package that included funding for legislative branch operations. This year's legislative branch appropriations bill does not currently include language that blocks an annual cost-of-living adjustment like in past years.

But several swing-district House Democratic freshmen pushed back on the proposal and filed amendments that would block the $4,500 pay increase from taking effect. Democratic leaders then opted to pull the part of the appropriations package dealing with legislative branch spending from floor consideration this week.

McCarthy has previously expressed an openness to giving lawmakers a cost-of-living increase.

His comments on Tuesday lend bipartisan credence to the push.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats headed for a subpoena showdown with White House Election security funds caught in crosshairs of spending debate New storm rises over Kavanaugh MORE (D-Md.) has been advocating for the cost-of-living adjustment to help members afford maintaining homes in Washington and their districts, as well as raise salaries for staff. 

“It’s been more than a decade,” McCarthy told The Associated Press last month. “I’ve got members who are leaving over this.”

Rank-and-file members of Congress currently make $174,000 annually, while members of leadership make more. The Speaker makes the most at $223,500, while the House majority and minority leaders make $193,400. Those pay levels have remained the same since 2009.

The Congressional Research Service estimated that the 2019 salary level would be $210,900 if lawmakers had received annual cost-of-living increases as established by a 1989 ethics law.