House Democrats unveil spending bill to boost staff pay, maintain lawmaker pay freeze

House Democrats unveil spending bill to boost staff pay, maintain lawmaker pay freeze
© Greg Nash

House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled an annual legislative branch spending bill that includes $134 million to help boost congressional staffer pay while maintaining the lawmaker pay freeze that's been in place for more than a decade. 

The legislation is one of the 12 annual appropriations bills to fund the federal government and could come up for a House floor vote as soon as July. 

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroHouse adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban House clears .1 billion Capitol security bill, sending to Biden House passes sprawling spending bill ahead of fall shutdown fight MORE (D-Conn.) said the legislation would help Congress "recruit and retain a talented and diverse workforce to help Congress deliver for the people." 


Many House Democrats have recently called for boosting congressional staffer pay to help reduce the high turnover on Capitol Hill that is often attributed to the low salaries compared to the high cost of living in Washington, D.C.

A group of 110 lawmakers, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (D-N.Y.), submitted a letter to the House Appropriations Committee last week asking for a 21 percent increase in congressional office budgets for the next fiscal year.

“If we as members are to fulfill our responsibility to govern effectively for the people and deliver on our majority’s promises to renew faith in government by ensuring that Congress reflects the American people we serve, we must be able to recruit and retain a diverse and talented workforce to help members, leadership, and committees carry out their work," they wrote.

The funding increase in the bill unveiled by the House Appropriations Committee for lawmaker office budgets, known as the Member Representational Allowance, meets that request of a 21 percent increase. 

It also includes $15.9 million to pay interns in rank-and-file lawmaker and leadership offices as part of an effort to end the practice of unpaid internships on Capitol Hill. 


But the ongoing lawmaker pay freeze that was first enacted in 2009 would remain in place under the bill.

Rank-and-file members of Congress currently earn annual salaries of $174,000, while members of leadership make more. The Speaker makes the highest salary, at $223,500, while the House and Senate majority leaders and Senate president pro tempore earn $193,400. 

House Democrats almost went forward with legislation in 2019 that would have allowed members of Congress to receive a 2.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment. But Democratic leaders ultimately abandoned plans to vote on the bill due to concerns from centrists about the potential public backlash. 

The spending bill unveiled Wednesday also includes a provision that Democrats pushed last year in the wake of the nationwide protests over racial justice, but that ultimately did not become law.

The provision would order the removal of statues and busts in the Capitol of people who served in the Confederate army or government, as well as figures who otherwise worked to defend slavery like former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the 1857 Dred Scott ruling declaring that Black people didn’t have the rights of citizens.  

The legislative branch spending bill further includes $603.9 million for the Capitol Police, amounting to an increase of $88.4 million above the current enacted level in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

The House last month passed a supplemental spending bill focused on Capitol security that would have provided funding for the Capitol Police to pay for overtime and hire new officers, as well as allocate resources for fortifying the Capitol complex and fixing damage from Jan. 6. But the Senate has yet to take up the standalone bill, and it's not clear when it might get a vote in the upper chamber.