Members of Congress could get a hefty pay raise, a long-delayed cost-of-living adjustment and a new housing allowance under legislation proposed by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., who is retiring at the end of the current Congress.
There has not been a salary increase for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate for more than a decade. This is in part due to the negative coverage that ensues whenever lawmakers decide to distribute themselves more money. Perlmutter offers three unique recommendations for raising compensation for members who will return the next year. In previous years, members who are on the verge of leaving have felt far more at ease bringing up the subject.
Despite the fact that he submitted the bills, it does not appear that any of them will be considered for passage during this year’s legislative session. This year, Democrats in the House and Senate are still working on a number of last-minute initiatives, including a defense policy bill, overall levels of government funding, probable tax extension legislation, and other legislation.
One of Perlmutter’s bills would link the pay of legislators to that of the judiciary, an idea that, if implemented, could make it possible for members to receive pay raises whenever judge salaries go up without having to face the backlash from the public that typically accompanies the consideration of pay increases.
Since 2009, the annual compensation for members of Congress has been set at $174,000; however, members of the leadership team are eligible for approximately $20,000 more, and the salary for the speaker of the House is $223,500. In comparison, the annual salary for district judges was $223,400, the annual salary for circuit judges was $236,900, and the annual salary for members of the Supreme Court is $274,200.
The bill proposed by Perlmutter was discussed at length over the weekend in the Federal Register; however, the summary that was published did not specify how exactly judicial salaries would be connected to those of lawmakers. On Monday, the office of Mr. Perlmutter did not return our call for clarification on when his proposed bill would go to the floor.
Another one of Perlmutter’s suggestions would bring back cost-of-living increases for members of Congress that had been eliminated by an earlier version of a federal legislation. This would be yet another potential means by which lawmakers’ salaries may be increased.
Congress is responsible for determining its own compensation, and some decades ago, legislators devised a formula to establish yearly salary raises. Those increases, however, have been put on hold since 2010, when Congress passed legislation following the financial crisis of 2008.
According to the summary of the legislation that has been proposed by Perlmutter, it would “return cost-of-living increases that were waived under earlier statutes.”
A housing allowance for members of the House of Representatives is his third suggestion. It has been an ongoing debate among members of Congress over the past few years that despite the higher-than-average salary they receive, they are unable to afford to keep both their primary residence in their respective districts and a second home in Washington, D.C., from which they can work while serving in that city.
It was alleged that scores of Republicans and Democrats were sleeping on cots in their congressional offices in order to save money on the cost of renting an apartment. The incident occurred five years ago.
The New York Post reported in 2018 that as many as one hundred lawmakers were sleeping in their offices. Among those lawmakers were then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California who is expected to become the next House speaker when Republicans take control of the House in January.
With economic forecasts looking dimmer and dimmer for the future, it is unlikely this bill would get passed within the next 18 months if it got passed at all. It’s hard to justify paying the House more when a recession is *maybe* imminent, and this lame-duck session will surely focus on more democratic-majority-sensitive issues.