Skip to content

House GOP anti-spending fervor may not apply to member pay raise

Attempts to raise rank-and-file lawmaker salaries since 2009 have been shelved

Amodei, center, and Clyde, standing, confer with an aide after a March 24 Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on March 24.
Amodei, center, and Clyde, standing, confer with an aide after a March 24 Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on March 24. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans would give lawmakers their first pay increase in nearly 15 years under a spending bill for the upcoming fiscal year that the Appropriations Committee approved last month.

The move comes as House Republicans pursue cuts to most federal agencies and programs, sparing only defense, veterans and border security. Lawmakers last received a cost-of-living increase in 2009, but House Republicans left out the traditional language blocking a cost-of-living increase for members from this year’s Legislative Branch bill.

If the provision is not added back during the appropriations process, members would stand to receive a 4.6 percent, or $8,000, pay increase, according to the Congressional Research Service. Most lawmakers — with the exception of certain leadership positions — currently make $174,000, the level salaries have been frozen at since the Great Recession.

House Legislative Branch Appropriations Chairman Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said Wednesday that the debate over whether members should get the pay increase is ongoing, and there are “a lot of strong feelings on both sides.”

But he said he thought after such a long time without an increase, allowing members to receive the cost-of-living adjustment would be good policy.

“The policy supports, hey, once every twelve years, you can have a cost -of-living increase,” Amodei said. “That’s not exactly greedy. But the politics is — you know how that will go.” 

Amodei said that some members are worried about the optics of giving themselves a raise, which could be used against them in their reelection campaigns.

“Having been around a few campaigns in my life, do you think that campaign consultants, who are ‘geniuses’, do you think they will be able to tee that one up?” Amodei said. “You know, Bob Smith voted for an $8,000 raise while he cut your blah blah benefits.” 

Amodei said the issue is not settled as Republicans aim to bring appropriations bills to the House floor later this month. However, he said he doesn’t think the House GOP will be able to reach its goal of passing all 12 appropriations bills in July with the August recess approaching. 

“If I had a ranch, I wouldn’t bet the ranch,” Amodei said.

That means the fate of the member pay raise may not be resolved until year-end negotiations with the Senate. Appropriators in that chamber are set to mark up their draft fiscal 2024 Legislative Branch bill on Thursday, which panel Democrats said in a summary includes the member pay freeze.

The language Republicans left out of the bill this year has been standard in recent years, though House Democrats did remove the provision from their fiscal 2020 bill in 2019.

Members would have received a 2.6 percent, or $4,500, pay increase at that time, but Democrats pulled that bill from floor consideration as a similar debate raged. 

Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., was among those who spoke out against the proposed increase for members of Congress at the time. Democrats then put the no-COLA language back into the legislation for the following three appropriations cycles. 

Craig typically has had tough races since flipping a GOP seat in 2018. She’s a top Republican target next year and a member of the Democrats’ Frontline program to shore up vulnerable incumbents.

“House Republicans are trying to give themselves a raise while working families struggle to make ends meet,” Craig said in a statement Wednesday. “That’s not what our constituents want — and certainly not what members of Congress need.”

27th Amendment

Amodei said some members have concerns that allowing a member pay increase next year would violate the 27th Amendment, which states that increasing compensation for members of Congress should not take effect “until an election of representatives shall have intervened.” 

One of those is Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., a member of the House Freedom Caucus and the Appropriations Committee. Clyde didn’t offer an amendment to add the provision during the June markup but has privately expressed concerns about allowing the pay raise to go through.

“As a staunch constitutional conservative, I believe any action related to members’ COLA must — in accordance with the 27th Amendment — be considered after an intervening election,” Clyde said in a statement Wednesday. “I remain focused on ensuring that this institution strictly abides by the Constitution.”  

However, federal courts have ruled that the amendment does not apply to cost-of-living adjustments issued by Congress, according to the Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. But the amendment has “faced very little litigation” since its ratification in 1992, the library’s analysis states. 

House Appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said her understanding is the chamber is moving forward without the language blocking the pay raise. 

“We’re going to move forward on the bill,” she said. “I have never taken a raise, I give it away in scholarships.” 

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., the former majority leader who’s now the ranking member of the Financial Services Appropriations subcommittee, said Wednesday that he backs the first member pay raise in years.

“Precluding members from a COLA adjustment simply decreases their salary every year,” Hoyer said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Recent Stories

Democrats decry ‘very, very harmful’ riders in Legislative Branch bill

Biden welcomes Kenya’s Ruto with talk of business deals and 1,000 candles

Noncitizen voting bill advances as Republicans continue messaging push

At the Races: Don’t call him the next Mitch

Norfolk Southern agrees to $1B in settlements for East Palestine

Justice Department seeks to break up concert giant Live Nation