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Member pay increase blocked in final spending package

Lawmakers will go another year without getting a raise, despite House's best efforts

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting on Feb. 29.
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting on Feb. 29. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers will not receive their first pay raise since 2009 this year, as language blocking the cost-of-living increase for members will be in the final fiscal 2024 Legislative Branch bill, that measure’s top GOP appropriator said Wednesday. 

House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Amodei said that Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., as well as Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., were in agreement on removing the rider for the first time in 15 years and allowing the pay bump. However, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., blocked the effort, Amodei said.

“We had a very bipartisan effort by the speaker and the minority leader to speak on behalf of their members, and that was, the story goes, completely staked in the heart by the majority leader of the Senate,” Amodei, R-Nev., said.  

A Schumer spokesperson couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

If the language blocking the member cost-of-living adjustment had not been included in the bill, lawmakers would have received a 4.6 percent, or $8,000, increase, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The standard member salary has been frozen at $174,000 since the last increase, though leadership positions pay more. Johnson makes $223,500 as speaker, while the three other top Hill leaders pull down $193,400.

House Republicans initially did not include the standard language blocking the pay raise in their version of the Legislative Branch bill. But GOP leaders, in the waning days of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s reign, reinserted the language before bringing the bill to the floor. 

[Member COLA a sticking point in Legislative Branch bill talks]

The pay raise rider was included in the Senate’s version of the Legislative Branch bill.

Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., said earlier this month that it was a difficult time for lawmakers to give themselves a pay raise “given the deficit pressures and the perception generally that there are so many urgent needs.” 

Amodei said he was not sure what the House got in exchange for dropping the member pay raise, if anything: “If I’m going to throw my ladies and gentlemen over the guardrail, what did we get?”

Reed, who historically has been among his chamber’s least wealthy members, said he was sympathetic to the House’s argument.

“We understand that there is a disparity between the financial condition of the members of the Senate — I am an exception to that — who in many cases are independently wealthy, or substantially wealthy, versus young members of Congress who are raising families, who are shuttling them back and forth, etc.,” Reed said. 

The average senator historically has been better off financially than the average House member. A 2018 CQ Roll Call analysis found that the median wealth of senators outpaced the median wealth of representatives by more than double. 

The median Senate Republican was worth $1.4 million at that time, with Senate Democrats pacing behind at $946,000. House Democrats paced slightly ahead of House Republicans at that time, at a $424,000 median wealth compared to the Republicans’ $401,000. 

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