House Democrats are postponing a bill that would have raised the salaries of lawmakers and congressional staff for the first time in nearly a decade.
Mariel Saez, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, confirmed that Democrats are delaying consideration of a broader spending bill that includes an annual cost-of-living adjustment, due to ongoing discussions about the provision. Politico first reported the delay.
The salary for a representative has been set at $174,000 per year since 2009. An adjustment, which would increase the amount this year by $4,500, is automatically set to kick in every year, but lawmakers have nixed it for the past decade, largely because of the optics of giving themselves pay increases while the country was recovering from a recession.
Hoyer explained to reporters last week why he was open to the adjustment, arguing that housing costs in Washington have soared in the past decade, making it difficult for members who maintain two residences – one in Washington and one in their home districts. He also argued that staffers are not getting help for the rise in inflation, either.
“The salary we receive is a decent salary – there’s no doubt about that – but one problem is, under the law, our employees are capped,” the Maryland Democrat said. “So it’s not only having an effect on members of Congress, it’s depressing salary structures.”
“I think that when times are bad,” he added, “members of Congress ought to cinch their belt in, as well. But in times when it’s not, I think a cost-of-living adjustment, as the court said, was a reasonable thing to do – not a pay raise.”
Hoyer last week met with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana about keeping the adjustment in place and expressed optimism that it could be done in a bipartisan way. Aides to those Republicans declined to comment on the GOP leaders’ positions at the time.
The adjustment would come in a spending bill that covers the legislative branch. The House had been set to vote on the bill as part of a “minibus” appropriations package that included four other spending bills.