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Posted at 5:26 p.m. on April 3, 2014
Despite what constituents outside of Washington might think, members of Congress are underpaid, a House Legislative Branch appropriator suggested Thursday.
Virginia Democrat James P. Moran said he plans to highlight the injustice by introducing an amendment to the Legislative Branch bill during its full committee markup, and at floor consideration of the bill. Moran made the comments while the bill that funds members’ $174,000 salaries was being marked up in the Legislative Branch subcommittee.
“I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid,” Moran told CQ Roll Call. “I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.”
The senior appropriator pointed out that some members have taken to living out of their offices to save money, while others have “small little apartment units” that make it impossible to spend the time they should with their families.
Most state legislatures provide their members with a per diem allowance, Moran argues, so the federal government should do the same.
The Legislative Branch appropriations bill introduced by Republicans on Wednesday aims to show the chamber’s commitment to austerity by holding spending at current levels. It would continue a freeze on lawmaker salaries that has been in place since 2010.
As for a dollar amount, Moran hasn’t yet thought that through. He said it would probably be consistent with what the federal government provides to other employees.
According to the Congressional Research Service, members began receiving a $6 per diem in 1789. The rate was eventually raised to $8 and remained there until 1856, when members began to receive annual salaries.
Moran assumes the amendment will not pass, admitting “this is wholly quixotic,” but he may bring it up on the House floor to garner attention.
“Our pay has been frozen for three years and we’re planning on freezing it a fourth year. … A lot of members can’t even afford to live decently in Washington,” he said.
Moran isn’t the only Member of Congress to spark a debate on member pay in recent years.
Moran recently announced he would retire from Congress. Roughly a dozen Democrats are making a bid for the seat in Virginia’s 8th District, which includes the inner suburbs of D.C. The seat is considered Safe Democratic by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified what bill Moran would seek to offer an amendment to.