It’s not that fun being a member of Congress. People despise what you represent. Americans say they like Nickelback more than Congress — Nickelback, people! You spend much of your time raising money while not much can actually get done, policy-wise. Even you hate where you work.
Add on top of that, the pay ain’t all that grand. Sure, the cash-out from leaving Congress can be fabulous if you head to K Street, but maintaining a D.C. residence in addition to one in your home district can apparently be a bit rough on an annual salary of $174,000. The monthly median rental price for an apartment in D.C. is $2,250, according to Zillow.
So Democratic Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia has a solution to get his coworkers more money to make ends meet: Don’t give members a cost-of-living increase, just give them a housing stipend.
Unfortunately for Moran, his proposal failed to advance Wednesday in the House Appropriations Committee, which took it up via voice vote. But apparently a few audible “ayes” did come from the Democratic side.
Members of Congress are on track to get a cost-of-living adjustment each year, but Congress can adjust the increase or block it altogether. They’ve blocked it 11 times and allowed it 13 times since 1992.
Especially in these current economic times, it’s politically tough to basically allow yourself to get a raise. Congress has now stopped a raise for fiscal 2015, for the sixth time in a row.
So Moran’s proposal would have essentially restructured that cost-of-living increase so that Congress automatically gets a housing stipend. It would equal $25 a day when Congress is in session, available to House members whose primary residence is more than 50 miles from the Capitol. That means $2,800 for 2014, according to Moran’s office.
Moran’s argument also centers on the idea that Congress is a place that will attract average people, who are not independently wealthy.
“The House is supposed to reflect the people of this country. Don’t we want it to make financial sense for a 30-something physician, district attorney, city council member, or small-business owner, who maybe has a new home mortgage, young children, or unpaid student loan debt, to serve in Congress?” Moran said in a statement. “Federal elected office shouldn’t be limited just to those who are financially independent and do not have to give thought to paying out-of-pocket for living expenses while in D.C.”
Moran told Roll Call earlier this month that members of Congress are underpaid. “A lot of members can’t even afford to live decently in Washington,” he said then.
Moran is retiring at the end of his term, so he can touch such a politically thorny issue like this as few others can. Plus, he lives close to D.C. anyway, and his office says he doesn’t stand to personally benefit from his pitch. But members of Congress are truly like the rest of us! Even they are worried about getting priced out of a rapidly gentrifying and pricey Washington, D.C.