Retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) on Thursday argued that members of Congress need a pay increase — to help them cope with the cost of keeping a second residence in Washington, D.C.
“Since I was first elected to the Congress, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the compensation to members has gone down by one-fifth,” Moran said on the House floor. “Meantime, the cost of rental housing in D.C. has increased substantially.”
Moran said the median cost of rental housing in Washington for members is $27,000 per year.
“It is so difficult for members to maintain two residences,” he said.
Members of Congress are paid $174,000 per year.
The House was considering the legislative branch appropriations bill, and Moran offered an amendment to that bill that would have given most members a $25 per day stipend to help offset the cost of rental housing in Washington DC. But House Republicans turned away that amendment on Wednesday.
Moran also lamented that the legislative branch spending bill again freezes member pay, and prevents them from getting a pay bump in fiscal year 2015. Moran argued that these pay freezes are putting a financial strain on many members who are not millionaires, and said extending the freeze further will soon mean that only the rich can run for Congress.
“If we continue to freeze the compensation to members, my fear is … that what we will wind up with is a composition of the Congress composed primarily of members who don’t need the pay, or who are independently wealthy,” he said.
“I know people think this is a lot of money,” he added. “But you know, if you’re not going to show respect to yourself as an institution, you can’t expect the public to show you must respect either.”
Moran then said members of Congress should be seen as a critical economic caretaker that deserves a bigger paycheck.
“We are the board of directors of the largest economic entity in the world,” he said. “We deserve that respect. We ought to stand up for ourselves, defend this Congress because what we do is defensible. And show that we merit adequate compensation so we can be wholly representative of this great American public.”