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Monday, July 1, 2013

Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2013

Ida A. Brudnick
Specialist on the Congress

The U.S. Constitution, in Article I, Section 6, authorizes compensation for Members of Congress “ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.” Throughout American history, Congress has relied on three different methods in adjusting salaries for Members. Specific legislation was last used to provide increases in 1990 and 1991. It was the only method used by Congress for many years.

The second method, under which annual adjustments took effect automatically unless disapproved by Congress, was established in 1975. From 1975 to 1989, these annual adjustments were based on the rate of annual comparability increases given to the General Schedule federal employees. This method was changed by the 1989 Ethics Act to require that the annual adjustment be determined by a formula based on certain elements of the Employment Cost Index (ECI). Under this revised process, annual adjustments were accepted 13 times (scheduled for January 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009) and denied nine times (scheduled for January 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012). In the 112
th Congress, numerous bills have been introduced to alter this procedure, reduce the pay of Members of Congress, prevent or delay pay in the event of a government shutdown, or extend the current pay freeze.

Since 2009, the salary for Members of Congress has been $174,000. Section 114 of the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013 (H.J.Res. 117, P.L. 112-175, enacted September 28, 2012), extended the current freeze on General Schedule (GS) pay rates through the duration of this continuing resolution. Since the percentage adjustment in Member pay may not exceed the percentage adjustment in the base pay of GS employees, any delay in the implementation of pay adjustments for GS employees would delay any scheduled Member pay adjustment. Member pay was further frozen for the remainder of 2013 in H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which was enacted on January 2, 2013 (P.L. 112-240).

A third method for adjusting Member pay is congressional action pursuant to recommendations from the President, based on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Commission on Public Service and Compensation established in the 1989 Ethics Reform Act. Although the Citizens’ Commission should have convened in 1993, it did not and has not met since then.

For historical tables on the rate of pay for Members of Congress since 1789; the adjustments projected by the Ethics Reform Act as compared with actual adjustments in Member pay; details on enacted legislation with language prohibiting the annual pay adjustment; and Member pay in constant and current dollars since 1992, see CRS Report 97-1011, Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables, by Ida A. Brudnick.

Members of Congress only receive salaries during the terms for which they are elected. Former Members of Congress may be eligible for retirement benefits. For additional information on retirement benefit requirements, contributions, and formulas, see CRS Report RL30631, Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress, by Katelin P. Isaacs.

Date of Report: June 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: 97-615
Price: $29.95

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