Saturday, March 2, 2013

UPDATED: Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2012

Ida A. Brudnick
Specialist on the Congress

PDF file below

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. 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 eight times (scheduled for January 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2007, 2010, and 2011).

  • In the 112th 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. 
  • Previously, in the 111th Congress, the Senate passed legislation (S. 620) that would have eliminated the provision of the Ethics Reform Act that provides for future automatic annual pay adjustments, although no further action was taken.

The salary for Members of Congress is currently $174,000. Members were originally scheduled to receive a 0.9% pay adjustment in 2011. This adjustment would have equaled a $1,600 increase, resulting in a salary of $175,600. 
  • The pay adjustment was prohibited by P.L. 111-165 (H.R. 5146), which was enacted on May 14, 2010. 
  • Additionally, P.L. 111-322, which was enacted on December 22, 2010, prevented any adjustment in GS base pay before December 31, 2012. 
  • Since the percent adjustment in Member pay may not exceed the percent adjustment in the base pay of GS employees, Member pay is also frozen during this period. 
    • If not limited by GS pay, Members could have received a salary adjustment of 1.3% in January 2012 under the ECI formula.

Previously, a provision in the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibited any pay adjustment for 2010. 
  • Members were originally scheduled to receive a pay adjustment in January 2010 of 2.1%, although this would have been revised automatically to 1.5% to match the GS base pay adjustment. 
  • In January 2009, Members received a 2.8% pay adjustment under the formula established by the Ethics Reform Act
  • Members previously received a 2.5% adjustment in pay in January 2008, resulting in a salary of $169,300. 
  • According to the formula, Members originally were scheduled to receive a 2.7% adjustment in 2008, increasing their salary to $169,700. This figure was automatically revised downward to 2.5% to match the increase in base pay given to employees under the General Schedule. 
Members voted to delay and then prohibit a pay adjustment for 2007. Pay in 2007 remained at the 2006 level of $165,200.

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.

Date of Report: February 22, 2012
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: 97-615

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