After a decade without a pay raise, a handful of House members are considering accepting an annual automatic wage hike, but most lawmakers are worried about the politics of looking out of touch with voters not making six figures.
“It would be as popular as the plague," Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., said. "It would show kind of a disconnect with the people."
This year's estimated pay hike of around $4,000 is part of a 1989 reform measure that stipulated Congress members would shun outside speaking engagements in favor of a large pay hike and the annual pay increase – based on inflation. It was supported at the time by then Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he knows representatives who are leaving Congress over the wage stagnation. "It's been more than a decade,” he told the Associated Press.
Congress has voted each year since former President Obama took office in 2009 to reject the raise – possibly due in part to Democrats’ success in attacking Republicans over the pay increase in their effort to take the House in 2006.
Now, more than two-thirds of Congress members have never had a pay increase.
Most representatives keep two homes – one in Washington, D.C., and one in their home state, and with home prices soaring in the capital and across the country, the $174,000 salary might have some members struggling.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is a key force behind reviving the measure and he’s been discussing it with Republicans. He told the AP that most Republicans fear the politics of the pay raise.
The annual appropriations process is underway, the usual means of overturning the pay raise. Democrats decided not to kill the raise when drafting the legislative branch spending bill, but it could be overturned later in the process.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.