Dem Rep: Members of Congress Aren't Paid Enough to Live Decently

Virginia Representative Jim Moran (thank God, no relation) is retiring from Congress after this term. But before he settles down with his ill gotten gains, he decided to broach the subject of congressional pay and complain how there wasn't enough of it.

In an interview with Roll Call, Moran said that the congressional salary of $174,000 a year just didn't cut it, and that some congressmen were suffering the indignities that such a niggardly sum imposed upon them.

He says that some members sleep in their offices or are forced to live in tiny apartments while they're working in Washington because they can't afford anything else. Members must maintain a residence in their home district, as well as live in DC, which means, Moran claims, that it's hard to stretch that $174,000 so that a member can live "decently."

“I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid,” Moran told CQ Roll Call. “I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.”

The senior appropriator pointed out that some members have taken to living out of their offices to save money, while others have “small little apartment units” that make it impossible to spend the time they should with their families.

Most state legislatures provide their members with a per diem allowance, Moran argues, so the federal government should do the same.

The Legislative Branch appropriations bill introduced by Republicans on Wednesday aims to show the chamber’s commitment to austerity by holding spending at current levels. It would continue a freeze on lawmaker salaries that has been in place since 2010.

As for a dollar amount, Moran hasn’t yet thought that through. He said it would probably be consistent with what the federal government provides to other employees.

"...[T]he fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.” Um, no Congressman. The fact is, you'd like to think you control the economy like a board of directors controls a company. But even if it were true, you want a raise for the job you've done?

A pay increase without merit -- doesn't that say something about the state of America in the Obama years? Burger flippers wanting $15 an hour, Democrats wanting to raise the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour -- what value does Congressional labor impart to the country? How many days a year do they work? What have they done to warrant an increase? Or should we just give them a raise because they're such nice guys and gals?

So OK, we get it. Certainly some members of congress suffer hardships because they can't stretch $174,000 to meet expenses for maintaining two residences year round. But if they're forced to leave their families at home, the US taxpayer pays for their travel to and from the district. And since the congressional workweek is 3-4 days a week, that leaves plenty of time for a member to jet home to see his family several times a month. An ideal family life? If the member doesnt' like it, he doesn't have to run for office.

But most members have spouses who work, or who were wealthy before they came to congress. According to a report by Open Secrets, there are 268 of 535 members of Congress who are worth $1 million or more. The point being, the vast majority of members don't need their salaries increased in order to live comfortably.