Question of the Week: How Much Should Congress be Compensated?


A few days back, House Minority Leader spoke out against possible congressional pay cuts tied to sequester with a rather unique argument:

“I think we should respect the work we do,” Pelosi said. “I think it’s necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded.”

My immediate reaction when hearing that of course is are jobs paying less than the $193,400 she earns as Minority Leader (the rank and file member of congress earns $174,000) somehow less dignified? Do the “rich” CEO’s Pelosi loves to vilify who earn substantially more do more dignified work than she does in Congress? That philosophical argument can be a whole post unto itself.

Congressional compensation has been the subject of fact and myth probably since we have had a Congress. Benjamin Franklin once proposed during Constitutional Convention that members of Congress not be compensated, but was overruled by the other founding fathers. From 1789 to 1855, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session, except for a period from December 1815 to March 1817, when they received $1,500 a year. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1855, when they were paid $3,000 per year. Now of course they receive the salaries mentioned previously, plus are eligible for the same health and retirement benefits as federal employees.

Which brings us to our Question of the Week:

What is the “right” compensation package for members of Congress, and why?



LegitSlater is a contributor who focuses on features primarily pertaining to state and local government as well as political parties, but has been known to dabble in other areas. LegitSlater has also been known to pinch hit for Rob when he is out and about in his worldly travels, or attending the occasional Yankees-Twins series. LegitSlater's numerous awards include the personal satisfaction received from informing the vast readership of SAB, spurring respectful debate, and hunting the trophy sacred cows which have been otherwise deemed off limits by the traditional media, elected officials, and the political parties.

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  • Jetsons

    they should only have ss when they retire and they should be entitled to the same healthcare as the rest of us. Their pay should be zero as they seem to endorse legislation that fills their pockets through backdoor deals anyway.

  • RCND

    Let them keep the salary and health package, but no retirement. If we can’t get term limits done, then they don’t receive pay and benefits for service after their second term as a Senator or fourth as a Representative.

  • JoeMN

    Their salaries could be tied to inflation.
    I mean as inflation rises, salaries are cut.

  • The Whistler

    They should pay taxes on all the bribes they take including being let in on special business deals.

    • $8194357

      Claim their low interest loans on their income tax instead of off shore accounts?

    • slackwarerobert

      At this point I would settle for them even paying taxes the crooks.

  • VocalYokel

    It is not so much their generous salaries that I find objectionable, but the many outrageous perks to which they feel entitled.

    • slackwarerobert

      Let them get whatever pay they want, but they have to obey all the laws they pass, no exceptions. Fortunately those paycap laws will keep them from going too high, they can’t afford the taxes on to much income.

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    I don’t have an intelligent opinion on the exact dollar figure. But, I have a huge problem with Pelosi’s statement. If Congress is going to force cuts on other parts of the Federal government, they need to be willing to make the same sacrifices. This is part of good leadership.

    Unless Pelosi believes we should respect the work our Congress does but not the work of other federal employees?

    As for an exact dollar amount: the work is important and makes it difficult to hold down full time employment elsewhere. It should be high enough to compensate and lessen the likelihood of bribery. Also, Congress should fall under the same laws as the rest of us, including health care and Social Security.

    • VaKota

      But the job of a congressmen was never suppose to be a full time job. The reason congress is suppose to move slowly is to dampen the speed at which government infringes on our lives. Further, now that these are ‘full time’ positions, they feel compelled to constantly introduce new bills and legislature. These new laws are written and proposed at an alarming rate. It is not the job of Congress to propose new laws but instead to maintain the people’s liberty. The pay was low in order to encourage them to maintain their businesses at home thereby keeping them in touch with their constituents as well as keeping them mindful of good business practices. Article 1 Section 4 says they shall meet at least once a year which gives the impression that unless other circumstances arose, they really shouldn’t meet that often. I believe that instead of introducing new laws they should be working to remove laws. Further, let’s not talk of the financing it takes to have meetings often and the financing for the additional staff.

  • Thresherman

    A base salary and a commission based on the amount of budget surplus. A budget deficit would result in a the base salary being reduced based on the amount of deficit.

    • slackwarerobert

      Maybe that is why they won’t pass a budget. Nothing to get cut that way. The only good thing about this is it will finally shut my stupid senator up about biannual budgets, 5 years without one and oversight is worse now than when they did budgets and oversight. Blows his arguments of getting more oversight out of the water.

  • sbark

    Pay them for a job “well done”, performance based merit pay.
    Now that being said, Pelosi and all Dem’cats might well be doing great at destruction of this Nation and tearing up what is left of the Constitution and Bill of Rights..
    so…..leftist might argue they derserve a pay raise based on the damage done so far

    • $8194357

      If damage to the country was the scale used they would earn their bennies for sure.

  • Neiman

    What she wants demands and due to the avarice of others in Congress will get, is them to be paid and treated as a special ruling class, superior to the people and not subject to the laws they pass. She considers herself royalty and deserving of being treated like royalty.

    They should only be paid sufficient amounts to cover the daily needs of the average American and suffer loss of income when they fail to produce a budget on time each year and even after the budget is passed and signed into law, they still lose all the pay for those days without a legitimate budget.

  • flamemeister

    F’crissake! Let’s get serious—compensated for WHAT!?

    • two_amber_lamps

      Compensated for imploding the economy?

      Compensated for 4 years without producing a budget?

      Compensated for producing thousands of new regulations without regard to the constitutionality of said laws or fulfilling their constitutionally mandated tasks?

      By what measure shall we compensate them?

      Oh yeah, we can compensate them the way they’d prefer we compensate them. Much the way unions compensate their members…

      For occupying a seat.

      • $8194357

        The fasted snowball of deconstruction in a decade ever seen?

  • flamemeister

    Give ‘em 1% of pork scores & watch ‘em cut each other’s throats.

  • flamemeister

    Be warned! If Congress is not adequately compensated they just might turn to corruption to supplement their incomes!

    • Vakota

      I’m sure that was meant with sarcasm. right?

      • flamemeister

        Take three guesses; the first two don’t count.

  • SLR

    Lets see: They have enacted so many laws that nobody knows how many even carry a penalty; they have created layers upon layers upon layers of bureaucratic rule; they have smothered free enterprise by laws, rules, regulations, fees, fines, taxes upon taxes and surtaxes; they roll over for every big industry lobbyist, buckle to the president’s executive orders and socialist demands, wimp out to every liberal wingnut’s demand; constantly demand more spending or accept the president’s demands for endless spending; they have bankrupted the country, stolen the SS fund dry, spent Medicare into extinction; created more “entitlements” than carter has liver pills; given us the behemoth, country bankrupting, healthcare bill; plunged us into debt by the trillions and no sign of letup; and the list goes on. Pay them? I think that all but about 20 should be fired and shipped to Afghanistan!

    It has become increasingly clear that they are neither problem solvers nor is their desire or intention to actually solve the nation’s problems!

    Their true intent, proven by their actions, is to create endlessly convoluted legal documents that no one can understand and which are interlaced with overreaching, unconstitutional, power usurping, liberty stealing amendments to amendments, the end of which leads to tyranny and cements their perpetual rule!

    If the problems actually were solved they would not have a banner to wave to raise money for their next campaign. All they want is to be seen as to “have the answer” for the current crisis – perpetually! But they know that if they actually solved the problem they would not have anything to run on next time since real accomplishments don’t get votes like hot button issues. They have been in “have the answer” mode for decades, and we still have the same problems!

    “Central planners” have no clue how to get anything done in the practical reality. They are “visionaries” and “dreamers” but if their tenure was tied to actual solutions, and not just smoke and mirrors like the president’s endless campaign propaganda, they would all be out on their ear a long time ago.

    The president is a true utopian dreamer, who cannot solve real human problems but who CAN convince the voters that he is not THE problem but the ONE who is perpetually fighting against those who create the problems. He gets the votes.

    The truth is that “politicians” are not problem solvers at all. “Political science” is not even a science, it is an art – the art of perpetually convincing the people their best interest is being represented when in fact they are being duped and deceived, bankrupted and enslaved.

    I think I agree with Ben Franklin, make them work for nothing, then people who are not in it for the money could volunteer to actually solve the problem and go home and they would not stay there forever to get rich and retire. Better yet, pay them if they solve the problem, send them home if they do not.

    Sorry for the rant!

    • banjo kid

      Summed up in one word “useless” they are Useless.

  • Randy G

    Pay them what they are worth… A quarter a slurp. Just until they get their dignity back.

  • Roy_Bean

    She said WHAT??????

    If there is a sequester it will be due to complete incompetence on the part of Congress. Not only should congressional pay be cut, pensions of retired members should be cut too, because they had a hand in creating this fiasco.

    What we should do is hire a bunch of unemployed carpenters, plumbers and electricians to build a congressional condo. We should give them decent, but not lavish, living quarters for themselves and their families and cap the pay at about $10,000/month. These people can learn to live like Governors. Who do they think they are, university presidents?

    • slackwarerobert

      What about Ron Paul, he voted against every budget. Every bill that striped our rights.

  • exsanguine

    1: They should have to live in a dormitory.
    2: Earn no salary
    3: Be fed at a mess hall

    They are there to serve, not earn.

    • Lianne

      Now THAT, I like.

    • slackwarerobert

      And they have to sleep together, no separate quarters and facilities. What is good enough for our troops is good enough for them.
      But to make pelosi happy, styrofoam plates only.

  • VaKota

    I think Pelosi confuses dignity with self righteousness!

    • banjo kid

      She is merely confused .

  • mickey_moussaoui

    Pelosi belongs in Gitmo

    • slackwarerobert

      How can you hate the military so. I couldn’t order a gi to strip search that. I tried to get Turkey to take her when she was breaking turkish law, but never heard back from them.

  • Hellboy

    Compensation is too high already. Cut their pay and make it Pay for Play, and send them all home to their Districts and then let them meet every six months in D.C…….. then back home again without pay… Maybe Reps. like Nancy Pelosi, Eddie Bernice Johnson and (shudder….) Hank Johnson (Guam is tipping over), to name a few, wouldn’t get elected. It works for Texas….. At least we would have a chance of having someone in the Office who wants to be their because of their desire to serve instead of making a cushy career out of the job…. Besides we have enough laws already….

  • Shane Ede

    How about the median income of their home state. It creates some unbalanced pay, but it makes them all painfully aware of the differences between their states, as well as ties them to improving things in their state rather than playing along with everyone else.

  • Rob

    I honestly think our problem is less how much members of Congress get paid than the fact that we keep electing the same idiots over and over again.

    • banjo kid

      That has been a head scratcher for me also . Reid in Nevada was a real big one for me I could not understand how they re-elected that ball of fuzz.

      • slackwarerobert

        Can’t you figure out election fraud? Why do you think they wanted electronic ballot machines, much easier to rig than the old fashion way of carrying around a few extra ballot machines and paper ballots.

        • banjo kid

          I know he was elected with fraud it is common knowledge in Ohio alone we have had first hand voting fraud my Daughter had to change it back to Romney three times before it would accept and she still does not know if she voted for Obama or Romney it is so common place I don’t even mention it any more . We sure had better get a handle on it before next vote takes place interim or general .

  • SigFan

    If they were paid as most of us in the private sector are – pay for performance – they would be giving money back at this point.

  • TonyG

    It should be a formula – Something like 3 times the median wage times the labor force participation rate times (1 – 4 times the unemployment rate) times percentage of deficit/surplus spending.
    The aim would be to pay them more when more of the country is working and stop them from making all the jobs low paying ones. The deficit spending thing stops them from trying to put everyone on the government payroll.
    Maybe add something allowing trial lawyers to sue about the accuracy of the statistics with members of congress being personally liable for any damages awarded to stop them screwing with the numbers.
    Chances of this legislation ever passing? Around 0%…

    • slackwarerobert

      And it is taken out of the surplus funds after everything else is paid out in the budget.
      But the only problem with tying it to median income, is they will give all government employees huge raises to skew the numbers. So median income of private sector employees, and that should exclude government contractor salaries as well. We don’t need obamas green jobs skewing the numbers when they are not real jobs.

  • slackwarerobert

    While joking I found the perfect solution. One law that fixes 99.9% of the problem.
    “Shooting your representatives for violating the constitution and their oath is an affirmative defense” It solves everything. Would you vote to kill americans without even a charge of a crime if you can be killed yourself for it? Would you wage a illegal war in libya? Would you allow education to teach how to put on a condom when if they don’t know the powers of the government you could be shot by mistake? They would require you to be able to recite the powers of the federal government in at least 3 languages, forwards and backwards while being water boarded. Even pelosi must have one person in her district that can read.

  • alanstorm

    1. They should be paid zero.

    2. In DC, they should live in dormitories with a cafeteria for their food. Give ‘em each a dorm room to live in, and another one to work in.

    • banjo kid

      Didn’t it used to be a dollar a year?

  • Thomas B.

    It is totally unfair for Congress to decide upon how much they should be paid. That is always decided upon by the employer, in their case the American People.

    Every year in the first Tuesday of April, there should be an National Election with one key issue, on salary of Congress. Three questions should be asked:

    1. Have you been satistified with the preformance of our Congressmen and Sentators?

    2. Are you satistified with the National Economy?

    3. Does your elected Repesentive deserve a raise? (The amount of the raise and any bonus is to be listed.)

    Also the people should decide if Congress shoud receive any benifit package and what type.

    • slackwarerobert

      No, the congress should propose their raise, then it goes out for the vote. But the ballot should have 3 choices. Give them the raise, keep the same, or cut by the amount they wanted for a raise. That way every time they want more money they risk loosing the same amount.
      And only TAX PAYERS can vote on it.

    • banjo kid

      My Grandfather who has been gone for a long long time said when congress finds out they can vote an increase to their pay they will do it and do it right .LOL right ha ha ha , he meant they would raise it where they would have plenty of money and now it is not the pay but the graft that makes them rich.

  • Lynn Bergman

    Net Pay = Current Salary (1 – (Last Years Debt/GDP))

    If Debt/GDP = 0.75 and current salary = $175,000, net pay = $43,750

    When they get Debt/GDP down to 0.25, net pay = $131,250

    When the budget is balanced, net pay = $175,000
    If Debt/GDP = 1.25, they pay us $43,750 and retire

  • The Fighting Czech

    I guarantee you could eliminate their pay and benefits completely, and not one of those Jack wads would quit.
    Para phrasing a quote made by a former politician says it all… The Power, and Opportunity behind those doors (congress) is intoxicating.

    • The Whistler

      Dorganoff managed to sock away millions while while working on a Senators salary.

  • banjo kid

    I really think when they introduce a unconstitutional bill they should be removed from office and not be allowed to seek office again.

  • banjo kid

    How many times does zero go into one?

    • slackwarerobert

      Way to many with that bunch, remember a 5% increase with sequester is a cut to that bunch of bozos.

  • slackwarerobert

    A bullet in the brain at end of 6the term in congress, 2nd term in the senate, and 1st term in the white house.
    That should give them the retirement they earned and deserve.
    Or just pay them out of budget surpluses, then we would see obama, pelosi and reid pass budgets that balance.

  • Rhondayes

    No way should they qualify for a pension. Public service wasn’t designed to pay pensions. This began as good works, not a career. They should have full medical dental coverage while in office, then pay for continuing coverage once they leave office and before securing health care elsewhere. This is not a forever teat.

    Salary should be per diem. They don’t work enough during the year to qualify for annual pay. There should be a maximum pay for these clowns. No funny business of back doors. They have access to insider trading information, which may explain how they enter office regular folk or regular millionaires, but exit office mutli millionaires with contempt for the people.