GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy: Give members of Congress a raise. $174,000 is hard to live on
Members of Congress currently earn $174,000 a year — more than two-and-a-half times the median household income in the United States.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) says that's not enough for members of Congress to live on and that it's been too long since their last pay increase.
"It's been more than a decade," McCarthy complained to NBC News in a Thursday report. "I've got members who are leaving over this."
But McCarthy doesn't have the same sympathy for other Americans who haven't received pay raises in a decade.
For example, the federal minimum wage has stood at $7.25 an hour since July 2009, almost a full 10 years ago. That means the annual earnings for a full-time, minimum-wage worker are just $15,080, according to a report from the University of California Davis — nearly 12 times less than a member of Congress' salary.
But McCarthy has condemned any Democratic efforts to increase the federal minimum wage.
Back in 2013, when then-President Barack Obama called for the federal minimum wage to rise to $9 an hour, McCarthy said that the modest wage bump would "take away from the economy."
This is not the first time a Republican member of Congress has made a tone-deaf complaint about member salaries.
In March 2011, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) lamented to a constituent that he could only drive a "used minivan" on his $174,000 salary.
Also back in 2011, now-former Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) said the $174,000 salary was "not so much."
In 2017, now-former GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah wanted members of Congress to receive a $30,000 stipend to pay rent in Washington, D.C. in order for members to "have at least a decent quality of life in Washington." Chaffetz ultimately resigned from his seat and took a job as a Fox News contributor, where he gets paid handsomely to spew Republican conspiracy theories.
Some Democrats are on board with an increase to congressional salaries, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
Hoyer stressed that the cost of living increases are not just for members of Congress, but also congressional staffers — who make far less money, and who also haven't seen cost of living increases in a decade.
"Congressional salaries should not limit those who can serve their country, either as a member of Congress or as congressional staff," Hoyer told NBC News. "After 10 consecutive years of pay freezes, staff from diverse backgrounds are increasingly shut out, leading Congress to lose bright, dedicated staffers who would like to continue in public service but have difficulty making ends meet."
Hoyer also supports increasing the minimum wage, while McCarthy does not.
Ultimately, there are good reasons to increase congressional salaries, including attracting a more diverse array of staffers and members.
But it's hypocritical for GOP members like McCarthy to complain about the pay for members of Congress while at the same time fighting any efforts to boost wages for impoverished and middle-class Americans.
Published with permission of The American Independent. Attribution: Emily Singer.