Congressional Salary and Benefits

Salary and Member Benefits

Salary

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.” Currently, Members’ salary is $174,000 annually.

Senator Heller has never voted to increase his salary as a Member of Congress. In fact, he introduced legislation that requires Members of Congress to pass a concurrent budget resolution and related appropriations bills in order to receive pay. Pay is not awarded retroactively if Congress passes a budget after the deadline has passed.

Throughout its history, Congress has relied on two primary methods in adjusting salaries for Members. Stand-alone legislation, the most frequently used method, was last used to provide increases in 1990 and 1991. This 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. Senator Heller supports changing this unfair system. As servants of the constituents who sent them to Washington, Members of Congress should have to explain to the American people why they deserve a pay raise. Congress must address the housing crisis, increase Americans’ consumer confidence, and balance the budget before it even considers giving itself a pay raise.

From 1975-1989, these annual adjustments were based on the rate of annual comparability increases given to 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 seven times (scheduled for January 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2007, and 2010).

Under a provision in the fiscal year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Members did not receive a pay adjustment in 2010. Members were originally scheduled to receive a pay adjustment in January 2010 of 2.1 percent.

(CRS Report 97-615, Salaries on Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2010, Ida Brudnick.)

Healthcare Benefits

Members of Congress can elect to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and pay the same premiums and copays applicable to their plan as 2.7 million other federal employees do. For an additional fee, Members of Congress can receive healthcare services from the Office of the Attending Physician in the U.S. Capitol. Members may also purchase care from military hospitals using their FEHBP benefit.

Senator Heller believes that Members of Congress should have to live with the same healthcare laws it writes for the American people. In 2009, he offered amendments to the healthcare bills considered by the House Ways and Means Committee and on the House floor that would have required Members of Congress to participate in the government-run healthcare plan they were attempting to create for millions of Americans.

(CRS Report RS21982, Health Benefits for Members of Congress, Barbara English.)

Medicare and Social Seciruty

Contrary to many internet rumors, Members of Congress pay the same payroll taxes as all other workers for Medicare and Social Security.

Retirement

Congressional pensions, like those of other federal employees, are financed through a combination of employee and employer contributions. Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80 percent of his or her final salary. The average annual pension for Members under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) was $36,732 in 2007.

Retired Members can also participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) under the same rules as other federal employees. Members meeting minimum enrollment period requirements who are also eligible for an immediate annuity may continue to participate in the health benefit program when they retire, and must continue paying the premiums and copays associated with their health plan.

(CRS Report RL30631, Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress, Patrick Purcell.)


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