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?