FACT CHECK: Have Congressional Salaries Gone Up 231% In The Past 30 Years?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims that congressional salaries have increased 231 percent in the past 30 years.

Verdict: False

Congressional salaries have risen roughly 94 percent in the past 30 years.

Fact Check:

“Over the past 30 years, congressional salaries have gone up 231 percent while 80 percent of Americans haven’t even been able to keep up with the cost of living,” reads the caption. “Now Congress is saying they need a $4,500 raise… For doing WHAT???”

Though its claim that 80 percent of Americans are struggling to keep up with the cost of living appears to be correct, according to a CareerBuilder report, the Facebook post exaggerates how much congressional salaries have increased.

Non-ranking members of the House and Senate currently make $174,000 per year, according to a Congressional Research Service report. (Ranking members earn higher salaries: House Speaker receives $223,500, Senate president pro tempore receives $193,400 and majority and minority leaders in both chambers receive $193,400.)

Prior to 1989, Congress had to enact legislation to increase these salaries. That ended after Congress passed a law authorizing the automatic yearly adjustments they have received since then. (RELATED: Do These Images Show Members Of Congress Sleeping On The Job?)

These adjustments are based on changes in private sector wages. Congressional salaries go up if there is a measurable increase in the Employment Cost Index year over year, unless the adjustment is statutorily denied. Congress hasn’t seen a salary increase since 2009, when they first instituted the pay freeze.

Since 1989, the salaries of non-ranking members have increased roughly 94 percent from $89,500 to the current $174,000. When adjusted for inflation, however, they’ve actually gone down in that 30-year period.

That isn’t to say members of Congress haven’t pushed for raising their own salaries in the past 10 years. Some legislators, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, advocated for lifting the pay freeze in June.

Under the law authorizing the automatic adjustments, non-ranking members would see a 2.6 percent — or $4,500 — salary increase if the pay freeze was lifted, though the effort to do so has since stalled.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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