Outgoing Dems sneaked in ‘clandestine’ rule change effectively giving House members a $34K pay raise

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[sharenow]

Outgoing House Democrats quietly approved a rules change that effectively gives lawmakers in the lower chamber a significant pay raise in the form of reimbursement for their expenses, one of the party’s final acts before they were forced to cede control to the new GOP majority, leaving taxpayers footing the bill.

According to a New York Times report, the new rule which was proposed by the House Administration Committee was approved with no debate during the waning days of Nancy Pelosi’s reign, being concealed inside of internal rules that ensured that it would receive little attention rather than in a spending bill that would have been debated on the House floor.

Under the new rule, members could receive up to $34,000 in additional income by allowing them to receive reimbursement for food, lodging and travel expenses while they are in Washington, D.C. on official business, the first cost-of-living hike in over a decade with lawmakers wary of risking public wrath in the form of a backlash for giving themselves a pay raise.

The annual salary for members of Congress is $174,000, an amount that some Democrats including socialist firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have griped isn’t enough to live comfortably in the nation’s capital, one of the most expensive areas in the country, without the benefit of annual cost-of-living increases which Congress has opted not to accept since 2010.

“Ppl rag on Congress’ salary &it’s easy to score political points on it, but many don’t know it requires paying 2 rents, can’t deduct work costs, etc,” AOC whined in a December 2021 tweet. “Result is grand gestures to tout that they/staff aren’t getting COLA adjustments, but then trading stock to make up for it -worse!”

The committee which was headed up by impeachment veteran and January 6 committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) was approved on December 30, 2022, with no opposition from members of the panel, coming as Pelosi also raised the maximum pay for House staffers to $212,000, the third such raise during her tenure, in one of her final acts as Speaker of the House.

Congressional expenses are capped at a per diem rate set by the General Services Administration (GSA) with the daily lodging rates set at between $190 and $260, depending on the time of year. Food per diem is currently set at $79 per day which would allow lawmakers to take in up to around $340 each day under the new rule.

In its final report released in December, The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress recommended upping the reimbursement, saying that it was justified because it would increase the size of the pool of people who could afford to serve in Washington.

“Unlike their counterparts in the executive branch and private sector, members do not receive a per diem or reimbursement for their out-of-pocket living expenses when they are at work in Washington,” the report stated.

Some Republicans were quick to criticize the rule, specifically the secretive process used by Lofgren and Democrats to sneakily approve the bump in compensation under the public radar.

“You can have a good public policy debate on whether congressmen should be paid more in order to attract a better bunch, and you could have a reasonable debate on inflation adjustments, but it really ought to be done in public,” said former Alabama congressman Mo Brooks. “That’s my biggest beef, that it was a clandestine secret.”

In another new rule, smoking will now be allowed in the Capitol building under the new GOP majority with lawmakers being permitted to light up between votes even though smoking is banned indoors in Washington, D.C., as JP congressional correspondent Patricia Zengerle noted on Twitter.

The smell of cigar smoke wafting through the halls, especially outside of the  House Rules Committee where Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma has enjoyed puffing on a stogie has drawn howls of protest from Democrats who didn’t express similar outrage over the secretive process to give lawmakers a backdoor raise.

Republished with permission from American Wire News Service

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Chris Donaldson
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