North Carolina Representative Partick McHenry argues that a salary increase would attract “more credible” people to Congress. Other representatives, notably progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, agreed, but many accused McHenry of hypocrisy for voting against raises in the minimum wage.
Both House and Senate members are paid $174,000 a year. According to the U.S. Census, that’s nearly $100,000 higher than the median household income of 2022, which was $74,580. Congress members can also access medical benefits that most Americans do not, among other perks.
Inflation is eating away at their salaries
However, members of Congress have yet to get a raise since 2009. If their salaries had kept up with inflation, they would now be paid over $250,000. Adding to their expenses is that most of the lawmakers maintain two residences—one in their home state and another in Washington, D.C.
McHenry gives his take
Representative Patrick McHenry, a mild-mannered North Carolina Republican who served as interim House speaker following Kevin McCarthy’s removal, told The Dispatch that congressional salaries needed to be raised to attract “credible people to run for office.”
Wealthiest attracting attention
“Most of us live on the salary,” said McHenry. “And then, you know, the very wealthy few end up dominating the news because of their personal stock trades when most of us don’t have wealth.”
Why do they get paid more?
Alluding to the higher salaries enjoyed by the U.S. president and the Supreme Court’s justices, McHenry added, “You can’t have the executive branch and the judicial branch on a higher pay scale than Congress. That is absurd and really stupid for Congress to disadvantage themselves in this game of checks and balances.”
Many members of Congress are independently wealthy, and generating significant income from stock trading is commonplace. Many others make money through book sales.
AOC agrees with McHenry
McHenry is the latest to argue for a pay raise for members of Congress. New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has long pushed for members of Congress to receive a pay raise, arguing it would safeguard against corruption and decrease the likelihood of lawmakers seeking income through stock trading.
MTG losing out on income
Far-right Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has lamented, “I’ve lost money since I’ve gotten here.”
Cries of hypocrisy
But McHenry’s remarks had a mixed reaction. While some agreed with his arguments, others pointed out that his stance was hypocritical, given his prior vote against increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.
If you think you have it bad…
Podcaster Brittany Page was unimpressed by McHenry’s comments, writing on X, “Retiring Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry wants a higher salary for his buddies in Congress but voted against raising the federal minimum wage. If you feel your salary hasn’t kept up with inflation, imagine how poor and working-class Americans feel, sweetie.”
McHenry argues pay raises hurt disabled workers
McHenry also spoke out against raising the minimum wage in 2007 from $5.15 to $7.25, dismissing it as a “very nice idea” that was impractical because it would make it harder for “the physically, emotionally and mentally handicapped” to secure jobs.
No magic money tree
“What the Democrat majority wants to do…is use other people’s money to pay other people,” McHenry commented at the time when the GOP was the minority in the House. “Well, that is a very nice thing to do, a nice offer, a very nice thing, to write a check for somebody else.” But McHenry insisted, “It is just empty rhetoric and crazy talk.”
But the idea of hiking pay for Congress is unpopular with Americans. McHenry acknowledged that, accepting that the “public view is that Congress is not getting much done.” By numerous metrics, this Congress has been the least productive in decades.