Imagine a line of work where you get to make rules for your bosses.
Imagine the same job allowing you to vote on raising your own pay while foisting the bill on your bosses.
Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s as true President Joe Biden being under federal investigation, because that job is simply called “being a Democratic member of the House of Representatives.”
As a parting gift to themselves before Republicans could fully commandeer the majority, Democratic House members changed a rule “allowing them to be reimbursed for the cost of lodging, food and travel while they are on official business in Washington,” The New York Times reported.
According to the Times, this “little-noticed rule change” was “made quietly” by the Democrats in the waning days of their majority rule.
“The provision, tucked into internal rules that typically receive little attention from the public and without any open debate on Capitol Hill, could amount to a subsidy of about $34,000 per member this year, according to an estimate based on current government reimbursement rates,” the outlet reported.
Must be nice to spontaneously decide that you deserve a $34,000 bonus.
It is worth noting that, as Bloomberg reported, the specifics of this reimbursement program are “still being hammered out.”
A report from the Congressional Research Service shows that members of Congress had their salaries adjusted to $174,000 in 2009, and that is the typical salary for most senators, representatives and delegates. Some members are paid more, such as the speaker of the House ($223,500) and the majority/minority leaders ($193,400).
Either way, a $34,000 “reimbursement” is akin to a tidy 19.5 percent pay raise for your standard senators and reps.
While the move will also benefit GOP members, not all Republicans were thrilled with the pay bump.
“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,” former Rep. Mo Brooks said. “That’s my biggest beef, that it was a clandestine secret.”
The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress first proposed this reimbursement and performed some curious mental gymnastics as to why sitting members of Congress need it despite making more than triple what the average American made in 2022.
According to Bloomberg, the committee contends that this reimbursement strategy is necessary because House members have to maintain residences (and thus pay the cost of living) in both Washington, D.C., and their home states.
“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 committee wrote in a report.
And look. That might be reason enough to justify this, but it makes for ridiculously poor optics, particularly in today’s harsh economy. But when have politicians ever let poor optics stop them before?
However, even if you remove all forms of cynicism and accept that Congress had no choice but to implement this policy, it still very much feels like a Band-Aid on a gaping, festering wound.
The pay raise (or reimbursement, or whatever you want to call it) may help alleviate the “what” of the issue, but it doesn’t actually fix the “why” of the issue, which involves the exorbitant cost of living in America.
That is a can of worms unto itself, but it’s really the heart of the matter. It simply shouldn’t be the case that someone who lives in one state but works long hours in another needs to make over $200,000 a year to make ends meet.
And leave it to the Democrats to just throw money at the problem rather than address the core issues at hand.
Maybe that’s why Democrats genuinely don’t seem to care about the fiscal state of the country. They’re confident they can just throw some money around and call it a day.
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