Last Wednesday, those of us on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s press list received an email with a far-from-out-of-the-ordinary subject line: “socialist Dems: where’s my pay raise?”
The press release was from NRCC National Press Secretary Michael McAdams and railed against the “socialist Democrats” who have done “a whole lot of nothing” over the last six months while holding the majority in the House. McAdams dragged Democrats for what he described as their plans to give themselves “a $4,500 pay raise” as “a reward for their incompetence.”
“Apparently making $174,000 a year, which is more than three times the average American’s salary, just isn’t enough for these socialist elitists,” McAdams said.
While the dig at congressional Democrats took the standard form for a NRCC email blast, there was one glaring problem with McAdams’ complaint: Democrats weren’t the only ones gunning for a salary increase.
The effort to give lawmakers a $4,500 raise was, while still behind the scenes, a bipartisan endeavor.
According to Politico Playbook, last Tuesday House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) to privately discuss the likelihood of tying a cost of living raise to an upcoming spending bill.
Lawmakers’ $174,000 salary had not been increased in a full decade and Republicans were concerned that members of Congress would continue leaving the gig for the kind of lucrative jobs available to former members of Congress. The House speaker makes $223,500 and the majority and minority leaders in each branch, as well as the president pro tempore, each earn $193,400 a year.
Lawmakers also believe that the salary could discourage average Americans from running for office. The private meeting Tuesday reportedly “went well,” in Playbook’s words and both sides were working toward a bipartisan deal, with the caveat that if an agreement were made, neither side would snipe at the other over the decision.
But less than a day later, Republicans’ national fundraising arm sent out the email disparaging Democrats over the potential salary increase and later made a statement that widened the void between the NRCC’s stance and Republican leadership.
“With the exception of making anti-Semitism and socialism a cornerstone of their party’s platform and trying to fleece taxpayers to pay for their political campaigns, the socialist Democrats have accomplished precisely nothing since taking over the chamber. Perhaps they should actually do something – anything – to justify their paycheck. That’s the point of our release,” NRCC’s Chris Pack told Politico Playbook.
It took a week for Democrats to cave to pressure from vulnerable members of their caucus.
On Monday evening, Democratic leadership reportedly agreed to nix the raise provision from the spending bill it intends to vote on this week after red state Democrats, particularly freshmen, raised alarm about the optics. Democrats representing particularly Republican districts back home expressed public concern that the move would harm their reelection chances and some even drafted amendments to cut the proposal from the spending bill.
While Hoyer tentatively told Politico that he thinks the raise will be cut from the bill, some members of the caucus are still pushing for the cost of living raise. In a tweet, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) argued that while raises for members of Congress may be unpopular, “what this does is punish members who rely on a straight salary, and reward those who rely on money loopholes and other forms of self-dealing.”
What this does is punish members who rely on a straight salary, and reward those who rely on money loopholes and other forms of self-dealing.
For example, it incentivizes the horrible kinds of legislative looting we saw in the GOP tax scam bill.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 11, 2019