Outgoing Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, recently issued a new directive raising the minimum rate lawmakers can pay Congressional staff to $212,100 per year — $38,000 more than members of Congress make.
The move comes after Pelosi had previously issued a directive earlier in the year raising the maximum amount staffers can earn from $199,300 to $203,700. At that time, Speaker Pelosi put a minimum salary of $45,000 for House staff. Pelosi’s move was seen as breaking precedent because, for decades, no official rules in the House governed staffer pay. House offices were free to negotiate staff pay individually.
Speaker Pelosi is set to hand over her Speaker’s gavel when the new Republican-led Congress takes office on Tuesday. The move will help Congress retain staff who may otherwise be lured by employment in the private sector.
“As you know, our hard-working, patriotic congressional staffers are integral to the functioning of the House of Representatives,” said Pelosi, who represents California. “To that end, we must do all we can to retain and recruit the best talent in our nation — and to build a congressional workforce that reflects the communities we are honored to serve.”
The newly-issued salary cap means senior staffers can make more annually than the lawmakers. Both Senate and House lawmakers are paid $174,000 per year. Leader Pelosi said the pay hike would bring the maximum salary available for staffers in the House in line with staff members in the Biden administration.
According to a report from the advocacy group Issue One, there was a wide discrepancy between offices prior to the directive changing the new minimum pay rule. The group found that in many offices, particularly those run by progressive Democrats, have a wide range of pay scales, with some interns making as little as $15 per hour. In other offices, junior staffers are paid under $30,000 per year.
Altogether, Issue One found that one out of eight congressional offices weren’t paying wages comparable to the cost of living in Washington, D.C. The group’s report estimated that roughly 1,200 congressional staffers make less than $42,610 annually.
Pelosi’s move raises eyebrows
Pelosi’s move may have raised some eyebrows for two different reasons. The move is the second time the Speaker has authorized a significant pay increase for senior House staffers since May, and the maximum rate of pay for a member of the Senate or House has remained static since 2009.
No official House rules govern to pay for staffers within the minimum-maximum parameters. Because of no rules, House officers are free to negotiate pay for staff on a case-by-case basis.
Speaker Pelosi did not mention that higher salaries could directly result from the high inflation plaguing the nation under President Joe Biden’s tenure in office. The national figure has been at 7% or higher each month this calendar year, according to TradingEconomics.com.
Issue One revealed that 1 out of 8 congressional offices needed to pay wages in proportion to the high cost of living in and around Washington, D.C. According to reports, the minimum salary for entry-level staffers in the House is $45,000.