Members of Congress underpaid? One of them proposes an increase in housing stipend

April 9, 2014

Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.), in his Capitol Hill office. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

A week after complaining that members of Congress are underpaid, Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) unveiled a proposal Wednesday that would allow lawmakers to collect a voluntary housing stipend while in Washington.

Moran last week bemoaned that the soaring costs of living and working in the District are not being matched by pay raises for lawmakers. Congress hasn't approved itself a pay raise in five years.

In response to an uproar about his comments, Moran's proposal, unveiled Wednesday, appeared to couch his concerns about compensation.

Any lawmaker whose primary residence is more than 50 miles from the U.S. Capitol would be eligible for a voluntary $25 per day housing stipend when Congress is in session. With Congress scheduled to be in session 112 days this year, Moran said the stipend would amount to $2,800, roughly the equivalent of a proposed cost of living adjustment already rejected by lawmakers.

Moran said in a statement that his proposal would in affect serve as an annual cost of living adjustment "to reflect the challenges of maintaining a second home in the 5th most expensive real estate market in the country."

"The House is supposed to reflect the people of this country," he said. "Don’t we want it to make financial sense for a 30-something physician, district attorney, city council member or small-business owner, who maybe has a new home mortgage, young children, or unpaid student loan debt, to serve in Congress? Federal elected office shouldn’t be limited just to those who are financially independent and do not have to give thought to paying out-of-pocket for living expenses while in D.C. We’re in the 5th year of a COLA freeze for Members’ pay. This reform would at least offer some relief from the cost of renting a second residence in the Washington Metropolitan area.”

Moran, who represents most of Arlington and Alexandria in Northern Virginia, noted that he would not be eligible for any of the increases because he is retiring after this year and lives only a few miles from Capitol Hill.

My colleague Eric Yoder has more on this over at Federal Eye.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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