After four years without a salary increase, members of Congress in the fall of 1997 quietly gave themselves a pay raise.
The 2.3 percent hike amounts to about $3,000 a year, bringing rank-and-file salaries to $136,673. Leaders of both parties get considerably more; House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), for instance, will make $175,445.
Some things in Congress get done in the open, but not this. Tucked into a large appropriations bill, the raise was hastily pushed through the House by the leadership, then was quietly passed by a House-Senate conference committee.
Will the 1997 pay raise return to haunt members of Congress during the next election? Pay raises have long been unpopular with the electorate. One sore point is that members are allowed to raise their own pay. (Few other people have that ability.) Another issue is whether they deserve such high salaries in the first place.
Some people argue that it's wrong for them to make so much more than most of the people they govern. (The median U.S. family income is about $36,000.) Others, however, say that the salary should be commensurate with the responsibility and the extra travel and living expenses members must pay themselves.
This special report includes key stories from The Washington Post on the latest pay raise and on previous actions, including the ban on honoraria. For more perspective, read a selection of opinions and editorials and see our votes and numbers section for a chart showing congressional pay over time and for a roll call of who voted in favor of the bill containing the raise provisions.
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