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Rep. Moran trying again on housing stipend for Congress

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.)  on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 4, 2014.  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

When a House committee recently rejected Rep. Jim Moran’s idea to create a housing stipend for members of Congress, he suggested that he would try again. Now he is.

Moran (D-Va.) is making another attempt to attach his proposal to the annual spending bill covering Congress. He has asked the House Rules Committee to allow the full House to consider his plan when it votes on the bill later this week.

Moran proposes to create a $25 a day stipend, effective next year, which members could choose at their discretion if they maintain a primary residence more than 50 miles from the District. It would apply only to days Congress is in session, which he said would translate this year to about $2,800.

His proposal is a reaction to language in the bill denying a raise for Congress in 2015 for what would be the sixth straight year, seventh in nine years, and 12th of 22. Moran argues that it will be difficult for Congress to get a raise in any year moving forward, even though a 1989 law provides for a raise tied to a labor cost index — unless legislators reject it. Under that formula, their 2015 raise would be 1.6 percent.

He said that a long-term freeze of salaries — most members make $174,000, leaders more — will result in a Congress that increasingly consists only of persons so wealthy that the salary makes little difference to them, even if they have to maintain two residences.

“We need a diversity of perspective in the House. The ability to serve in the Congress should not be limited to those who don’t have to give any thought to paying out-of-pocket living expenses in D.C.,” he said when first proposing his plan to the House Appropriations Committee earlier in April.

The committee rejected his proposal even though several members said they share his concern about the makeup of Congress. Moran, who is retiring after this year, allowed a voice vote so that committee members would not have to go on record on the issue.

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