House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) privately negotiated a deal with Republican House leaders to allow for a $4,500 cost-of-living increase to go into effect next year. Because there’s always bound to be some backlash when Congress gives itself a raise, bipartisan support was essential, but — no surprise — it didn’t last long. There was a storm of Twitter criticism, freshman Democrats running for reelection in tough districts became skittish, and — as though to prove their worries were well-placed — the campaign arm of House Republicans sent out an email attacking “socialist elites” in the Democratic Party for wanting higher pay.
Mr. Hoyer pulled back the plan, but he has hopes of reviving it later this year. While the optics may not be on his side, the arguments are. Limits on lawmakers’ pay affect congressional staffers who are not allowed to make more than members, which, in turn, puts Congress at a clear disadvantage in competing for talent. Others who support a raise, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), point to the effects of pay and financial pressures on those who serve. “I do not want Congress, at the end of the day,” said Mr. McCarthy, “to be a place where only millionaires serve.”