Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pushing for the first congressional pay raise in a decade, but other Democrats are rejecting it as 'political suicide'

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib listen as Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies before the House Oversight Committee

  • Both Democratic and Republican leadership agree that members of Congress should get a raise.
  • But many swing-district Democrats fear that voting for their own salary increase is politically dangerous, and they've forced Democratic House leadership to remove the plan from a big spending bill this week.
  • Meanwhile, progressive Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are going to bat for the proposal, arguing that both the minimum wage and congressional salaries should be pegged to inflation.
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In a rare instance of bipartisan agreement, both Democratic and Republican leadership think members of Congress should get a raise.

But Democratic leaders were forced to remove the pay hike from a big spending bill Congress is set to vote on this week after a host of swing-district Democrats revolted against the measure. Advertisement

"Nobody wants to vote to give themselves a raise. There's nothing good about that," Rep. Katie Hill, a California Democrat who beat an incumbent Republican in 2018, said during a Monday caucus meeting.

A Democratic strategist told Politico the plan is "political suicide" for vulnerable House Democrats.

But congressional lawmakers haven't gotten a raise in a decade, and their salaries are currently 15% lower than they were 2009 when adjusted for inflation.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter on Tuesday to make her case for a congressional salary hike. The New York progressive, who campaigned on raising the minimum wage, argued that denying lawmakers a raise incentivizes "self-dealing." She pointed to the GOP's massive 2017 tax cuts as an example of "legislative looting" designed to benefit members of Congress and the wealthy.

"Voting against cost of living increases for members of Congress may sound nice, but doing so only increases pressure on them to keep dark money loopholes open," she wrote. "This makes campaign finance reform *harder.*" Ocasio-Cortez and some other progressives are pushing for both the minimum wage and congressional salaries to be pegged to inflation, so that they both keep up with the cost of living. Advertisement

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested members of Congress should get paid more, but a majority of Americans want the complete opposite

Studies have shown that higher pay for government officials can reduce corruption and increase lawmakers' responsiveness to constituents.

But while Ocasio-Cortez may have an academic case to support the salary hike, the political case, as she's conceded, isn't strong. Advertisement

The majority of Americans - 55% - want congressional salaries to be cut, 17% think Congress earns the right amount, and 9% want to increase lawmakers' pay, according to a March INSIDER poll.

Ocasio-Cortez first brought attention to Capitol Hill salaries after the 2018 midterm elections by relating her own financial struggles during the transition period between the election and her swearing-in.

The freshman lawmaker again drew attention to the pay on Capitol Hill by announcing earlier this year that staffers in her office would make at least $52,000, well above average.Advertisement

In a tweet on March 13, Ocasio-Cortez went even further, arguing for an increase in lawmaker pay. Ocasio-Cortez said that "raising staffer pay helps get money out of politics" and that increasing the salaries for members of Congress could do the same.

"Members are paid more than avg - but job reqs 2 residences + we can't take tax deductions for work costs," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "No one wants to be the one to bring up increases, so instead ppl take advantage of insider trading loopholes & don't close them for the extra cash."

Bob Bryan contributed to this report. Advertisement