AOC still thinks $174,000 isn't enough money for members of Congress: 'I know it's kind of a contrarian position'

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AOC still thinks $174,000 isn't enough money for members of Congress: 'I know it's kind of a contrarian position'
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York at a hearing on Capitol Hill on July 19, 2023.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images
  • Members of Congress make $174,000 a year — but they haven't gotten a raise since 2009.
  • That's despite 15 years of inflation since then.
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Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has long been vocal about the need for members of Congress to get a pay bump.

As it turns out, Rep. Patrick McHenry — the North Carolina Republican who briefly served as interim speaker of the House in October — agrees with her, recently telling The Dispatch that congressional pay needs to be raised to attract "credible people to run for office."

"I've been saying this for some time," Ocasio-Cortez told BI this week. "I think he's right. I know it's kind of a contrarian position."

The New York congresswoman has argued that a raise is needed both for anticorruption reasons, and to allow a broader group of Americans to seek public office.

A disproportionate share of lawmakers are millionaires — and some many times over.

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"If we want working class people who don't rely on independent wealth, to represent people in Congress, we have to make it work," said Ocasio-Cortez, pointing to the need for members of Congress to maintain a residence in both Washington and their home districts.

But she also made clear that she's not just looking out for herself.

"We need to raise the minimum wage, we need to make childcare financially viable, and we need to do that for every American," she said. "We also need to do it in the House."

Since 2009, rank-and-file members of the House and Senate have been paid a $174,000 annual salary, and Congress has blocked cost-of-living adjustments every year since then.

While that's more than 80% of American households make in a year, experts have argued that lawmakers remain underpaid, given both the importance and the unique demands of their job.

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If lawmakers' salaries had kept pace with inflation, they would make over $250,000 now.

Yet polling suggests that the public largely opposes a raise for members of Congress, and plenty of lawmakers — including progressives — argue against it.

"People who make great contributions to America don't do it for the money," Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California told BI this week. "I think we can attract talent without the finances."

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