House staffers will now be eligible to earn higher salaries than their elected member in a move by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to help retain top talent in the U.S. House of Representatives, where salary discrepancies are notoriously horrible thanks to a pay freeze that has been in effect since 2009.
The move will increase the maximum pay rate for staffers by 15 percent, from $173,900 to $199,300 annually.
“This order will help the Congress recruit and retain the outstanding and diverse talent that we need, as it also helps ensure parity between employees of the House of Representatives and other employees of the federal government,” Pelosi wrote on Thursday in a letter to her House colleagues.
For years, staffers running the gamut from junior roles to Chiefs of Staff have been poached from their respective offices and grueling work on the Hill to go work in more enticing roles that offer a much more lucrative salary in lobbying firms or the administration.
Under the new rules however, senior staffers could make more than their boss whose salary is capped at $174,000. The new cap on staff salaries will not mean an automatic raise for all staffers, but it will give members of Congress the option to do so.
While most Americans are familiar with the face of some of the more outspoken representatives, few may realize that it’s the staffers behind the scenes who keep the trains running on time, so to speak.
Unfortunately, the discrepancies still remain about five-fold between entry level and senior roles according to Legistorm. House chiefs of staff receive a median wage of $152,100, but communication specialists average $32,400, according to their congressional salary data.
For reference, cost of living in Washington, D.C. comes in at about $50,000 per year— 39 percent higher than the national average.
In addition, female wages continue to lag behind their male counterparts according to a recent Fox News analysis.
Right now, members are allocated about $1.5 million each year for operational expenses including paying staff salaries, rent for district offices, travel and utility bills.
In July, the House voted to pass a legislative appropriations bill that would increase the annual operational allowance members’ offices receive by $134 million overall, to reach $774 million. The bill also includes $18.2 million for intern pay in lawmaker and House committee offices. The Senate must greenlight the bill first to afford members of Congress more money to allocate for staff.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has been a longtime advocate for raising the pay for staffers and resuming cost-of-living adjustments for House members. He claims the move would halt the exodus of low-paid staffers on the Hill and reduce the draw for top talent to leave for lobbying firms, according to The Hill.
However, in a more controversial move, Hoyer also wants to ensure elected members of Congress don’t need to come from independent wealth to own a home in both D.C. and their home district, as reported by The Hill. In D.C., the median sale price of a home exceeds $1 million, a whopper of a number considering the median home price in America is $284,000. Affording elected members of Congress that kind of money solely for themselves seems a little lush.
Hoyer has also proposed offering other lucrative benefits to staffers of congressional offices including student loan repayment, child care, adoption, and fertility services.
I will keep calling for additional studies of how improved staff benefits – including student loan repayment, child care, adoption, & fertility services, among others – will improve staff retention & ensure Congressional staff reflect the diversity of the country they represent.
— Steny Hoyer (@LeaderHoyer) August 12, 2021
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