House staffers are abuzz with the news that the chamber is lifting a salary cap for top employees that forced high-ranking and expert aides to accept salaries below those of members, which have been frozen for more than a decade. Under the new policy, first reported by Heather yesterday, the salary cap for House staffers will be $199,300, up from the maximum salary of $173,900 in 2020. Raising the cap means some top staffers will be in the (potentially awkward) position of earning more money than their bosses. Rank-and-file members of Congress earn $174,000 annually, but some in leadership have higher salaries. The speaker earns $223,500, while the majority and minority leaders earn $193,400. Helpful CRS report on salaries: https://bit.ly/3m0y4Og
This is a big win for the House Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which recommended the decoupling of staff salaries from member pay during the 116th Congress, and for Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who long advocated for the uncoupling of staff and member pay. The upside, for advocates on and off the Hill, is a potential solution to a multifaceted revolving-door and pipeline problem: Senior policy aides with years of expertise in Congress often leave to take private-sector or executive branch jobs because of significant pay bumps. Recruiting top talent from off the Hill or outside of Washington usually means asking experts to take massive pay cuts. Meanwhile, many entry- and mid-level staff can’t afford to stay on the Hill to build expertise and opt to leave. “Lifting the political staff pay ceiling and increasing funding for staff overall are two crucial steps taken by the House this Congress to ensure capable staff can afford to stay on the Hill,” Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, told Huddle.
But there’s a problem: The top staffer salaries, even before the increase, were more than four times what some entry-level colleagues make. With salaries coming from a finite pool of a lawmakers’ office operations money — known as the Members’ Representational Allowance — it’s not yet clear whether the gains will trickle down to mid- and entry-level staffers in member offices.
Kylie Carpenter, a Democratic aide for the House Administration Committee, urged fellow senior staff to lift all boats: “We need to make sure entry level staff see these funds as well,” she tweeted. “Nobody should have to work 60+ hour work weeks at $30k. Especially nobody working for Congress.”