Paul Kane at WP:

It’s been 15 years since members of the House and Senate allowed their federally mandated cost-of-living adjustment (often referred to as COLA) to take effect. Since then, their pay has been set at $174,000. Out of political fear from voters in both their primary and general elections, lawmakers have repeatedly inserted language into government funding bills that prohibits their COLA from taking effect, as happened again late Thursday night in the House Appropriations Committee. The net result has been a drastic pay cut — at least in terms of buying power — to members over the last 15 years, particularly given the rapid inflation of the last three years and the soaring cost of living in Washington. This has sent many lawmakers toward retirement exits over the last decade as they grow frustrated with the dysfunction inside the Capitol and reap much higher wages in the private sector’s influence industry. With no end in sight, House leaders tried to create a partial remedy to the problem at the end of 2022 by allowing lawmakers to be reimbursed for lodging and meal expenses while on official business in Washington. This well-intended program, meant to resemble the type of per-diem programs used by most state legislatures, went off the rails in implementation. It failed to set up enough structure and does not even require members to file receipts for their expenses. As The Washington Post’s Jacqueline Alemany, Clara Ence Morse and Liz Goodwin reported, more than 300 lawmakers tapped into the funds, including three who collected more than $40,000 worth of benefits. Some now face questions about whether they received inappropriate payments.