Like many other federal employees, members of the Congress are entitled to receive salaries and other benefits as provided for by the Constitution of the US. Benjamin Franklin is remembered for suggesting that members of Congress not be rewarded for their services, a proposal that was turned down by other founding fathers of the nation. Between 1789 and 1855 members of Congress were paid $6 per diem. The payment of salaries and benefits on an annual basis was adopted in 1855 when members received a yearly salary of $3,000.
The annual salary of rank-and-file members stands at $0.174 million, while that of the majority and minority leaders stands at $0.193 million. The Speaker of the House receives the highest base annual salary, standing at $223,500. The annual salaries are subject to adjustments, which if approved, is effective from January 1st of the following year. Salary adjustments can be made in Congress by members through stand-alone legislation. However, Congress has the power to reject salary increases, which it does through passing a joint resolution by voting against it. Congress has voted against salary adjustments each year since 2009.
Each member of the Congress is provided with an annual allowance which is intended to cover the expenses that the member incurs while discharging their congressional duties. Some of the expenses covered by the allowance include office expenses and travel. The annual allowance that a member of Congress receives to offset staff expenses is $0.9 million while travel and office expenses have a $0.25 million annual budget for each member. Flights that the members make are funded by taxpayers, as long as the flights are for official duties.
The benefits of members of the Congress go beyond the period they serve in Congress since they receive the pension after retiring from service through the Federal Employees’ Retirement Scheme (FERS). The FERS was established in 1984, and the program covers all members. The federal retirement program is funded partly by the public through taxes, and partly through the contributions of the federal employees. As a result, each member of Congress is required to direct 1.3% of their salary to the Federal Employees’ Retirement Scheme, while 6.2% of the salary is deducted as Social Security taxes. To qualify, members of Congress are required to be at least 62 years old and have completed at least five years of service. However, members who have served for 25 years in Congress qualify to receive pension regardless of their age, and those who have completed 20 years of service qualify for the pension at the age of 50 years.
Health Insurance and Death Benefits
If a member of Congress dies in service, the family of that member is entitled to receive death benefits. These benefits should be the equivalent of at least one-year’s salary of the member, translating to about $174,000 in 2018. After the adoption of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all members of Congress are required to pay for health insurance to cater for their health coverage.