US Congress members: A look at perks and pay

Lawmakers this week decided to put an initiative to raise their pay on hold – amidst opposition in both parties – but they still enjoy six-figure pay and a host of other perks and benefits.

The measure would have raised their salaries by $4,500. Lawmakers have not been given a pay raise since 2009.

New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports the measure, as she says it would prevent some lawmakers from wanting to keep “dark money loopholes open.” She also said everyone should get cost of living increases to account for changes in the U.S. economy.

The current salary for most lawmakers is $174,000. It would be closer to $210,900 had Congress received pay raises annually since 2009, according to data from the Congressional Research Service.

Some lawmakers, however, receive more, including:

Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi): $223,500

President pro tempore of the Senate (Chuck Grassley): $193,400

House Majority Leader (Steny Hoyer): $193,400

House Minority Leader (Kevin McCarthy): $193,400

Senate Majority Leader (Mitch McConnell): $193,400

Senate Minority Leader (Chuck Schumer): $193,400

In addition to six-figure salaries, being elected to office comes with a number of perks and benefits.


Lawmakers have access to both 401(k)-style plans and pensions.

The “Thrift Savings Plan” is a tax-deferred investment, similar to a 401(k) plan.

Lawmakers can take a full pension at the age of 62 if they’ve served for at least five years – and even sooner if they have served longer (age 50 for those who have completed 20 years and any age after 25 years). Amounts vary based on time served and salary, but may not exceed 80 percent of the final salary.

According to Sens. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., Pelosi – who has served for 33 years – would be eligible for a funded pension worth more than $102,000 if she retired in 2019. Those two lawmakers unveiled legislation this year to end taxpayer-funded congressional pensions.

All members also pay into, and are eligible for, Social Security.

Surviving spouses:

Surviving spouses and family of a lawmaker who has died will receive a full year’s worth of salary.

Health care:

According to the Office of Personnel Management, federal employees enjoy the widest selection of health plans in the country.

Certain eligible members can receive health insurance over the course of a lifetime under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, according to Axios.


The Members’ Representational Allowance can be used by representatives for official expenses like staff, travel, mail, office equipment, district office rental, stationery and office supplies. As of 2017, the allowance for personnel was $944,671, while the limit on permanent employees was 18. Office expense allowances varied based on distances between a member’s district and the capitol.

For senators, the average allowance for official personnel and office expense account was nearly $3.5 million.

Each senator is authorized home state office space in federal buildings, as well as furniture in Washington, D.C. and state offices.


Lawmakers also get free, reserved parking at D.C.-area airports, while they can reserve seats on multiple flights – only having to pay for one, according to Bloomberg.


While the District of Columbia prohibits smoking in public places, that law does not apply to “the functions or property of the federal government,” according to The New York Times. That means lawmakers can smoke in their offices – which apparently was a habit of John Boehner.


Vacation time:

While lawmakers are often busy moving back and forth between the Capitol and their districts, they do get every major holiday off, in addition to a number of recesses.