Congressional Membership has its Privileges | Open The Books Oversight Report 34_Membership_has_its_Benefits_-_2

May 29, 2020 06:30 AM


With public opinion polls consistently showing that up to 83% of the American people view Congress unfavorably, it’s time for change. The American people should insist on bipartisan congressional reforms. The following report highlights areas that deserve a closer look.


1. Salary

Members of Congress earn a $174,000 base salary. The Speaker of the House ($223,500), Majority and Minority Leaders ($193,400), and President Pro Tempore ($193,400) make more.


Outside income is restricted, but members of Congress often received exemptions. We discovered that some members were employed by a federal contractor – reaping billions in taxpayer funds – located in the member’s district while key executives donated five and six figures to the member’s campaign fund.


2. Pension Annuity & Social Security

Members vest in their federal pension in 5 years and can take payments as early as age 50. Members are also eligible for social security. No member of Congress has ever been stripped of their federal pension due to a conviction because the ethics law is riddled with loopholes.


The pension annuity payouts to federal retirees are considered private information and not subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act. It will take an act of Congress to change the law (H.R.2612).


3. Worker’s Compensation

For job related injuries, members are covered under Worker’s Compensation Insurance and Social Security Disability Insurance. Jessie Jackson, Jr. infamously claimed workers comp by successfully arguing that Congress made him mentally ill.


4. Travel Expenditures

Members of Congress spent $21.2 million on 16,367 overseas trips between 2007 and 2018. Republicans spent $11.6 million and Democrats spent $9.6 million during the period.


Last year, the U.S. House spent $4.3 million on overseas travel. France was one of the top destinations listed on the disclosures published in the Congressional Record. One representative took trips to Italy, Morocco, and France costing taxpayers $75,000. Another member spent 9 days in Australia costing $22,400.


5. Perks: Free Parking

The congressional license plates allow members to park illegally; parking is free at Reagan National; flights to and from the district are free and members have a dedicated customer service line to handle reservations.


Other Perquisites

Members receive up to 195 days off per year (out-of-session); 72% subsidized healthcare; and taxpayer subsidized $25 per-month gym membership with sauna, steam room, paddleball, and swimming pool.


6. Office Allotment

Based on population, member office allotments average $1.3 million annually in the House and $3.2 million to $5.1 million per year in the Senate. California U.S. Senators receive over $30 million during their six-year term. 


7. Appropriated Settlement Funds

Members have appropriated a fund to bail themselves out of #MeToo and other troubles. Settlements totaling $17.6 million from 275 cases had an average settlement payout of $64,000 from years 1997 to 2018. 


8. Perks: Elevators & Doormen

Senators have Members Only elevators with doorkeepers who push the buttons. These employees make $45,000 per year. The doorkeeper supervisors make $65,000 and the doorkeeper director earns $95,000.


9. Working Hours

In 2019 and the first two weeks of 2020, the House was in session for only 850 hours and the Senate for 1,003 hours. 


10. Legislation

Congress passed a bi-partisan federal budget $1 trillion in the red. The 2,313 page bill was dropped 24-hours before members voted. No one had time to even read the bill.

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