Salary Cap Raised for Capitol Hill Staffers

August 12, 2021 by Dan McCue
(Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — In a move she says is intended to attract the “best talent in America” to Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday raised the salary cap for House staffers to $199,300, up from the maximum $173,900 some are currently earning.

Staff salaries have been morabund for more than a decade as a result of a congressional pay freeze that has been in place since 2009.

According to many, that’s made it nearly impossible for lawmakers to retain experienced staffers, who often depart for more lucrative positions with lobbying firms or other employers.

In announcing the new policy, Pelosi said raising the maximum annual pay for staff “will help the Congress recruit and retain the outstanding and diverse talent that we need, as it also helps ensure parity between employees of the House of Representatives and other employees of the Federal Government. 

“The decision to raise the maximum annual rate of pay was recommended by the chair of the Committee on House Administration Zoe Lofgren. Furthermore, it builds on the work of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which under Chairman Derek Kilmer, has carefully reviewed and held hearings on this issue and related matters,” Pelosi said. 

In fact, updating and improving staff benefits to increase retention was among the recent recommendations released last month by the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

“As speaker, I have been proud to take steps to ensure a diversity of experience and talent among staff, so that the halls of Congress, at every level, truly reflect those who we are honored to serve,” Pelosi said.

“This important action follows steps taken over the last two Congress to make the House more inclusive, open, and representative of the full range of voices and values of our communities,” she said.

On paper, at least. Pelosi’s order means some top staffers on the Hill could potentially earn more than the members they serve.

Rank-and-file members of Congress currently earn $174,000 annually. The House Speaker earns $223,500, while the majority and minority leaders in both chambers earn $193,400. 

In a separate statement, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., welcomed the speaker’s decision to de-link member and Congressional staff pay.

“For years, I have called for this policy change that will give members the ability to pay their employee’s salaries commensurate with their experience, and ensure positions in public service are able to compete with the private sector for specialized and talented staff,” Hoyer said. 

“Empowering Congressional staff through increased pay and improved benefits will allow our body to better serve the American people with diverse and talented employees, both on Capitol Hill and in district offices, who have the institutional knowledge and understanding of Congressional processes.

“I am grateful to Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Chair Zoe Lofgren for their partnership in the effort to include increased staff pay in the House-passed appropriations legislation, as well as to Modernization Committee Chair Derek Kilmer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for their consistent advocacy for Congressional staff pay increases,” he continued.

He also said he “will keep calling for additional studies of how improved staff benefits – including student loan repayment, child care, adoption, and fertility services, among others – will improve staff retention and ensure Congressional staff reflect the diversity of the country they represent.”

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