by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
House lawmakers have begun examining ways to help make the chamber run more efficiently, and the top recommendations call for raising the pay of lawmakers and allowing long-vilified earmarks to be included once again in spending bills.
In a modernization hearing held recently, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called reviving earmarks, “putting members back in the driver’s seat on funding decisions.”
Pay raises, Hoyer said, are also badly needed to ensure Congress can attract a more diverse array of House candidates and not just those who are more affluent.
“The cost of rent, child care, and other necessities has risen substantially in Washington and across the country in recent years, but member and staff pay and benefits have not kept pace with the private sector,” Hoyer said.
House lawmakers earn an annual salary of $174,000, a figure that hasn’t budged in a decade.
Earmarks have been gone for nearly as long. They were banished in 2011 under Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who despised the practice. The Senate soon followed the House.
But lawmakers in both parties have, in recent years, been clamoring for more control over how federal dollars are directed to their own districts, particularly for infrastructure and waterway projects.