Annual Pay Freeze for Congress? Done!

Many readers have been asking why members of Congress don’t freeze their own annual raises since federal employees are facing a potential pay freeze. It may make some readers feel better to know that Congress has already frozen its pay for FY 2011.

Many readers are understandably upset about the proposed freeze on their pay. One recurring comment we see from readers says something to the effect of “If we have to have our pay frozen, then it is only fair that Congress has its pay frozen as well.”

It may be of some consolation to those making this argument that members of Congress have already frozen their own pay for FY 2011. On May 14, 2010, President Obama signed into law HR 5146 which blocked members of Congress from receiving an automatic pay raise in FY 2011.

So how much is that? It keeps their salaries at $174,000 per year and blocks a $1,600 automatic raise, which would have been approximately a 0.92% increase on the annual total. Under the system in place, Congressional pay automatically increases each year by default unless members vote to block the increase which they have now done for 2 years in a row.

In total annual dollars saved, that works out to $160,000 in the Senate (for 100 members) and in the House it is an annual savings of $696,000 (for 435 members). That makes the freeze a largely symbolic gesture as it won’t go very far in reducing the federal deficit which is currently just shy of $14 trillion, but no doubt lawmakers are hoping the action will help to assuage some of the negative perceptions people have about those in office.

Update: It should be noted that Congress opted out of its automatic raise in 2010 also making this the second year in a row members have voted not to take their automatic pay increase.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.