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Congress members didn’t boost own salaries in March 2022

March 14, 2022 GMT
Sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. On Monday, March 14, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts falsely claiming Congress gave itself a 21% salary raise with a recent bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. On Monday, March 14, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts falsely claiming Congress gave itself a 21% salary raise with a recent bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. On Monday, March 14, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts falsely claiming Congress gave itself a 21% salary raise with a recent bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. On Monday, March 14, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts falsely claiming Congress gave itself a 21% salary raise with a recent bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. On Monday, March 14, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts falsely claiming Congress gave itself a 21% salary raise with a recent bill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

CLAIM: Members of Congress gave themselves a 21% pay raise in early March.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Social media users are misrepresenting a government spending bill that increased funding for legislative office budgets, not lawmakers’ salaries. Members of Congress use these budgets to hire and pay staff, and to manage other official expenses. Annual salaries for members of the House and Senate will remain the same this year, as they have since 2009.

THE FACTS: Congress last week passed a bipartisan $1.5 trillion government spending bill, financing federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year and providing $13.6 billion to help Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.

After President Joe Biden signed the 2,700-page bill into law on Friday, many social media users began falsely claiming the bill included a 21% pay bump for federal lawmakers.

“While you’re sitting at home trying to decide between driving your car & feeding your kids, the Democrats just gave themselves a 21% raise,” read a tweet shared more than 2,000 times.

“Congress gave themselves a 21% raise,” another tweet read. “They need an extra 30+ grand a year but they won’t raise minimum wage from $7.25 an hour?”

But the bill doesn’t at all change Congress members’ salaries, which have stayed the same at $174,000 a year since 2009, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. A summary of the bill from Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee confirms that, saying the bill prevents “any pay increases in FY22” for members of Congress.

Instead, the bill includes $774.4 million for the Members Representational Allowance, a budget that allows every House member to hire and pay legislative staff and manage other official expenses.

That $774.4 million number is $134.4 million higher, or 21% higher, than the financial year 2021 budget provided for the same purpose, according to a report from the House Appropriations Committee.

The House Ethics Committee explains on its website that members of Congress may only use the Members Representational Allowance budget for “ordinary and necessary expenses” incurred as part of a member’s official duties.

“The MRA may not be used to pay for any expenses related to activities or events that are primarily social in nature, personal expenses, campaign or political expenses, or House committee expenses,” the committee’s website says.

Top Democrats in the House said the higher MRA funding will help lawmakers recruit and retain staff who have been leaving for more competitive opportunities. About 1 in 8 Washington-based congressional staffers made less than a living wage in 2020, according to an analysis of salary data by Issue One, a bipartisan advocacy group.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.