Sunday, March 4, 2012

Congress and Their Anti-Defense Budgets

I suddenly felt the need to say something about Congress and their habit of messing with the DoD budget every single term. Lately the trend has been to reduce Defense spending while leaving all of the various unconstitutional entitlement programs untouched, or nearly so. This crud needs to stop.

There are a whole slew of things they could do with the Congresscritters to lower the budget (though admittedly it wouldn’t be by a lot, which is why they get away with not doing it). Here’s some of information on the subject before I go into what I think should be done about it.

The lowest salary I could find listed for the House was $175k a year, before additional pay for each board or commission they are a part of. There are seats for 435 Representatives, and 100 Senators (currently only 97). That equals $93,625,000 per year for congressional salaries alone, not including their staff. Their health insurance costs them approximately $400 a month, the government paying the other $800, under the Federal Employees Health Insurance Benefits program. This is the same health program that covers the majority of civil service federal employees.

To clear up some rumors regarding their pay and benefits after they leave office... As far as their healthcare, once a member of FEHB the individual is able to continue coverage with the medical program, but they must pay the entire premium themselves (so about $1200/month). It's not free, they do pay for it. The average yearly annuities collected by those congressman that have been in (or left) office prior to 1984 collect is about $64k/yr, and those since collect an average of $40k (a lot more one-term guys than I was expecting for sure). This is of course the average, and seems to include the years they don’t collect after they leave office until they are eligible; any of those that served for 20-24 years can collect their retirement at age 50, and receive 80% of their pay during their time in office. Serving 25 or more years nets them 80% immediately upon exiting office and those who serve less than 20 cannot collect until 62, and receive a % of their base pay based on the number of years of service, but only after serving at least 5 yrs.

Congressional Salaries and Benefits
Congressional Research Service
Now that all of that is out of the way (and hopefully this next part gets read BEFORE the flaming starts), I do NOT agree with this method. It is my opinion that one of three things should occur in regards to the paychecks of those in Congress before they ever try to mess with the DODs budget:

1) Reduce all Congressional salaries to be in-line with the yearly base pay of an E-6 in the US Military, with pay raises on the same basis as everyone else (increases every year for your first 4, and then once every 2 years). Pay them BAH/BAS, also at the E-6 level, for their Home of Record (i.e. back in their home state, not in D.C.). Their pay then STAYS at that rate, they want a raise, the entire military gets a raise as well; and the entire pay scale needs to be adjusted by an equal amount, they can't just give it to the E-6 rate. They would also receive healthcare via Tricare as if on active duty, which means they'd be seen at a military facility if available before a civilian doctor. As with everything else, their retirement would follow exactly with whatever the military receives.

This puts their average yearly income at around $46k/yr. That's a savings of $129k/yr PER congressman, or about $68,987,000 a year in pay alone.


2) Completely remove pay for all members of Congress and use a somewhat similar method as suggestion 1, with a few changes. The basis for Congressional members being paid is due to the time it took to travel from one end of the country to the other before airplanes were in common use. By the time they got home from D.C. by car/wagon/train they had to turn right around and go back, giving the ones with exceptional travel distances no time to have a normal job. Well, thanks to the awesome power of flight, that is no longer true, so here is what you do:

First, their travel is paid out of the federal budget, they get business class tickets (they’re travelling on official business, I’ll be nice), not First Class, and they sure as heck don’t need a private plane. Second, they receive per diem pay at the same rate as a military member on orders away from home station, and a daily amount equal to an E-6 in the military as above, however ONLY during the times that Congress is in session. By the 20th Amendment of the Constitution they are only required to meet ONCE each year, and the length is not specified. The Constitution itself states that the meeting times will be from the first Monday in December to April or May for their first year, and then December to March thereafter. This was in addition to being there for swearing in of new members, inaugurations, and organization.

Both the House and Senate have been known to have pro forma meetings, only minutes long, every three days (the maximum length they can wait without meeting during session times) in order to avoid the need to obtain consent from the other body to adjourn. That’s fine by me, but they don’t get paid during those days off. The military gets paid for weekends off true, but they can also be called back at any time.

So now we are only paying them for the 4-6 months out of the year they are actually in D.C. doing their jobs, the rest of the time they’re going to need to work just like the rest of us. Treat them like deployed Reservists so they can’t be fired while fulfilling their federal obligations.


3) Stop paying them with federal funds period (I favor this one the most). Their pay is determined, and paid for, by their state of origin. They want a raise, they must put it to a vote in that state, and it applies only so long as they are in office before defaulting to the base rate when a new person is voted in. This means that each state can determine the base pay, and yearly increases, retirement benefits, etc. that their Congressman receive. No more of this voting themselves raises bull.


  1. Guessing you chose E6 because it's so numerous that they can't jack it up too high, but not so low that nobody will run?

  2. I was originally thinking O-5/6 actually, but after some thought decided that their pay would be entirely too high. Plus, maybe they'd be more willing to fix the pay disparity between officer and enlisted where you have a newbie O-1 making more than an 8-yr E-5 in base pay alone, and slightly more in BAH as well.