A viral Facebook post claims that members of Congress gave themselves a $40,000 raise this year.
Similar claims went viral earlier in 2020, suggesting that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi requested a $38,000 raise in the first coronavirus relief package. As noted in a fact check of these claims, Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution establishes that Congress can set its own salary, but the 27th Amendment prohibits any salary changes from taking effect until after the next congressional election occurs and the new representatives are sworn in.
Congress has not chosen to give itself a formal raise in some time, instead relying on the cost of living adjustments established by the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. Cost of living adjustments are made automatically unless Congress votes to prevent them from occurring. The adjustments are based on a formula tying congressional salaries to the private sector, with salary increases capped at “the most recent percentage change in the Employment Cost Index minus one-half of one percent.” The last congressional cost of living adjustment occurred in 2009, and Congress has voted annually to prevent the automatic raise from taking effect, freezing salaries at $174,000.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which recently passed Congress, would turn down the raise once more, stating: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no adjustment shall be made under section 601(a) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 4501) (relating to cost of living adjustments for Members of Congress) during fiscal year 2021.”