A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

A Zero Pay Raise for Congress, Too

The current Congress is being falsely blamed for the fact that Social Security recipients are not due to get a cost-of-living increase in January. As we noted in an Ask FactCheck item posted Sept. 23, the real reason for the freeze is volatile oil prices and the formula that Congress adopted, and President Richard Nixon signed and claimed credit for, in 1972.

That hasn’t stopped some from claiming that the current Congress is not only to blame, but also will pocket a substantial pay increase while imposing a benefit freeze on senior citizens. One of our readers has forwarded to us a new version of the e-mail we debunked, which adds the following language – in garish color and excessive use of punctuation marks:

Keep in mind that our beloved elected officials did give themselves a 10% or $15,000 a year increase in pay!! That is probably where the money went that should have been our measly 2% Cost of living increase!! Why would we want any of them back in office???

Naturally, we’re not advocating the reelection of any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, when we point out that this claim is so far off the mark that it simply beggars belief. The claim is false. The fact is that Congress voted in March to give itself a zero pay raise in 2010. The language is in Public Law 111-8, the Omnibus Appropriation Act for the current fiscal year, which was signed March 11. Tucked away at the very end of the 466-page spending bill is the following language:

It says quite simply that the automatic cost-of-living increase that might have gone into effect for members of the House and Senate in January "shall not take effect." That means rank-and-file members of Congress will continue to get $174,000 each next year, the same as they are being paid this year. That’s certainly not chump change, and it’s way more than the average Social Security retiree gets, which is $1,160.20 per month, or just under $14,000 per year.

But the fact is, as the laws stand now, both those in Congress and those on Social Security will be getting exactly the same increase in January: zero.