As House Republicans have argued amongst themselves over who will be the next House Speaker, the conversation has centered on the difficulties of the job. John Boehner, the man stepping down from the post, once said the leadership position was like trying to “keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow.” And as Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan has considered his candidacy for the role, he’s bemoaned its travel and fundraising requirements and demanded more of a work-life balance.
But for all that’s asked for the Speaker of the House, the job does come with a pretty nice perk: the highest salary in Congress.
The Speaker earns $223,500 per year, $49,500 more than the legislature’s rank and file. Lawmakers in both chambers have a starting salary of $174,000 per year—a rate that was last increased in January 2009, when it went up by 2.8%.
The Constitution requires that members of Congress determine their own pay, and the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 established automatic annual adjustments based on changes in private sector wages, but lawmakers’ salaries have been frozen for nearly six years because they have—in one way or another—continually voted against raising their own pay.
Taking on a leadership role is really the only way for members of Congress to make more than the $174,000 base rate.
Of course, most lawmakers aren’t solely dependent on their Congressional salaries—the average net worth of Congress members was around $1 million at last count. Ryan, who’s expected to land the Speaker job next week, is worth an estimated $2.3 million. Hopefully, the 30% bump to his Congressional salary will help dull the sting of having to spend more time away from his kids.