Are Politics Profitable? Who Makes How Much? For What?

When this country was founded, it was decided Senators, Representatives, Congress as well as the President and Vice President would receive monetary compensation for the time spent working for the people of the new United States.

Do you think our government officials are really doing for us as their pay would suggest?

Salaries, shown for US Senators and Representatives. Also shown: salaries adjusted to 2014 US Dollars.
Year Salary per diem/annum Percent

1789 $6 per diem
1795 $6 per diem only Representatives
$7 per diem only Senators
1796 $6 per diem
1815 $1,500 per annum
1817 $6 per diem only Representatives
$7 per diem only Senators
1818 $8 per diem
1855 $3,000 per annum
1865 $5,000 per annum
1871 $7,500 per annum
1874 $5,000 per annum
1907 $7,500 per annum
1925 $10,000 per annum
1932 $9,000 per annum
1933 $8,500 per annum
1934 (2/1) $9,000 per annum
1934 (7/1) $9,500 per annum
1935 $10,000 per annum
1947 $12,500 per annum
1955 $22,500 per annum
1965 $30,000 per annum
1969 $42,500 per annum
1975 $44,600 per annum
1977 $57,500 per annum
1979 $60,662.50 per annum
1982 $69,800 per annum only Representatives
1983 $69,800 per annum only Senators
1984 $72,600 per annum
1985 $75,100 per annum
1987 (1/1) $77,400 per annum
1987 (2/4) $89,500 per annum
1990 (2/1) $96,600 per annum only Representatives
1990 (2/1) $98,400 per annum only Senators
1991 (1/1) $125,100 per annum only Representatives
1991 (1/1) $101,900 per annum only Senators
1991 (8/14) $125,100 per annum only Senators
1992 $129,500 per annum 3.5%
1993 $133,600 per annum 3.2%
1998 $136,700 per annum 2.3%
2000 $141,300 per annum 3.4%
2001 $145,100 per annum 2.7%
2002 $150,000 per annum 3.4%
2003 $154,700 per annum 3.1%
2004 $158,100 per annum 2.2%
2005 $162,100 per annum 2.5%
2006 $165,200 per annum 1.9%
2008 $169,300 per annum 2.5%
2009-2014 $174,000 per annum 2.8%
Additional pay schedule for Senate and House positions:


Position Salary
Vice President $233,000
Delegates to the House of Representatives $174,000
Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico $174,000
President pro tempore of the Senate $193,400
Majority leader and minority leader of the Senate $193,400
Majority leader and minority leader of the House of Representatives $193,400
Speaker of the House of Representatives $223,500

Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables on, Accessed  March 2014
Executive Order 13655 of December 23, 2013, Adjustments of Certain Rates of Pay. Office of Personnel Management

– Pay & Leave – SALARIES & WAGES – Executive Order for 2014 Pay Schedules
Nearly One in Five Members of Congress Gets Paid Twice
The practice of piling a pension atop a paycheck is legal, if unsavory to many. Taxpayer groups and some conservatives have condemned the practice as “double-dipping”; they say elected officials shouldn’t simultaneously draw a public pension while cashing a government paycheck, because taxpayers ultimately foot at least part of the bill for both. “You’re paying them twice,” says Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.Fixed pensions are a fading memory for most American workers, who are still smarting from losses to their 401(k)s during the credit crisis—even if those accounts have since recovered. The fact that federal lawmakers can draw large retirement payments atop generous taxpayer-funded salaries only helps fuel the widespread sense that the ruling class in Washington puts its own interests first.


Many states and municipalities forbid the practice of retiring and then taking a full-time job within the same governmental system. But those rules don’t apply to members of Congress when they are drawing a federal paycheck and, typically, a state or local pension. “It’s a hard nut to crack as far as addressing it, because it’s different jurisdictions,” Ellis says. And federal lawmakers who have served before on the state level can garner gold-plated retirement benefits, because state legislators often write their own generous rules to allow earlier retirement or fatter pensions.


Those collecting pensions range from some of the poorest in Congress to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., whom the Center for Responsive Politics ranked as the third-wealthiest senator in 2011. (His net worth was between $79.6 million and $120.8 million.)

That didn’t prevent Blumenthal from cashing his annual $47,000 state pension, even as Connecticut’s depleted pension fund has struggled. A 2012 study by the Pew Center on the States said the state had barely half the money it needed to pay its long-term retirement obligations, the third-worst ratio in the nation.

Blumenthal bristles when asked about whether his personal wealth and congressional salary allow him to forgo the pension. “The benefits I’m receiving from the state were earned over more than two decades of public service, and they’re two separate entities, two separate governments, and … they’re being paid according to law,” he says. “I’m not going to comment as to any aspect of my financial disclosure. I would just say, I seek to give back through public service and other ways such as the charitable contributions that my wife and I make.”

Feinstein is the second-wealthiest lawmaker to draw a pension, according to CRP’s rankings, which estimate the California Democrat’s net worth at between $42.8 million and $98.7 million. Her pension, worth $54,925 in 2012, is from her time as mayor of San Francisco. She has collected about $850,000 in retirement benefits since she joined the Senate two decades ago. Feinstein declined to comment for this story.

Feinstein is hardly the longest-tenured congressional pensioner. That honor falls to 90-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall, the oldest member of the House, who spent a decade in the Texas Legislature before taking a seat in Congress in 1981. The Republican (who was a Democrat until 2004) has been collecting a Texas state pension ever since. In those 32 years he earned some $1.3 million in retirement benefits. (Many years in the 1980s he didn’t list specific amounts; this analysis presumes his pension remained flat during those years.) His 2012 pension was $65,748. “I didn’t write the law,” Hall said in a statement. “I complied with the law, and I contributed as was allowed under the law during my official service in Texas.”

Not every member of Congress who is eligible for a pension chooses to collect. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., a retired Army colonel who won his seat in 2010, says he writes a check every month for his full military pension, minus taxes owed, to the U.S. Treasury. It was a decision he came to jointly with his wife. “The salary that we get as a congressman is very generous,” Gibson says. “We did not want to double-dip on the taxpayers in a time of fiscal challenge.”

The Gibsons aren’t rich by congressional standards. They hold no stocks, bonds, or mutual funds—only a single bank account with between $100,000 and $250,000. It earned less than $1,000 in interest last year. Still, he declined to judge his better-off colleagues who are collecting twice. “It’s a personal decision people have to make,” he says.

Rep. William Keating of Massachusetts, who pulled $110,743 from his pension in 2012—second-largest of any Democrat—donates all of it, after taxes, to a nonprofit that assists child-abuse victims. “The work done by the caring professionals there is priceless,” Keating, a former legislator and district attorney, said in a statement.