House leaders in both parties back off, but don't give up on pay raise

A day after Democratic leaders scrapped plans to press ahead with plans to allow for the first pay raise for Congress in a decade, the top Republican in the U.S. House on Tuesday expressed his hope that members of both parties would step back, and continue to pursue ways to allow again for yearly cost of living raises for lawmakers, like other federal workers.

"I do not want Congress at the end of the day to only be a place that millionaires serve," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House Minority Leader.

"This should be a body of the people," McCarthy told reporters, as top Democrats indicated the pay raise remains the subject of talks between the two parties in the House.

"If we are going to proceed, we will proceed in a bipartisan way," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the head of the House Democratic Caucus.

"And if we don't proceed in a bipartisan way, we will see no cost of living adjustment," Jeffries said at a news conference.

Under current federal law, members of Congress are eligible for yearly "Cost of Living Adjustment" raises, similar to what other federal workers receive.

But that 'COLA' has been so controversial, that lawmakers have voted for ten straight years to block that extra pay, which has also impacted the amount of money staff members can be paid - as they are not allowed to make more than a member of the House or Senate.

But for a number of newer members in the House, the idea of voting to allow a pay raise to go ahead right now makes no sense whatsoever.

"Do you think Congress deserves a raise? I definitely don’t," said Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA), a freshman Democrat from California.

"I came to Washington to get work done for Utahns, not give pay raises to members of Congress," said Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), who was also just elected in 2018.

"We need balanced budgets, not pay raises," said Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), another Democrat who won a GOP seat in 2018.

One of the notable new voices to speak out in favor of higher pay for lawmakers was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

"It’s not a fun or politically popular position to take," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "ALL workers should get cost of living increases. That’s why minimum wage should be pegged to inflation, too."

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