Comparing the Benefits: Politician vs. American

Benefits for Both the House of Represenatives and the Senate

Student Loans

Members of Congress and Family Members are not exempt from the repayment of student loans, although they have established student loan repayment programs for employee recruitment and retention purposes.

Outside Earned Income Limits

Outside earned income is limited to $27,495. Certain types of outside income are prohibited.

Tax Deductions

Members were allowed up to $3,000 in deduction for income tax purposes, but this ended in December of 2017.

Health Insurance

Members of Congress and certain congressional staff have health insurance plans listed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Prior to the ACA, Members were eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Life Insurance

Members are eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program.

    • Option A (Basic): The Government pays 33% of the cost, ($175,000 policy).

    • Option B (Additional): Person pays 100% of the cost of Optional insurance ($184,000 policy).

    • Option C (Family): Additional $5,000 for a spouse and $2,500 for each child (up to five members).

Death Benefits

If a Member of Congress dies while in Congress, the family is able to receive one year’s base salary (174,000).

Social Security and Retirement Provisions

Participation in Social Security has been mandatory for all Members of Congress since 1984. The amount of any benefit and required retirement contribution varies depending on retirement plan, age, and length of service (with a minimum of at least five years of service to receive any benefit).

Other Benefits

  • Average pension is $59,000 annually.

  • Free airport parking.

  • Fly for free.

  • 239 days off each year.

  • Free haircuts.

  • Free on-site gym.

House of Representatives Specific

Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA)

MRA is available to support Representatives in their office and representational duties. The Allowance may not be used to defray any personal or campaign-related expenses. Members cannot use campaign or committee funds to pay for expenses related to official representational duties, using an unofficial office account accepting funds from a private source for an official activity, or using personal funds to pay for franked mail. The average allowance is $1.2 million. 

  • The MRA is calculated based off three components:

    • Personnel: Same for each Member, $944,671 (as of 2017)

    • Official Office Expenses: Varies among Members due to distance between DC and Member’s district, and the cost of General Services Administration office rental space district.

    • Official (Franked) Mail: Varies among Members based on the number of nonbusiness address in the district.

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  • Members can use the MRA to hire employees. The limitation on the number of employees hired  is 18 permanent employees, and four additional employees if they are:
    • Part-time

    • Shared

    • Paid Interns

    • On leave without pay, or

    • Temporary

Salaries 

The Constitution authorizes compensation for Members of Congress be “ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

Members of the House Salaries

Position

Salary

Speaker of the House

$223,500 per annum

Majority Leader

$193,400 per annum

Minority Leader

$193,400 per annum

Representatives, Delegates, Resident Commissioner of PR

$174,000 per annum

Chief Administrative Officer

$172,500 per annum

Sergeant of Arms

$172,500 per annum

Chaplain

$172,500 per annum

Legislative Counsel

$172,500 per annum

Law Revision Counsel

$172,500 per annum

Parliamentarian

$172,500 per annum

Inspector General

$172,500 per annum

Director, Interparliamentary Affairs

$172,500 per annum

General Counsel of the House

$172,500 per annum

Senate Specific

The Senators’ Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA)

SOPOEA is available to assist Senators in their official and representational duties. The average allowance is $3.46 million.

  • The SOPOEA is calculated based off three components:

    • Administrative and Clerical Assistance Allowance: Varies by state population

    • Legislative Assistance Allowance: Same for all Senators, $482,958 (as of 2017)

    • Official Expense Allowance: Varies by state depending on the distance between DC and the Senator’s home state, the population of the state, and the franked mail allocation.

Mass Mailings cannot exceed $50,000 per fiscal year. Each Senator is authorized home state office space in federal buildings. Each Senator is authorized furniture and furnishings from an approved list. Furniture is supplied and maintained by the Architect of the Capitol and the Senate Sergeant at Arms.Each Senator is authorized 440,000 for state office furniture and furnishings for one or more offices, if the aggregate square footage of office space does not exceed 5000 square feet. The base authorization is increased by $1000 for every additional 200 square feet. Each Senator may use certain basic office equipment allocated in accordance with the population of the state he or she represents and other criteria established by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. Each Senator is entitled to receive certain government publications and printed documents.

Salaries

The Constitution authorizes compensation for Members of Congress be “ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

Position

Salary

President pro tempore

$193,400 per annum

Majority Leader

$193,400 per annum

Minority Leader

$193,400 per annum

Senators

$174,000 per annum

Secretary of the Senate

$172,500 per annum

Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper

$172,500 per annum

Legislative Counsel

$172,500 per annum

Legal Counsel

$172,500 per annum

Parliamentarian

$171,315 per annum

 Congressional Benefits (C) Versus Average American Benefits (A)

Salary

    • C = $174,000 per year

    • A = $47,060 per year

Time Off

    • C = 239 days, including the ten federal holidays

    • A = 15 days, plus up to additional ten days for federal holidays

Health Insurance

    • C = Pay 28% in premiums (72% is paid for by Government)

    • A = Pay 18% in premiums (82% is paid by Employer)

Life Insurance

    • C = 80% of Politicians have employer-paid life insurance

    • A = 5% of Non-Government Workers have employer-paid life insurance

Retirement/Pension/Social Security

    • C = $59,000 pension with social security

    • A = $32,5000 (average) pension with social security ($10,000 without social security)

For a list of our sources, click here.