Congress is required by Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution to determine its own pay. Prior to 1969, Congress did so by enacting stand-alone legislation. From 1789 through 1968, Congress raised its pay 22 times using this procedure.
Congressional salaries initially were $1,500. By 1968, they had risen to $30,000. Stand-alone legislation may still be used to raise Member pay, as it was most recently in 1982, 1983, 1989, and 1991, but two other methods — including an automatic annual adjustment procedure and a commission process — are now also available.
Under the annual adjustment procedure, Members are scheduled to receive a 2.8%
adjustment in January 2009. Members originally were scheduled to receive a 2.7%
increase in January 2008. The increase was revised to 2.5%, resulting in a salary in 2008 of $169,300, to match the percent increase in the base pay of General Schedule (GS) employees.
By law, Members may not receive an increase greater than the increase in the base pay of GS employees. Congress voted to deny the scheduled January 2007 adjustment. Members previously received a pay increase (1.9%) in January 2006, increasing their salary to the rate of $165,200.