The U.S. Senator’s Salary: How Much Senators and Representatives Make

William Miller

Did you know that U.S. senators’ salaries have stayed the same since 2009? In this article, we’ll take a look at how much senators and representatives make, what their job duties are, and how a citizen can become one.

The U.S. Senator’s Salary – Current Earnings in the Senate

Regular members of the United States Congress make $174,000 per year. House representatives’ and senators’ salaries are set and never go below or above that number. What about other Senate and House positions?

  • The Vice President of the United States is next in line for the presidency. As such, the VP’s salary is $255,800.
  • The Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is second in line for succession after the Vice President, makes $223,500 annually.
  • Resident Commissioners from Puerto Rico make $174,000 a year, which is the same as the representative’s and senator’s salary.
  • The President pro tempore of the Senate, who is the longest-serving member of that particular chamber, as well as the majority party, earns $193,400.
  • The Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, who are in charge of their respected parties in the chambers, make $193,400.
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As you can see, members of the Congress seem to make a pretty penny just for being in office. Later, we’ll take a look at their job duties to understand what they do to earn their salaries.

Senators’ Salaries over the Years

We’ve already said that senators’ salaries have stayed the same since 2009, when they made $174,000. But what about the previous years? Senate salaries have been scheduled by law since 1789. That year, they earned $6 per day, which is the equivalent of $130 in 2020. So, their annual salary was about equal to how much $47,450 is worth today.

In 1795, the U.S. senator’s salary was $7 daily ($107 in 2020 dollars), so they made close to today’s $39,055 per year. Representatives, on the other hand, still earned $6 per day, which translates to $33,215 per year in 2020 dollars.

As you can see, the salaries of the members of the United Stated Congress didn’t always increase. Here’s the data for some of the following years:

  • 1815 – $1,500 per year (equivalent of $21,210 in 2020);
  • 1855 – $3,000 per year (equivalent of $83,325);
  • 1871 – $7,500 per year (equivalent of $162,021);
  • 1925 – $10,000 per year (equivalent of $147,571);
  • 1955 – $22,500 per year (equivalent of $217,370);
  • 1975 – $44,600 per year (equivalent of $214,505);
  • 1985 – $75,100 per year (equivalent of $180,709);
  • 2000 – $141,300 per year (equivalent of $212,346);
  • 2009 – $174,000 per year (equivalent of $209,896);
  • 2010 – $174,000 per year.

Since the Congress rejected the automatic increase provided by the Government Ethics Reform Act of 1989, they’ve been actually making less and less every year. That’s because inflation has continued, but their salaries haven’t grown.

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In 1992, the Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. It said that any changes to the representatives’ and senators’ salaries couldn’t take effect until after the next election for members of Congress.

What do Senators and House Representatives do?

Their duties are established by the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section V says that each chamber may “determine the Rules of its Proceedings”. This gives them the power to make decisions about their own working hours, as well as about other internal procedures.

The main duties of a representative are to introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments, and serve on committees. Representatives also have the power to impeach executive branch officials and federal judges.

The primary duties of the Senate are to pass legislation, approve presidential appointments, and ratify treaties. They can also offer amendments to bills that have been passed by the House of Representatives.

In addition to their legislative duties, the Senate and House of Representatives also have to deal with their constituents. They do this by maintaining a presence in their districts or states, as well as by holding town hall meetings. They also have to raise money for their reelection campaigns. For most members of the Congress, this takes up a considerable amount of time.

How to Become a U.S. Senator?

Now that we know how much members of the Senate make and what their duties are, you might be wondering how to become one. In order to be elected as a senator, a person must be at least 30 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years, and be a resident of the state they wish to represent.

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In order to be elected, a candidate must first win the primaries and caucuses in their state. After that, they have to win the general election. The general election is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Senators’ Salaries Remain Flat, though Living Expenses Have Grown

As the cost of living has gone up, senators’ salaries have remained flat. In order to receive a pay raise, senators must vote to approve it themselves, which they have been reluctant to do. All in all, they make quite a good living, which comes with great responsibilities.

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