Here's How Much Congress Makes for Every Hour They're Actually Doing Work


There's a new highest-earning profession in the U.S. — at least for a few months' work.

Congress will have been in session for eight days total during the 102-day stretch from Aug. 1 to Nov. 12, after the midterm elections. As the Hill explains, given lawmakers' $174,000 annual salaries, their pay works out to $608 per hour over that span.

That figure gets even crazier for leaders like House Speaker John Boehner, who commands slightly higher pay. Per this calculation, Boehner brings home $781 per hour for his work between August and November.

The numbers: While the past few years of Congress may have been historically inactive, these kind of stretches aren't exactly breaking tradition.

Since 1978, according to the Washington Post, Congress has been in session about one-third of the time (just less than half when limited to weekdays). All in all, our lawmakers have only worked a full week of work 14% of the time.

The Washington Post notes — and it's important to remember — that being in session is not the only thing Congress does. Meeting with constituents and handling business in their home districts is also part of the job. (Not to mention elections, which are important for that whole democracy thing, but a big time-waster when it comes to working on legislation.) But eight days out of 102? Come on, guys.

A question of pay: Another point to keep in mind, and one that might seem to run counter to everything above, is that there are plenty of reasonable arguments to be made for members of Congress to be paid more.

Congressional salaries, when adjusted for inflation, have been dropping for decades. That's not a reason to take pity on poor lawmakers ($174,000 is a lot of money), but it's a figure that should be compared to other salaries that potential candidates could be earning, and not necessarily to average pay across the U.S.

As the Washington Post explained last year, higher pay generally leads to better candidates and more attentive workers. When a cushy lobbying job (or a position at a law firm, or as a business executive) can offer hundreds of thousands of dollars more, it makes it hard to keep people in Congress or get the good ones there in the first place.

A pay raise might make Congress a destination of choice for some of our best and brightest — as long as it's coupled with way more hours of actual work.