McConnell said in a statement Thursday that "we're not doing a COLA adjustment in the Senate," a position that likely kills the $4,500 pay raise. Lawmakers are supposed to get an automatic inflationary increase each year but it has been blocked since 2009.
House leaders in both parties, led by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have been trying to orchestrate a maneuver to bless the cost-of-living increase. Rank and file lawmakers make $174,000 per year, a healthy wage, but rising housing and college costs are making it more difficult for members who aren't well off to remain in Congress.
McConnell has supported the annual COLA in the past. But the practice of blocking the pay increase became regimented after the tea party-fueled 2010 GOP takeover of the House. The Kentucky Republican is up for re-election next year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is skeptical of the idea. She said it's not even worth talking about going forward with the pay raise unless the effort is bipartisan. By that standard, McConnell's opposition should be sufficient to kill the COLA.
The annual COLA dates to a 1989 reform law in which lawmakers traded pay increases for giving up paid speeches called honoraria that attracted great criticism.