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Myths About Congress

I have received several questions about some of the “perks” many people believe Members of Congress receive. I went to Washington to stop business as usual, get wasteful government spending under control, and return the freedoms Washington has taken away from the American people. The only way we are going to rein in Washington is with support from the American public. We can’t do this when the public is misled by out-of-date or incorrect information. 

MYTH: Members of Congress are exempt from insider trading laws.

FACT: Both a Congressional Research Service Report and House Administration Committee memo indicates that Members of Congress are subject to the same insider trading rules as the general public. 

MYTH: Members of Congress, their staff and their families do not have to pay back student loans.

FACT: There is no student loan benefit for Members of Congress or their family. Some congressional staff members can have their student loans repaid over several years in a program available to many federal employees. explains in detail.

MYTH: Members of Congress can retire and receive their full salary after serving just a single, two-year term.

FACT: Members of Congress have no tenure. All House Members are elected every two years. Congressional Member pension, if earned, is similar to all federal employees. A 2007 CRS report outlines the pension program:

Members of Congress first elected in 1984 or later are covered automatically under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), unless they decline this coverage. Members covered by FERS also pay 1.3% of full salary to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund. Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary. As of October 1, 2006, 413 retired Members of Congress were receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service. Of this number, 290 had retired under CSRS [the pre 1984 system] and were receiving an average annual pension of $60,972. A total of 123 Members had retired with service under both CSRS and FERS or with service under FERS only. Their average annual pension was $35,952 in 2006.

According to, a three-term congressman would be eligible for $17,588 after six years of work upon reaching retirement age.

MYTH: Members of Congress do not participate in Social Security but have their own separate retirement fund.

FACT: According to the Social Security Administration, All Members of Congress, the President and Vice President, Federal judges, and most political appointees, were covered under the Social Security program starting in January 1984. They pay into the system just like everyone else. Thus all Members of Congress, no matter how long they have been in office, have been paying into the Social Security system since January 1984.

MYTH: Members of Congress can vote themselves a pay raise at any time.

FACT: According to the Congressional Research Service, Congressional pay raises are calculated based on changes in the Employment Cost Index (ECI). The projected 2011 adjustment of 0.9% was known when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data for the ECI change during the 12-month period from December 2008 to December 2009 on January 29, 2010. This adjustment would have equaled a $1,600 increase, but Congress voted to reject that pay increase. P.L. 111-322, which was enacted on December 22, 2010, prevented any adjustment in GS base pay before December 31, 2012. Since the percent adjustment in Member pay may not exceed the percent adjustment in the base pay of GS employees, Member pay is also frozen during this period. Pay for Members of Congress in 2011 and 2012 will remain at the 2009 and 2010 level.

MYTH: Members of Congress receive free health care.

FACT: According to, “Members of Congress have good health insurance by any standard, but it’s not free and not reserved only for them – and it’s not government insurance. House and Senate members are allowed to purchase private health insurance offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which covers more than 8 million other federal employees, retirees and their families.” Likewise, Members of Congress and their personal staffs were included in Obamacare.

MYTH: Members of Congress are exempt from following the laws they enact.

FACT: Again, according to “…following the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, which put  republicans in control of both House and Senate, Congress passed the Congressional Accountability Act (PL 104-1), which applies a dozen civil rights, labor and workplace safety regulations to the legislative branch.” There is, however, a constitutional exemption to some laws. Article 1 section 6 of the constitution states Members of Congress, “shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

MYTH: Members of Congress do not have to pay income taxes.

FACT: This information is completely false. Members of Congress pay income taxes just like every other American. The U.S. tax code states that everyone who receives revenue must pay an income tax, including Representatives and Senators. That covers income derived from private business, government salaries, military pay, and even unemployment checks.

MYTH: Members of Congress get free housing in Washington, D.C.

FACT: Members of Congress do not receive free housing or any housing reimbursement.