Former Trump official files lawsuit seeking $50 million for Members of Congress who say they haven't been paid enough as Senators and House Reps


Patreon Supporter

Former Trump official files class-action lawsuit seeking $50 million for lawmakers who say they haven't been paid enough

  • Current and former lawmakers filed a class-action lawsuit seeking $50 million from the government.
  • They argue their salaries, stuck at $174,000 since 2009, have been "unconstitutionally suppressed."
  • The suit's being led by Ken Cuccinelli, an ex-Trump official who doesn't care how unpopular this is.
You may have heard that some lawmakers think the $174,000 annual salary for rank-and-file House and Senate members is too low.

According to a new class-action lawsuit, it's gotten to that point in part because lawmakers' wages have been "unconstitutionally suppressed" — and current and former lawmakers may be collectively entitled to $50 million in damages as a result.

"This is a vindication of the Constitution and the principles the founders were trying to achieve," Ken Cuccinelli, the lawyer and former Trump White House official leading the suit, told Business Insider in an interview.

Cuccinelli's lawsuit, first reported by POLITICO, was filed last week on behalf of Republican Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas and a trio of ex-lawmakers from both parties — and it hinges primarily on the 27th Amendment to the US Constitution:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
The amendment was first submitted to the states for ratification along with the amendments that later became the Bill of Rights — but it wasn't ratified until 1992, over 200 years later.

The suit argues that Congress has violated the US Constitution by routinely denying lawmakers an annual cost of living adjustment in their salaries.

Since 2009, rank-and-file lawmakers' salaries have remained flat at $174,000 because government funding bills have included a provision explicitly blocking a modest pay increase that would otherwise happen. Almost every year, Congress votes on those bills — and they take effect — without an election happening in between.

Because lawmakers' salaries are not keeping pace with inflation and increasing under the cost of living adjustment that would otherwise take place, the suit argues that their wages are being "varied" by being effectively suppressed, thus violating the 27th Amendment.

"You've got a situation now where you either have to be rich to go into Congress, or you have to sacrifice your family," said Cuccinelli, noting that lawmakers are typically expecting to maintain two separate residences — one in DC, and one in their home state.

The suit calculates the amount of additional wages that the ex-lawmakers are owed, including:

  • $753,300 for Democratic Ed Perlmutter of Colorado
  • $563,800 for Republican Rodney Davis of Illinois
  • $268,839 for Republican Tom Davis of Virginia
Estimating that roughly 1800 current and former lawmakers have been affected by the routine denial of cost of living adjustments, the plaintiffs are seeking roughly $50 million in damages from the government.

It goes without saying that this is unpopular with the public — despite the potential good-government benefits of raising lawmakers' salaries, polling has consistently shown that Americans hate the idea of giving Congress a raise.

But Cuccinelli — who previously served as the Republican Attorney General of Virginia, the acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump, and at one point, the head of a pro-Ron DeSantis super PAC — says he doesn't care in the least.

"If you know anything about my history, obviously I'm a conservative and a constitutionalist. I suffer from severe idealism," he said. "I don't think the Constitution was written to restrain government actions in ways that would always be popular."

"People who don't like it should take it up with James Madison," Cuccinelli added, referring to the fourth US president and the original proponent of the 27th Amendment. "I'm not embarrassed to be on the side of James Madison."

Cuccinelli said he was first inspired to pursue this case when he helped a trio of Republican congressmen with a lawsuit over the fines that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi imposed on them for skirting the magnetometers that used to stand at each entrance to the House chamber. That suit also alleged a violation of the 27th Amendment, though a judge later dismissed the case.

He also lauded the bravery of Crawford — who faces reelection in November, unlike the other plaintiffs — as taking a "courageous step" by joining the lawsuit.