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H.R. 8305 (116th): FAITH in Congress Act


Plus several other reforms intended to limit the influence of partisanship, lobbying, and self-interest in Congress.

Context

Congress has some problems.

In recent years, it’s rarely been able to pass an annual budget like they’re supposed to, leaving much of the government relying on stopgap funding called continuing resolutions.

What the bill does

The FAITH (Foster Accountability, Integrity, Trust, and Honor) in Congress Act would institute several changes to the way the legislative branch runs, including:

  • **Banning the House from voting on any legislation unless it has “demonstrable bipartisan support.”That phrase is never defined or quantified, so it’s unclear whether (for example) a bill could receive a vote if it had only one cosponsor from across the aisle, or whether that would be insufficient.
  • Setting a lifetime ban on former members of Congress becoming lobbyists. Under current law, former House members must wait one year while former senators must wait two years.
  • Ending the automatic annual pay raises for members of Congress. (In practice, this one has already been happening for more than a decade. While current law calls for Congress members to automatically receive an annual pay raise, Congress itself can vote it down. Recognizing the bad optics of receiving a pay raise while many Americans are struggling, Congress last let the automatic pay raise go into effect in 2009.)
  • **Withholding pay from members during any period where they haven’t passed all required appropriations bills. **The last time Congress passed all required appropriations bills on time was 1996. And many years, including the whole period between 2011–16, Congress passed none of them on time. However, the 27th Amendment prevents Congress from adjusting its own pay within a two-year session of Congress, which would likely render this provision unconstitutional.
  • Preventing members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to fly or travel first-class.

It was introduced in the House on September 17 as bill number H.R. 8305, by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL7).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that the bill’s reforms collectively create a level of trust that the legislative branch is serving in the public interest, rather than in their own personal interest or their lobbyists’ interests.

“Members of Congress were sent to Washington to serve the people who elected them, not to set themselves up for a lucrative gig or line up their pockets while refusing to do their jobs,” Rep. Murphy said in a press release.

“This bipartisan bill would restore public trust in government by ending a culture in Washington that rewards incompetence and making Congress more efficient and accountable to taxpayers,” Rep. Murphy continued. “It’s time for members of Congress [to] put the American people’s lives and livelihoods over their own self-interest.”

What opponents say

Many or most of the bill’s myriad provisions have opposition, but let’s just focus on the one about withholding congressional pay — both because that almost happened in 2019 for the first time in a decade, and because the opposition spans the ideological spectrum, from top Democrats to top Republicans.

“I do not want Congress at the end of the day to only be a place where millionaires serve,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23) said at a press conference. “This should be a body of the people, and I think it’s something that should be looked at.”

“Voting against cost of living increases for members of Congress may sound nice, but doing so only increases pressure on them to keep dark money loopholes open,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14) tweeted. “What [keeping congressional pay stagnant or withholding it] does is punish members who rely on a straight salary, and reward those who rely on money loopholes and other forms of self-dealing.”

“It’s not a fun or politically popular position to take,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “But consistency is important. ALL workers should get cost of living increases.

Odds of passage

The bill has attracted eight cosponsors: seven Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Brain Fitzpatrick (R-PA1). Since the bill doesn’t quantify its own “demonstrable bipartisan support” provision for something to receive a House vote, it’s unclear whether this bill’s one Republican cosponsor would qualify or not, since the cosponsorship clearly tilts Democratic?

It awaits a potential vote in either the House Administration, Oversight and Reform, Rules, or Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Murphy introduced a previous version in 2018, which attracted one Democratic and one Republican cosponsor — the Republican again being Rep. Fitzpatrick — but never received a committee vote.

Last updated Nov 10, 2020. View all GovTrack summaries.

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