Bills to pay: Members of Congress leave for a payday while GOP margin tightens

Multiple House members have exited the halls of the 118th Congress before their terms were up for more high-paying jobs that should not see as much drama as the lower chamber.

Although nearly all lawmakers in the House of Representatives make a good $174,000 each year, the amount of money is drastically less than they could potentially make in the private sector as a lobbyist, consultant, or by working on a corporate board of directors.

Here are some members of Congress who have departed the 118th Congress for higher-paying jobs: 

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) 

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) answers a question as East Palestine, Ohio, Mayor Trent Conaway, rear, listens during a town hall meeting at East Palestine High School in East Palestine, Ohio, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) announced his departure from the Capitol’s hallowed halls in January in order to take up a $410,000 position as the president of Youngstown State University in Ohio. The pay is more than double that of what he made as a member of Congress. 

Although Johnson did not mention the increase in income in his announcement of his new career, he will also receive free housing on the campus and an automobile allowance of $750 per month with mileage reimbursement, according to local outlet WKBN-27.

“After much thought and prayerful deliberation, I have accepted the offer to lead Youngstown State University and will not be seeking an 8th term in Congress,” Johnson wrote on X in November. “As I’ve stated previously, I wasn’t looking for another job, because I love the one I have serving the people of Eastern Ohio in the U.S. House. This was an extremely difficult decision.”

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY)

FILE – Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) speaks during a House Committee on Oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File)

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) resigned from his job in the House of Representatives in February, after working in the lower chamber for 19 years, to work as the CEO and president of a performing arts center in Buffalo, New York.

The new gig will reportedly give Higgins at least $305,000 a year for three years, which is a yearly increase of $131,000 over his congressional paychecks. But Johnson said the decision was about his role in his community rather than money.

“I didn’t come to Washington to change the world. I came to Washington to change my community,” Higgins told Spectrum News in February. “We got things done that people were frustrated hadn’t been done earlier. I think that was an inflection point that helped Buffalo realize that, you know, we had great, great potential. I think for Buffalo, the job’s different. Western New York couldn’t afford to have somebody that came down here and forgot about the community. It needed someone who was deeply immersed in the community.”

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) 

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) raises his hand to speak in response to an amendment by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that the House Judiciary Committee should recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of their meetings, as the panel organizes its rules under the Republican majority, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

David Cicilline made his departure from Congress last June, electing to lead a Rhode Island nonprofit organization instead of working in Congress for another term. Cicilline had served in Congress for 12 years at the time of his exit.

In his new role as the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, Cicilline now reportedly makes $650,000 a year. 

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“I’m honored for the opportunity to continue serving the Ocean State as president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation,” Cicilline said in a statement. “It’s thrilling to join the Foundation after 15 years of growth and philanthropic excellence during Neil Steinberg’s leadership. I’m excited to apply my experience and passion to this nonpartisan role.”

Other lawmakers who are leaving Congress for potentially lucrative offers are Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy is currently on the speaking circuit, which can bring in a steady income, and Gallagher is reportedly considering joining the private surveillance firm Palantir. 

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