Anthony Fauci's $434,312 paycheck is higher than the president's. Here's how much Washington power players from Trump to Nancy Pelosi and AOC get paid every year.
- Washington's most powerful people earn big bucks, but maybe not as much as you think. And more power doesn't necessarily translate into a larger paycheck.
- President Donald Trump makes $400,000 per year, and President-elect Joe Biden will earn the same amount after he's sworn in. That's a small fraction of the millions of dollars that the CEO of a big company can expect to earn.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci earns even more than the president, thanks to a provision that allows the government to pay more to lure talented scientists. Fauci would also likely earn much more in the private sector.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gets a bigger check than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer because of rules that have long determined lawmakers' pay.
- Meanwhile, a relative newcomer such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earns $174,000 per year, the same as most lawmakers in the House and the Senate, such as Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham.
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The most powerful people in Washington take home sizable paychecks, but they're not as big as you might think.
The lure of becoming the president of the United States, speaker of the House, a Supreme Court justice, or the nation's top infectious-disease expert comes mostly from the power of the position, rather than the money it pays.
Of course, all that power can help politicians and officials cash in after they leave office, and many Washington heavy hitters go on to have lucrative careers in the private sector or write tell-all books about their lives as DC insiders after they leave office.
Still, salary is a status symbol in the nation's capital just like anywhere else, and the size of some Washington paychecks might surprise you.
Take President Donald Trump's $400,000 per year paycheck, for example. It's a small fraction of what high-powered CEOs can expect to make in the private sector. A typical compensation package for a chief executive at a big company exceeded $12.3 million per year in 2019, according to The Associated Press.
Fauci's big paycheck
You might think Trump is the top-paid official in the federal government, given his high-profile job, commander-in-chief title, and swanky White House digs.
He's not. President-elect Joe Biden won't be either after he's sworn into office on January 20 and starts earning that same salary.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert at the center of the US coronavirus response, makes more than the president. Fauci's salary is $434,312 per year, a spokeswoman for the National Institutes of Health told Insider.
That's $34,312 more than his boss with whom he's publicly sparred.
Fauci has agreed to stay on as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases next year under Biden. The president-elect also asked Fauci to be his chief medical advisor.
Trump has suggested he might try to fire the NIH director after Fauci has criticized the president's response to the pandemic that has now killed more than 320,000 people in the US.
Fauci is allowed to earn more than officials including Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the House speaker, thanks to a provision dating back to 1944 that was enacted to try to lure talented public-health experts from the private sector by offering higher salaries than most federal employees can make.
Spending hawks have long been skeptical of exemptions that allow some federal employees to earn even more than Cabinet officials, but others think it's important to be able to lure the smartest scientists and other experts away from the private sector.
Cabinet officials earned $219,200 in 2020, the highest level in a pay scale set for high-ranking officials like agency heads and US ambassadors. Most federal officials' basic pay ranges from roughly $19,000 to $197,000 for some senior-level jobs.
That's far less than what some scientists and doctors at universities and in the private sector can take home. The dean of the University of Michigan's medical school, Marschall Stevens Runge, earns $1.4 million per year, according to public records. Department chairs had a median salary of about $465,000, and neurosurgeons earned a median salary of about $575,000, according to LinkedIn data shared with Insider in 2018.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Dr. Fauci could make a ton more money in a university or other private-sector environment, and he's chosen to commit himself to public service," Max Stier, the president and CEO of the good-government organization Partnership for Public Service, said.
Stier cited hospital directors at the Department of Veterans Affairs, who are working at the top of the federal pay scale but could make far more "crossing the street and working for a private hospital."
Pelosi earns more than McConnell and Schumer
Starting on Inauguration Day, Biden will earn the same $400,000 salary that Trump makes now, though the current president has donated all but $1 of his salary each year. Being commander in chief also comes with big perks, including a $500,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 travel account, and a $19,000 entertainment budget.
Pence earned $253,300 in 2020, according to a memo from the Office of Personnel Management. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could make slightly more than that in 2021 thanks to annual pay adjustments.
That'll be a raise for the California senator from her current congressional salary of $174,000, which is what most senators make. Several senators earn more, including the majority and minority leaders and the president pro tempore, who is traditionally the most senior member of the Senate majority party.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley earn $193,400 per year, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.
The House speaker outearns them all. Pelosi makes $223,500 per year, according to the report.
That's because the vice president is technically the leader of the Senate, while the majority leader is only the leader of the dominant party, former Senate Historian Don Ritchie told Insider. In the House, the speaker is the top official and therefore the top earner.
AOC makes as much as her colleague critics
The House freshman lawmaker Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been the object of ire from senior Republicans and Democrats alike in the House and Senate for shaking up power dynamics since she arrived in Washington in 2019.
One fact that might irk some of her critics: She makes just as much as most of them. Like most House and Senate lawmakers, Ocasio-Cortez takes home $174,000 in pay each year.
Her critics include Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, who called Ocasio-Cortez and her progressive allies "a bunch of communists," and Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who recently said she was "more active on Twitter than anything else." And Rep. Ted Yoho, a retiring Florida Republican lawmaker, called her "disgusting." Their paychecks are all the same size.
Members of Congress haven't gotten a pay increase since 2009, when salaries for most of them were boosted to $174,000. Lawmakers have voted each year since then to deny themselves annual increases.
Salaries for congressional staffers can vary widely. The median annual salary for a congressional staffer was about $55,000 in 2020, according to the database LegiStorm, which tracks paychecks on Capitol Hill.
Trump White House, SCOTUS salaries
Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff, got a raise when he moved from Congress over to the West Wing. Meadows was making $183,000 per year in June, according to salary data released by the White House.
Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner — both advisors to the president — weren't being paid anything by the White House, though they made tens of millions in outside income in 2019 alone.
Trump's top immigration advisor, Stephen Miller, and his now former counselor Kellyanne Conway were both making $183,000 per year, according to the latest report.
Over at the Supreme Court, the president's newest appointee to the bench, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, will earn a salary of $265,600 per year, according to data from the Federal Judicial Center, a government research agency. That's a pay raise from the $229,500 she was making this year as a federal appeals-court judge.
She now earns the same as the seven other associate justices on the high court, including Trump's other appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Chief Justice John Roberts earns slightly more, with a $277,700 annual salary.
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