The same holds true for Rep. Hilda Solis, Barack Obama's choice for Labor secretary.
Kempthorne and other Cabinet secretaries rake in $191,300 annually, higher than the $169,300 the junior Democratic senator from Colorado and the California congresswoman each pull in every year.
But Congress is going to have slice the Interior and Labor secretaries' pay in order to comply with the obscure emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits sitting lawmakers from being appointed to positions that saw a pay increase during their terms.
The provision was designed to prevent lawmakers from enriching themselves. But Congress has repeatedly circumvented the legal hurdle by reducing an appointee's pay through legislation known as the "Saxbe Fix," named after Congress made the change for Richard Nixon's nominee for attorney general, Sen. William Saxbe.
Last week, Congress quietly approved a Saxbe Fix for Sen. Hillary Clinton, reducing her pay to the January 2007 level of $186,600 so she could serve as the next secretary of State. President Bush increased Cabinet secretaries' salaries in a January 2008 executive order.
Congressional aides say lawmakers will have to do the same for Salazar and Solis in January since the measure approved for Clinton was narrowly tailored for her position.