House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz — the GOP congressman who famously told people choose between healthcare and iPhones and declared his intention to go after Obama’s pension — has made a somewhat incongruous statement regarding the difficulty of life in Congress. He’s talking about money, of course. The base annual salary for an entering member of Congress is $174,000, plus benefits (and a solid healthcare plan, unlike what the Better Care Reconciliation Act promises for U.S. citizens). Yet Chaffetz believes that lawmakers deserve a new stipend that may not go over well with folks who are currently worried about not having insurance soon.
Chaffetz, who will resign from Congress on Friday, declared in 2009 that he’d sleep on a cot in his office to save his Utah-based family an extra $1,500 per month in D.C. rent expenses. He says this is not unusual and that Congress deserves a $2,500 monthly housing allowance, which will ease the burden for incoming members who are not otherwise wealthy:
“Washington, D.C., is one of the most expensive places in the world and I flat-out cannot afford a mortgage in Utah, kids in college and a second place here. I think a $2,500 housing allowance would be appropriate and a real help to have at least a decent quality of life in Washington if you’re going to expect people to spend hundreds of nights a year here … There are dozens upon dozens of members living in their offices, and I don’t know how healthy that is long-term.”
Well, maybe this is why Chaffetz decided to leave Congress for no apparent reason at all? Yet his sentiment echoes a 2011 complaint from entering Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI), who told an audience of his constituents (who were worried about slashed teacher salaries), “I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you.” Duffy then tried to argue that his $174,000 paycheck made it really difficult to cover a mortgage, student loans, and the cost of raising six children. Few people held much sympathy for Duffy then, and as this tweet indicates, folks feel the same way about Chaffetz now.