Millionaire Lawmakers Gobbling Up the $34,000 Subsidy Stealthily Added to Congressional Rules

Despite those shocks you still get at the gas pump and the grocery store, it’s nice to know members of Congress are enjoying the extra $34,000 per year they gave themselves. No, it’s not the annual cost of living increase they’re allowed but have declined due to the poor image of it all, according to The New York Times. And it has nothing to do with the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which says congressional pay raises can’t take effect until after an election. It comes down to this: A committee of the outgoing Democratic majority, as one of its last actions in 2022, made a rules change to provide a $34,000 annual subsidy for each member of Congress to pay expenses for meals, travel and housing. The expense authorization was correctly identified by the Times as a pay raise. It’s extra money for some in Congress who are already multimillionaires. A stealth pay raise is handy because it provides plausible deniability at a time when most people wonder why lawmakers can’t get by on their $174,000 annual salaries. Some members may offer the defense that they have to support two residences, with the Capitol location being in a very expensive region. Yet some in Congress reduce costs by sleeping in their offices — and that’s scandalous to some. Perhaps frugality by a congressman makes others look bad. No wonder people were shocked by the minuscule wealth of new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. That might be an indication that he’s not playing the game of being able to whine about a $174,000 annual salary yet retire incredibly wealthy. Although the expense measure came from Democrats, members of both parties — some of them quite wealthy — are enjoying the $1.4 million spent during the first half of 2023, according to The Washington Free Beacon. “Recipients of these funds include at least 17 millionaire Democrats, including Rep. Katie Porter, who reported a net worth of up to $1.8 million in her latest financial disclosure, and House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D., Mass.), who boasts a net worth of up to $13.5 million,” the outlet reported Thursday. In total, 113 Democrats and 104 Republicans have taken advantage of the program, the Free Beacon reported. It said Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz had taken the biggest amount: $17,000 in the first five months of the year. That includes $6,200 for meals, as his wife, Ginger, boasts on social media of her husband’s prowess as a chef. Gaetz told the Free Beacon that ingredients for his avocation as a chef came at a discount by using buy-one-get-one-free offerings. “I’ve complied with the law, and my cooking is often with discount BOGO product. I try to do the best in the kitchen from the BOGO life,” he said. “During my time in Congress, I’ve returned over $860,000 to taxpayers from the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA).” That may be true, but there are also the realities of optics, especially as so many Americans are suffering from economic hurt. Some members of Congress weren’t even aware of the expense provision until informed by email. According to a Times report in January, former Republican Rep. Moe Brooks of Alabama objected to the subsidy being “clandestine.” “You can have a good public policy debate on whether congressmen should be paid more in order to attract a better bunch, and you could have a reasonable debate on inflation adjustments, but it really ought to be done in public,” Brooks said. “That’s my biggest beef.” Meanwhile, Zoe Bluffstone of the Congressional Progressive Staff Association said congressional staffers needed raises. They often live “paycheck to paycheck,” work extra jobs and amass debt, she said. The $34,000 expense account stemmed from complaints by younger members of Congress — including Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — about not being able to afford life in Washington, the Free Beacon reported. In office since 2019, Ocasio-Cortez lives in an expensive D.C. apartment complex with its own indoor golf simulator and a rooftop pool, the report said. That, of course, would make it hard to get by on $174,000. But at least AOC and others now have an extra $34,000 on which to scrape by. And good news for the rest of us — national average gasoline prices dropped by about 7 cents for the last week to about $3.42.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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