Congressman Complains About Making $172,000 a Year

Millionaire GOP lawmaker Phil Gingrey laments his low salary.

U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., announces his bid for the U.S. Senate at a press conference, Wednesday, March 27, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)  
National Journal
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Alex Seitz Wald
Sept. 18, 2013, 1:38 p.m.

Woe is Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Phil Gin­grey of Geor­gia, who be­moaned in a closed-door meet­ing this morn­ing that he’s “stuck” mak­ing a paltry $172,000 a year in Con­gress. Nev­er mind that this is more than three times the na­tion­al av­er­age in­come, or that Gin­grey is worth $3 mil­lion. Mean­while, he’s run­ning for Sen­ate, where can only ex­pect a $2,000 raise.

Cap­it­ol Hill aides can go work for a lobby shop and make $500,000, the con­gress­man said, ac­cord­ing to Na­tion­al Re­view‘s Jonath­an Strong. “Mean­while I’m stuck here mak­ing $172,000 a year.”

The con­text of Gin­grey’s com­ments is a bit com­plic­ated, but some­how makes the story even less flat­ter­ing. By a quirk of par­tis­an pos­tur­ing and ad­min­is­trat­ive rul­ings, the biggest vic­tims of Obama­care may be mem­bers of Con­gress and their staffers, who — if some GOP law­makers have their way — will lose the sub­sid­ized health in­sur­ance they cur­rently en­joy, which op­er­ates like any oth­er em­ploy­er-provided in­sur­ance plan. 

Re­pub­lic­ans ad­ded an amend­ment to the Af­ford­able Care Act to force mem­bers of Con­gress and their aides off of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s em­ploy­ee health plan and onto the newly cre­ated health in­sur­ance ex­changes. The ex­changes wer­en’t de­signed for this, and the un­usu­al situ­ation meant law­makers might lose the sub­sidies they use to help pay for their premi­ums. For­tu­nately for den­iz­ens of Cap­it­ol Hill, the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment (sort of the gov­ern­ment’s hu­man re­sources de­part­ment) ruled that the gov­ern­ment could con­tin­ue to provide the sub­sidy. Case closed?

Not ex­actly. The rul­ing promp­ted con­ser­vat­ive groups like Freedom­Works to claim that Con­gress was giv­ing it­self an ex­emp­tion from Obama­care. Gin­grey, along with Louisi­ana Re­pub­lic­an Dav­id Vit­ter in the Sen­ate, has led the charge on the “No Spe­cial Treat­ment for Con­gress Act,” which would end the sub­sidy.

And that brings us to the base­ment of the Cap­it­ol, where, per Strong, some less af­flu­ent law­makers chal­lenged Gin­grey on the bill. Rep. Joe Bar­ton of Texas, for in­stance, said the loss of the sub­sidy would cost him $12,000. “That’s a bur­den. And it’s a bur­den on our staff, too,” he re­portedly said.

Gin­grey was un­sym­path­et­ic, and had even less con­cern for those spoiled staffers, cit­ing their abil­ity to make bank on K Street while he wal­lows on $172,000. The ob­vi­ous re­join­der, which Demo­crats are sure to make, is that they’d be happy to re­lieve of him the bur­den of his job and meek salary and send him through the re­volving door to K Street.

Some of Gin­grey’s fel­low law­makers were “in­censed” by the re­mark, hence the leak to Strong, but the com­ment prob­ably won’t help the GOP’s prob­lems of be­ing per­ceived as a party ex­clus­ively for the wealthy.

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