Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., says her $174,000 annual Congressional salary isn’t enough.
She wants more. A lot more.
On Monday, less than six months into her first term, Ocasio-Cortez voted to give herself and her fellow Capitol Hill lawmakers another pay raise.
Fellow Democrats and Republican lawmakers stepped in and halted the measure, expressing concern that a new pay hike was politically toxic. “It needs more discussion,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., told Fox News.
Ocasio-Cortez fired back. Voting herself a $4,500-a-year pay raise “may not be politically popular to say,” Ocasio-Cortez said, but it’s necessary.
Despite being a freshman congresswoman, Ocasio-Cortez and others have complained that there hasn’t been a congressional pay hike since 2009. She warned that without a pay raise, lawmakers like herself would be tempted to use insider-trading loopholes to make money.
“Honestly, this is why there’s so much pressure to turn to lobbying firms and to cash in on member service after people leave. Precisely because of this issue,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
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She called political opposition to the pay hike “superficial” political theater.
“It’s not even, like, a raise,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. She compared her $174,000 salary to the struggles of a minimum wage retail worker.
“It may be politically convenient, and it may make you look good in the short term for saying, ‘Oh we’re not voting for pay increases,’ but we should be fighting for pay increases for every American worker,” she said.
“We should be fighting for a $15 minimum wage pegged to inflation so that everybody in the United States with a salary with a wage gets a cost of living increase. Members of Congress, retail workers — everybody should get cost of living increases to accommodate for the changes in our economy,” she said.
Of course, Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the only lawmaker that has complained about Congress’ salary. Former Rep. James Moran, D-Va., famously told NPR in 2014 that $174,000 annually was “barely enough to make ends meet” and that “a lot of members can’t even afford to live decently in Washington.”
The average U.S. worker in 2017 earned just over $50,000 annually, according to data from the Social Security Administration, However, the median salary in the United States is less than $31,000 annually. The extremely wealthy pull the average up, which means most people make below average.
In other words, Congressional lawmakers are paid almost six-times what the average American worker brings home every year.
Despite this, Ocasio-Cortez warned other lawmakers to vote with her for another pay raise, or she’d be tempted to make money “on the back end.”
“When we don’t [vote for pay raises], it only increases the pressure on members to exploit loopholes like insider-trading loopholes, to make it on the back end,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters.
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