Dem congressman with millions in legal bills says lawmakers need a raise

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A Democratic congressman who still owes millions of dollars in legal bills racked up while fighting corruption allegations said on Monday that members of Congress need a raise in order to cope with the District of Columbia’s rising cost of living.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.) said at a Monday Rules Committee hearing that members of Congress, who make an average of $174,000 per year, “aren’t being paid properly.”

“Members deserve to be paid, staff deserves to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to serve in this institution,” he said.

Observers scoffed at the comments, saying congressional pay and benefits are quite generous.

“Aside from access to subsidized travel, gym memberships, haircuts, and the like, congressmen have a retirement plan which averages about $40,000 a year for retired members,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog.

The average D.C. resident makes just under $60,000 per year, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Unlike most D.C. residents, members of Congress “have an automatic cost-of-living raise each year unless there is a vote to decline the raise,” Boehm noted.

Hastings is far from wealthy: he has the second-lowest net worth of any member of Congress. However, his own financial troubles may have less to do with the cost of living in D.C. than the exorbitant legal fees he amassed since the 1980s.

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