One of the final actions of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022 was to increase members' compensation by more than $39,000, a move U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) said caught him by surprise.
During Tuesday's episode of Midday Mobile, Carl discussed how he disagreed with Mo Brooks, who first brought the issue to light, and said the raise is fair despite it being slipped through in the final hour.
"Nancy Pelosi did it on the way out. She put it in something, and it passed through. It caught all of us by total surprise," Carl said. "But I disagree with Mo Brooks… Do you want the best to represent you in Washington, or do you want the most economical person to represent you in Washington?"
(The relevant portion begins around the 15-minute mark.)
Brooks argued the raise was "self-serving" and a "clandestine way" for Congress to pad its own pockets at the taxpayers' expense. He said the issue should have been debated on the House floor.
"Nancy Pelosi was supposed to have put it into a bill," Carl said. "We know so little about it… I'm even surprised Mo Brooks knows the dollar amount. I haven't heard anything on a dollar amount … I guarantee, if Mo Brooks was still in office, he would be the first one screaming, 'We need it, we deserve it.'"
Carl said he's "been blessed" to be able to represent his district and that, for him, it's not about the money.
"I don't have to send money home to my family to feed my family," he said. "There are some members up there that this is their only source of income. They live in their offices. They eat at functions. They do everything that they can do to save as much money as they can."
Carl said Washington, D.C. is a "very expensive place to have to work" and that it is "heartbreaking" to see some Congressmen live out of their office. He added that he spends $30,000 on housing alone.
"We need good people in office. We need people that can afford to be there," he said. "At the rate, we're going, the only people that are going to be there are the rich that want to be there and the very poor that are just looking for a job. That's not who I want representing me in Washington. I want someone there that can take care of their family and represent me and be that middle-of-the-road person, which I think I'm very close to that."
Congress hasn't received a pay raise in the last eight years, Carl said.
"I spend about $35 a week just in dry cleaning. I mean, these things add up," he said. "So for Mo Brooks to say that he thinks it's unfair for the Legislators to get this — we don't have to take it. I'm trying to figure out whether I want to take it or not. I don't have to take it. I can leave it in my budget. I can spend it on my employees or my staff, which that's normally what I choose to do. But I think Mo's wrong."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email [email protected].
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.