'He's a hypocrite,' Holder says of Rep. Casten's support of legislators' proposed pay raises
Frederick Douglass Foundation President Babette Holder wonders what U.S. Rep. Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove) would do if he had to live like most Americans.
“To say that anything around $170,000 to $180,000 a year in income is peanuts is a slap and an insult to constituents in his district, most of whom probably aren’t anywhere near that pay rate,” Holder told DuPage Policy Journal after Casten came out in support of a pay raise for legislators as a way to attract the best people to Congress.
“When I ran my company, I paid a competitive wage,” Casten told The Hill. “I didn’t tell people, come here because you’re so committed to our mission that you’re willing to, you know, sleep on your friend’s couch and work for peanuts. It’s horrible that we force people to do that.”
Holder counters that lawmakers, especially at the congressional level, have it better than most.
“I know that some people are attracted to running because of the guaranteed salary income as well as the premiere benefits that elected officials get," she said. “We all know for a fact that people were answering the call to be a candidate like it was a job application and part of the enticement was what a legislator makes.”
House members are slated to vote on a $1 trillion spending plan that would include the first pay hike in nearly a decade. Currently, rank-and-file members earn an annual salary of $174,000, with the House Speaker topping out at $223,500. The Congressional Research Service estimated that the 2018 salary level for rank-and-file members would be $208,000 had Congress instituted the annual cost-of-living increases over the past decade as outlined in a 1989 ethics law.
With a 2.6-percent increase that would go into effect in January, lawmakers would see their salary jump to nearly $179,000, or more than three times that of the average American at $61,372 as recently as in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Let’s also remember that Casten, when he was running against Peter Roskam, made the statement, and I believe it was a tweet, that said the district is made of rich, white males,” Holder added. “And he was also a big advocate during the shutdown that the Trump administration should not get their increases. He’s a hypocrite.”