The outgoing chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, has suggested congressional members should receive housing stipends to supplement their incomes. Chaffetz asserted that it is unreasonable to expect lawmakers to maintain residences in both their home states and in Washington D.C.
On June 27, Chaffetz, during one of his final interviews as a lawmaker, proposed that Congress members receive a raise.
"I really do believe Congress would be much better served if there was a housing allowance for members of Congress," Chaffetz told The Hill. "In today's climate, nobody's going to suggest or vote for a pay raise. But you shouldn't have to be among the wealthiest of Americans to serve properly in Congress."
The Utah lawmaker noted that members of Congress each make $174,000 annually, but argued that the cost of living in the nation's capitol made it untenable for his colleagues to raise a family in their home states.
"Washington D.C., is one of the most expensive places in the world, and I flat-out cannot afford a mortgage in Utah, kids in college and a second place here in Washington D.C.," Chaffetz continued. "I think a $2,500 housing allowance would be appropriate and a real help to have at least a decent quality of life in Washington if you're going to expect people to spend hundred of nights here."
"There are dozens upon dozens of members living in their offices, and I don't know how healthy that is long term," he added.
On May 18, Chaffetz abruptly announced that he would resign from office on June 30, signaling that he would return to the private sector. In a public letter, the Utah lawmaker signaled that finances and lifestyle played a role in his decision.
"I've slept on a cot in my office largely to save money for the Chaffetz family, but also to remind myself that my service there was temporary," Chaffetz wrote, according to U.S. News. "Though the time away and the travel have been a sacrifice, our family has always been united that public service was the right thing to do. We feel my time in Congress has been well spent, but it now seems the right time to turn the page."
If Chaffetz's call for a stipend were implemented, taxpayers would pay roughly $16 million to subsidize housing for lawmakers. The Utah lawmaker asserted that the supplemental income would be ultimately beneficial to taxpayers because it would afford congress members the ability to move their families to Washington D.C.
"If I wasn't buying as many airline tickets, it would ultimately be less expensive," Chaffetz concluded.
On March 7, Chaffetz ran into controversy after offering financial advice to low-income Americans concerned about the affordability of their health care.
"Americans have choices, and they've got to make a choice," Chaffetz told CNN. "So rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care."
Those comments ignited backlash on social media, with observers noting that the price for an iPhone was easily eclipsed by medical costs.
On June 28, it was announced that Chaffetz would become a Fox News contributor, confirming longstanding reports that the Utah lawmaker was retiring from Congress to enter the field of broadcast news, according to Politico.
The news outlet released a statement promising Chaffetz would "offer political analysis across FNC and FOX Business Network daytime and primetime programming."