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Hastings: Poor people should serve, too

Rep. Alcee Hastings is defending pay raises for members of Congress - a politically touchy subject - saying Congress shouldn't be a reserve for the wealthy.

CQToday reports that the Miramar Democrat brandished a notice of a $90-per-month rent increase during floor debate Wednesday. Hastings argued that his rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Washington is several hundred dollars more a month than the mortgage on his three-bedroom house in Florida.

"Hastings warned against Congress choosing not to raise its pay because of the political perils," CQ said. " 'What they will wind up with is an elitist Congress, and that is wrong,' " Hastings said. " 'Poor people have a right to be here, too.' "

Members of Congress make $165,200 but point out that they maintain two residences - including one in DC.

Pay raises are automatic unless blocked by a vote. CQ notes that Democrats last year ran an ad campaign accusing Republicans of voting to raise their own pay while ignoring the needs of constituents. The campaign, the GOP said, broke a longstanding pledge to keep pay raises out of political campaigns.