'Real World' congressman's money troubles
March 30th, 2011
11:02 AM ET
9 years ago

'Real World' congressman's money troubles

(CNN) - Even freshman congressmen sometimes get the blues. Republican Rep. Sean Duffy told a constituent, "I struggle to meet my bills right now," at a town hall meeting in Amery, Wisconsin last week.

And when the questioner challenged his claim on the basis that Duffy makes "three times" his own salary, the congressman responded, "I guarantee most of you, I have more debt than all of you. With six kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I'm living high off the hog, I've got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now."

The exploration of Duffy's personal finances began as an explanation when a constituent asked the first-term congressman how much congressmen and senators make and whether he'd vote to cut his own salary in an effort to reduce the deficit.

Duffy initially danced around the question by recalling his time on the campaign trail in a video posted on ThinkProgress.org, the blog linked to liberal think tank Center for American Progress. He asserted that he went "roughly seven months with six kids and no paycheck" after resigning as the Ashland County district attorney to run for office.

After revealing that congressional members make $174,000 in annual salary, Duffy went on to lambast the health plan offered by the federal government in a diatribe intended to relate to the issues raised his constituent, who'd stated that his wife, a teacher, may face a salary cut if a budget-cutting Wisconsin bill is passed by state government.

"Now, some say I've taken an upgrade, some say I've taken a downgrade as a congressman," Duffy responded. "I now pay $600 a month for my health insurance. I pay far more as a congressman than I did as a D.A. because the federal government doesn't offer nearly as good of a plan as the state of Wisconsin does."

Mike Tate, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, slammed Duffy's comments in a statement saying, "Poor Hollywood Sean Duffy. He only makes four times the median family income in Wisconsin. This must explain why he is four times out-of-touch with the working families whose health care he would slash, whose Social Security he would erode, whose schools he would close and whose jobs he would ship to China."

But a spokesman for the alum of MTV's reality show "The Real World," Daniel Son, fired back in a released statement.

"Our nation faces a real fiscal crisis and Congressman Duffy is committed to working with his colleagues in the House to face these challenges head on, not score cheap political points," he said.

Filed under: Congress • Sean Duffy
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Jim

    What's he done to help the economy? I am not asking him to take a pay cut, (Maybe learn to use a condom), but if he payed for his 6 kids while making less in Wisconsin as a DA, then why is he struggling so badly now? I don't make 2/3 of what he does, I live in California so I pay more in rent for a 2-bedroom than he does for a house, and still manage to stay on top. He needs to do what I had to, which is to examine his way of life and cut where necessary. That starts with the supposed money he spends on health care. I have seen the program the Congressmen and Senators get, and it's pretty cushy.

    March 30, 2011 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  2. Lisa P

    Six kids? That doesn't sound very responsible to me. Or, to put it another way, it sounds to me like any money woes he might have are self-inflicted. I doubt the same thing can be said of his constituents, unless you count voting for clueless Tea Party idiots as their own carefully considered choice to hurt themselves by forcing the economy to tank.

    March 30, 2011 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  3. Sam

    Let me get this straight – Duffy's party wants to slash all the health reform, yet he is complaining that he is paying $600 a month for a family of 8 – his six kids and he and his wife – because of the Fed. govt plan is not good! This is hilarious!

    March 30, 2011 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  4. philojazz

    Representative Duffy

    If you really had any ethical sense, you would REFUSE your federally-subsidized health plan until EVERY AMERICAN had government-subsidized health insurance. Lots of us would feel super lucky if we ONLY had to pay $600 a month for health insurance. And we sure as hell aren't getting paid $174,000 a year to start with.

    Good luck trying to relate to your constituents, sir.

    March 30, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  5. Tom california

    Honestly my brother a dingle dad of 5 makes lesss than half of what this idiot makes. Now thats struggling to make it. $174,000 a year is plenty even with six kids and student loans. You wont be living high on the horse or have the nicest car or house but you can make it and put money away for the future.

    March 30, 2011 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. Bill from GA

    To the original question asked, about "whether he'd vote to cut his own salary in an effort to reduce the deficit", I would for like Congressman Duffy, my Congressman, and all others, to explain why they get a 'cost of living' adjustment computed at a higher level than that for seniors on Social Security.

    March 30, 2011 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. alpha_nu_916

    oh no, 600 a month for health care for 8 – the congressman, his wife, & 6 kids! that's a lot of money? give me a break . . .
    my friend is paying 800 a month for him & his wife.

    March 30, 2011 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  8. NVa Native

    So he's just like the rest of us, or worse off than most of us? You betcha!
    It will work at a Heritage Foundation forum, or a tea-bagger rally, or CBN, but in the real world ....anybody making over $100K is doing well.
    And we don't "sympathize" with your decision to have six kids. You made that choice, and be thankful it was your right as some want to take that right from you ... your right to CHOOSE. Dip-shot!

    March 30, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  9. Texas Doc

    WAHHHHH! Quit you crybaby. You still have it better than 90% of the country. Only a Republican could be as stupid as to whine about something like this in the middle of an economic crisis...that they created.

    March 30, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. DTB

    More proof that Republicans have no idea how to count.
    175k/year for a republican = Poor
    50k/year for a teacher = Rich

    You people are hilarious.

    March 30, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  11. James Brooklyn N.Y.

    174000.00 is salary how much lobbyist money is he not reporting? When will he write a book? I hope he is out of office in two years and then he can see what health care costs, What public school conditions are like and gas prices are out of control. Then he would wish he was back in office doing something about it not trying the kill America.

    March 30, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  12. jojo

    I'm sorry, but if you have 6 kids, you don't get to complain about not being able to make it on $174,000 per year. If you can't afford your current lifestyle, STOP HAVING KIDS.

    If this guy can't live on 174k, how can we expect him to have any knowledge of how to balance the Federal budget?

    March 30, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  13. A Kickin' Donkey

    If this were some other 6-figure earning liberal or even just a Democrat; the rightwing nut jobs would tell he to stop living so recklessly ... to control his fornication if he can't afford to support his kids.

    Honestly, though only a REPUBLICAN would claim to be "in the poorhouse" while making more than $130,000 per year – plus all the PAC money he can skim.

    March 30, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. Linton

    $174K/year and you can't make ends meet? Sounds like you've made some really bad decisions in your life, pal.

    I'd say with that kind of fiscal accumen you should have never been elected to manage your constituents' money.

    Thanks for admitting you're incompetent when it comes to budgeting money!

    March 30, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. Lolo

    His wife needs to get a job like the rest of us. He is living on the high hog. The more you make the more it takes. He needs to live within his means like the republicans tells us the little people. Please, I do not have no sympathy for this man.

    March 30, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. keeth in cali

    And when I was unemployed and under-employed for nearly 3 years (and I didn't take unemployment insurance), I had to pay $250 a month for the most basic health insurance to cover me in case I got hit by a car or cancer. Let's look at $250 a month when I earned roughly $12-20K a year vs $600 a month when he's earning $174K a year. Boo hoo, pretty boy. Stop drinking the red whine.

    March 30, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  17. mom2boys

    Maybe he shouldn't have had 6 kids? I make sure my bills are paid and I am also on one income as my husband's currently out of work but we were smart and stopped at 2 children. He should have done the same if he couldn't afford them.

    March 30, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  18. ConservaFascists/FUBAR

    You pay $7200 a year for healthcare and make $174,000 annually. What are you complaining about? That's small potatoes when you're making that kind of money. Even with 6 kids, a mortgage and student loans, you still make more than enough.

    March 30, 2011 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Hey, Wisconsin, how's that Republican-led "changy" thing going for you? If this congressman is complaining about paying his bills because he has 6 kids and college loans, maybe he should have gotten a higher paying job, or considered holding off on having children until he could better financially support them.

    March 30, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    If you cannot live off $174,000, and also have your wife's salary ($51,000 average in Wisconsin) to supplement your income, you are probably not smart enough, fiscally, to represent people.

    March 30, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  21. patNY

    the irony of this tea partier's complaints is too much to comment about...average public employees complain about the same thing, yet, are constantly bashed by republicans as union parasites who make too much money for what they do and get too much lavish benefits.

    March 30, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. Sniffit

    One paycheck at $174K. Let's see, that's a little OVER THREE TIMES the average middle-class household income (nationwide) for a family with TWO wage earners. Poor wittle guy. If it's that tough on so much money, maybe he should've thought twice before using his wife as a clown car baby factory.

    March 30, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  23. ely

    What a childish thing to say. He has more debt than most of us? These Gop people get more "ignorant" by the day? You need to get with Santorum,"Start saying pro choice women are breaking Medicare. You have to get more,"Dictator" training from the "The Tea and Beer Party" before they will "Except You" sir?

    March 30, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  24. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans will cut off the hand that feeds them and then tell you they want less government. The only Government that works for them is the one that's paid for by taxpayers, don't see them giving up their salaries and don't forget all the perks.

    March 30, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Now, some say I've taken an upgrade, some say I've taken a downgrade as a congressman," Duffy responded. "I now pay $600 a month for my health insurance. I pay far more as a congressman than I did as a D.A. "

    Hey, Genius. After my husband lost his job of 28 years, we also lost our health insurance coverage. Guess what, Sparky? Once he found a new, lesser paying job, we, too, ended up paying $600.00 a month for our *new* more *limited* health insurance. I can guarantee you he isn't making the $170K you're bringing home - not even close. Fact is, with his lower wages and our current tax deductions, we have become one of those 50%ers who now pay little or no taxes that have so many on the right in such an uproar over. So much for GOPer logic.

    March 30, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
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