To begin with first things first: How is it a flaw of the electoral system that incoming members of Congress don’t receive their salaries until they are sworn in? How, in fact, can anyone who has ever held a job be unaware that your first paycheck doesn’t arrive until after you start week — usually at least a week or two after?
Nevertheless, money was on the mind of fledgling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was interviewed by The New York Times about her victory last Tuesday and her transition to from ordinary citizen to congresswoman, with all the responsibilities that entails. In typical Ocasio-Cortezian fashion, the 29-year-old from Queens equated the experience with starting high school — an experience for her that ended not so long ago.
“It really is like high school orientation,” she told Times reporter Azi Paybarah, adding:
It’s like you pick your committees the way you pick your courses. And people ask, like, little logistical things like, ‘where you going to live?’ No decision there yet. Honestly, I’ve been so focused on today that I’m not trying to count my chickens before they’re hatched.
But then came the vexing subject of her “allowance” — er … salary:
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said the transition period will be “very unusual, because I can’t really take a salary. I have three months without a salary before I’m a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real.” She said she saved money before leaving her job at the restaurant, and planned accordingly with her partner. “We’re kind of just dealing with the logistics of it day by day, but I’ve really been just kind of squirreling away and then hoping that gets me to January.”
She could of course do what many neophyte and even some seasoned members of Congress have done for eons and take up residence in her congressional office. Or she could start up a GoFundMe page headlined “Ms. Ocasio-Cortez Goes to Washington” and rely on the kindness of strangers to help her over the hump.
Certainly once she gets to Washington, she can attempt to revive a bill introduced in June by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) that would require taxpayers to subsidize housing for House members. The bill even has the proper socialist ring to it.
Whatever happens, something tells me Congress’s newest — and unquestionably biggest — ditz will get it figured out. And before school starts.