An Oklahoman congressman is under fire after he seemingly dismissed the notion that his constituents pay for him to go to Congress, calling the idea “bullcrap” in a viral video making the rounds on social media.
Markwayne Mullin, speaking at a town hall Tuesday in Jay, Oklahoma, was responding to a question from the audience when he responded to a claim that constituents pay for him to work in Congress.
“You say you pay for me to do this. Bullcrap. I pay for myself. I paid enough taxes before I got there and continue to through my company to pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to go,” said the 39-year-old Republican who represents Oklahoma’s second district, which covers much of the eastern part of the state.
When several audience members pushed back against this claim, Mullin went on, “I’m just saying this is a service for me, not a career, and I thank God this is not how I make my living.”
A spokesperson for Mullin later told the Tulsa World that he was referring to taxes he has paid as a private citizen and as a business owner. Mullin owns several plumbing companies, per the Tulsa World.
“Like all business owners, Congressman Mullin pays his taxes, which contribute to congressional salaries,” the spokesperson said.
In the Constitution, Congress is tasked with deciding its own members’ salaries, which is taken from the U.S. Treasury and paid for by taxpayers. In 2009, that pay was increased to a base of $174,000 per year plus benefits and has not changed since. However, members who reach leadership positions are eligible for higher salaries. Mullin holds no leadership positions.
Mullin first joined Congress in 2012 and has won his past two elections with more than 70 percent of the vote. However, like many other members of Congress, he has faced a hostile reception back home at town halls.
Mullin also announced Tuesday night that he was canceling another town hall, citing safety concerns.
“Over the past few weeks, we have seen an escalation of protesters at congressional town halls across the nation. We have even seen them right here in the Second District. I have continued to hold town halls and answer questions from constituents across the district, including those who have been vocal in their disapproval of my positions,” Mullin said in a statement.
“It is my intent to provide a safe environment for all attendees which is why we have established protocols at each of our town halls to ensure each person’s voice can be heard. Despite working with the venue for the Tahlequah town hall, we could not reach an agreement using our protocols that guaranteed the safety of everyone, so I chose to cancel the town hall after much consideration.”
However, Mullin’s announcement came just a few hours before the event was scheduled to begin and after attendees had already entered the building. The Associated Press reports that when the cancellation was announced, the crowd booed. Mullin later hosted several town halls on Wednesday.