Gingrey responds to controversial comments about pay

by: Lori Geary Updated:

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ATLANTA - U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia has come under fire for comments he made defending his plan that members of Congress should not get special treatment under Obamacare.

While Gingrey has received a lot of praise from conservatives for his strong stance against Obamacare, his opponents say he's got some explaining to do.

Gingrey is in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Republican House members were reportedly in a heated debate Wednesday behind closed doors over Gingrey's plan to bar members of Congress and staff from getting federal subsidies for their health insurance under Obamacare.

Gingrey has held firm that they should not be entitled to special treatment, claiming staff members could leave and get rich as lobbyists while he was "stuck" making $172,000.

Emory political science Professor Merle Black told Channel 2's Lori Geary that Gingrey has talked himself into a lot of political trouble.

Black said this is an issue that Gingrey will have to explain on the campaign trail.

Gingrey released a statement Thursday and did not deny what he said.

"Apparently, a few folks in Washington who feel they are entitled to preferential treatment are trying to change the subject. I said what I did to highlight just how out of touch some folks in that room are with the American people, who will also be harmed by Obamacare," Gingrey said in the statement.

"It kind of shows almost an arrogance here of power where you're comparing your situation with staffers, so-called the little people in the room. What he did here is basically giving more ammo to his political opponents," Black told Geary.

Already, Rep. Paul Broun, one of Gingrey's opponents in the Senate race, was out with a statement titled "Gingrey's paycheck dilemma."

In a statement, Broun's campaign said, "While most Americans are struggling to make ends meet and battling higher healthcare costs, it's disappointing that Congressman Gingrey, whose reported net worth exceeds $3 million, complains about being 'stuck here (in Congress) making $172,000 a year.'

"Congressman Broun is fighting to exempt all Americans from Obamacare, to get Georgians back to work, and to jump start the economy so that our country can return to the path to prosperity.

"Georgians needs a Senator who understands what it's like to balance a budget, not one who is more concerned with their salary than the needs and economic challenges faced by most Georgians."