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Posted at 07:41 PM ET, 04/05/2011

Senate Democrats push for no pay during shutdown

A group of 21 Senate Democrats is urging House Republican leaders to move forward on a measure that would bar lawmakers and the president from getting paid in the event of a government shutdown.

But stopping Congress and the president from getting paid is no simple matter, as several House votes last week illustrated, and the same measure the Senate Democrats are promoting has been declared unconstitutional by a White House liaison.

“Our bill is simple: If we cannot do our work and keep the government functioning, we should not receive a paycheck,” the Senate Democrats wrote to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “If we cannot compromise and meet each other halfway, then we should not be paid.”

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, responded that House Republicans’ “goal is to cut spending, not shut down the government – and we’ve passed a bill to just that,” a reference to the $61 billion in proposed cuts passed by the House in February but later rejected by the Senate.

“The senators might want to request a meeting with their own leaders — who have not produced a credible plan to avoid a shutdown — including Sen. (Charles) Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is actively rooting for one for partisan gain,” Steel said.

Last month, the Senate unanimously approved S. 388, a measure sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that would prevent the president and members of Congress from receiving pay during a shutdown. The bill would also prohibit any retroactive pay.

Last Friday, the House voted on both a Republican-sponsored bill and a Democratic bill containing no-pay provisions. The Republican bill passed the House but is unlikely to progress any further, as it is essentially a re-statement of the $61 billion in cuts the Senate has already rejected.

The Democratic bill, meanwhile, was rejected by the House after Republicans revealed that a White House congressional liaison deemed that the measure would violate the 27th Amendment. That amendment states that “no law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

The House Democratic measure contained the same language as S. 388, while House Republicans have argued that their version is constitutional because it would not prohibit retroactive pay. Any no-pay measure, then, would likely have to include different language from the Senate-passed bill in order to secure the president’s signature.

The Democrats’ full letter to Boehner follows.

April 5, 2011

The Honorable John Boehner


United States House of Representatives

H-232 The Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner:

We write to request a meeting with you to discuss House passage of S. 388, legislation to prohibit Members of Congress and the President from receiving any pay during a government shutdown.

Over one month has passed since the Senate unanimously passed this bill. Despite written requests for immediate House consideration from Senators and Representatives, you have failed to schedule a vote on stand-alone legislation that would treat Members of Congress and the President no differently from other federal employees during a government shutdown.

Our bill is simple: if we cannot do our work and keep the government functioning, we should not receive a paycheck. If we cannot compromise and meet each other halfway, then we should not be paid.

As we noted in a previous letter, while appearing on the CNN program “Crossfire” in 1995, you offered your support for a bill identical to S.388, so it is unclear why you have not scheduled a vote on stand-alone legislation. Embedding “no budget, no pay” in a bill that has no chance of passage, is not fooling anybody.

We request to meet with you as soon as possible, whether in person or via conference call, to discuss how we can work together to immediately send this legislation to the President.


Barbara Boxer

United States Senator

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

Mark Begich

United States Senator

Michael Bennet

United States Senator

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

Chris Coons

United States Senator

Kay Hagan

United States Senator

Tom Harkin

United States Senator

Amy Klobuchar

United States Senator

Joe Manchin, III

United States Senator

Claire McCaskill

United States Senator

Robert Menendez

United States Senator

Jeff Merkley

United States Senator

Barbara A. Mikulski

United States Senator

Ben Nelson

United States Senator

Jay Rockefeller

United States Senator

Debbie Stabenow

United States Senator

Jon Tester

United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse

United States Senator

Mark Warner

United States Senator

Ron Wyden

United States Senator

By  |  07:41 PM ET, 04/05/2011

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