Bills would halt Congress’s pay during shutdown periods

October 8, 2013

Democrats and Republicans have proposed competing bills to halt pay for members of Congress during shutdowns, apparently in an attempt to discourage future lapses in appropriations.

(Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)
(Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)

The No Government No Pay Act of 2013, sponsored by Rep. Richard Nolan (D-Minn.), would prevent lawmakers from receiving pay for every day that the government is in shutdown mode. “I think this is a sensible approach that will discourage members of Congress from throwing temper tantrums of this nature in the future,” Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) said in a statement.

The Democratic legislation would not punish lawmakers financially for the current shutdown, since that’s prohibited by the Constitution. Under the 27th Amendment, Congress can only change its pay for the years following a future election.

In theory, that prevents lawmakers from giving themselves raises while they’re in office, although they can approve an increase and collect on it later if re-elected. In this case, it prevents Congress from penalizing itself during the current session.

Republicans have proposed a separate piece of legislation known as the Government Shutdown Fairness Act, which would punish lawmakers for the stalemate right away. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), would place Congress’s pay in escrow until the shutdown ends, compensating lawmakers retroactively.

“As Members of Congress, it is our job to keep the government running, and if the government shuts down, I don’t believe we should collect a salary during that time,” Collins said in a statement.

Furloughed federal workers are in a similar retroactive-pay situation, as they could receive back pay for the shutdown period under a measure the House passed on Saturday. That legislation has hit a snag in the Senate on Monday after Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), signaled they may seek to amend it with other proposals that Democrats have so far spurned.

The fate of the pay-freeze measures is unclear, since the House Administration Committee, where they were introduced, has not taken up the bills. Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), who is chairman of the panel, could not be reached for comment on the matter, according to her office.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed or e-mail  josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Eric Yoder · October 8, 2013