An Illinois Democratic congresswoman says she plans to return to the U.S. Treasury 8.4 percent of her monthly salary for each month that Congress fails to avert $85 billion in spending cuts set to take effect Friday.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said Wednesday that she plans to take the self-imposed pay cut to "bear the same kind of pain that my school districts are going to be feeling."
Overall sequestration cuts will total $85 billion, or 2.3 percent of the total federal budget — both mandatory and discretionary spending. But not all discretionary accounts are subject to sequester, including salaries for U.S. troops.
Duckworth is calculating her 8.4 percent pay cut by focusing on cuts to affected discretionary federal spending accounts. If sequestration plays out as scheduled over the next seven months, affected discretionary accounts will see an 8.4 percent cut.
The freshman representative said she made the decision last weekend after meeting with school superintendents, who detailed how federal budget cuts would impact remedial reading and Head Start programs in her suburban Chicago district.
“For me this is very, very personal. I’m not interested in bringing any other members into this, this is just a personal decision," she said.
House lawmakers are paid $174,000 annually — they haven't given themselves a pay raise in years. Before taxes, Duckworth's salary totals $14,500 monthly, so she'll take a hit of about $1,220 each month.
She said she explored the option of donating the money to charity, "but I think the best thing to do is to give it back to the taxpayers."
Duckworth said the pay cut means she'll postpone planned renovations to her house to accommodate her elderly mother and wait to purchase a new vehicle.
Her decision to take a pay cut comes on the same day that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) announced he'll curb taxpayer funding of congressional trips abroad as part of congressional belt-tightening to address sequestration.
The decision means delegations headed abroad are forbidden from using taxpayer-funded military aircraft once the cuts take affect. The decision covers trips to review ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, severely limiting lawmakers ability to visit the war regions. The cuts, commonly known as the sequester, will trim $85 billion from federal spending for the remainder of fiscal year 2013, including hitting at congressional office budgets.
Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.
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