With one day remaining until the measure currently funding the federal government is set to expire, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has written a letter stating that he will give back his congressional salary in the case of a shutdown, the latest in a series of efforts by lawmakers to rescind their own pay if the government grinds to a halt.
In the letter, which Manchin is circulating to colleagues on Thursday, the West Virginia Democrat states, “If the government shuts down, I will take this pledge, and I urge you all – from the President and Vice President to all Members of Congress – to take it with me: I will forego my federal salary until we reach an agreement. I will donate my salary to charity or return it to the Treasury until the government works again.”
Twenty-one Democrats, including Manchin, wrote a letter earlier this week asking House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring to the House floor a measure that would formally bar members of Congress and the president from getting paid during a shutdown.
But Congress’s actual ability to limit its own pay is, well, limited; a White House liaison last week declared in a memo to House Republicans that a Senate-passed Democratic proposal to sever congressional pay during a shutdown would violate the 27th Amendment.
As The Post’s Ben Pershing notes, during the shutdowns in the mid-1990s, members of Congress were forced to take their paychecks, although some in the end donated their paychecks to charity or to the federal Treasury, as Manchin has pledged to do.
Asked Wednesday about the issue of congressional pay in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that aired Thursday morning, Boehner initially said that he believed lawmakers would not get paid during a shutdown.
“If there is a government shutdown not only will Congress not be paid, but federal employees will not be paid,” Boehner said.
After Stephanopoulos clarified that there were no provisions in any measures currently on the House floor barring congressional pay, Boehner said that “we’ll have to take a look at that” and stated that he personally believed members should not be paid during a shutdown.
“They shouldn’t be getting paid, just like federal employees shouldn’t be getting paid,” Boehner said.
Congressional leaders and the White House are scrambling to reach a deal before midnight Friday, when the current funding measure is set to expire.
The full letter from Manchin is below:
Every passing hour, the looming possibility of a government shutdown becomes more real. The truth is, a shutdown may disrupt vital government services that that matter to our servicemembers, children, seniors, veterans and all American families.
The fact is, the American people elected us to do a job – a job that means we must work together and not allow ideology or partisanship to needlessly divide us and prevent us from reaching a commonsense agreement.
While millions of American families will be impacted by a government shutdown- whether they are serving our country’s military, whether someone in their family is furloughed or whether they are unable to use critical government services – elected officials are the one group who will not be impacted. Just the opposite, in fact: we still get paid.
How does that make any sense?
That is why, if the government shuts down, I will take this pledge, and I urge you all – from the President and Vice President to all Members of Congress – to take it with me:
I will forego my federal salary until we reach an agreement. I will donate my salary to charity or return it to the Treasury until the government works again.
In the Senate, we tried to make this commonsense measure the law of our country, and we unanimously passed legislation from Senators Boxer and Casey to prevent lawmakers and the President from drawing a salary if the government shuts down. Unfortunately, that legislation is going nowhere in the House.
The bottom line is this: I can’t imagine that the President, Vice President or any Member of Congress – Republican or Democrat – thinks they should get paid when the government has shut down.
Finally, some in Washington will deride this as an empty gesture. To those naysayers, I say that the American people expect more of us. They expect us to lead by example and share their pain until a budget resolution is reached that reflects our values and priorities as a country.
Again, I urge you to send the American people the right message and join with me to sign the “No Budget, No Pay” Pledge.
Senator Joe Manchin III”