A potential Department of Homeland Security shutdown would directly affect lawmakers’ pocketbooks under a bill introduced in the House this week.
The Democratic measure, sponsored by Reps. Brad Ashford (Neb.), Gwen Graham (Fla.), Scott Peters (Calif.) and Ami Bera (Calif.), would halt pay for members of Congress if they don’t agree to a new round of funding for the agency by Friday, in which case DHS would partially close.
The legislation is similar to several bills that would have halted lawmakers’ salaries during the government-wide shutdown of 2013. Those measures never made it out of committee that year.
Federal statute only allows lawmakers to change the salaries of future members of Congress, so the new House bill would put their wages in an escrow account until the potential Homeland Security shutdown ends.
“All across the country, folks live by the idea that if you don’t do your job, you shouldn’t get paid,” Ashford said in a joint statement with the bill’s other sponsors. “The same should hold true for members of Congress.”
No Homeland Security employees would be paid in the event of a shutdown, but 85 percent of the department’s roughly 240,000 employees would remain on the job because their roles are vital to national security or funded from sources outside of Congress.
“If the hardworking men and women in the Department of Homeland Security will continue to go to work but not receive a paycheck, members of Congress who have failed to do their job should not receive a paycheck either,” Peters said in the statement.
With past shutdowns, Congress has always voted to pay federal employees retroactively after the funding lapses ended. However, the policy is not automatic.
Republicans have threatened to shut down Homeland Security unless President Obama reverses his plans to shield an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
To accomplish their goal, they proposed a DHS funding bill with a rider to block the immigration actions. But GOP leaders failed four times to muster enough votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, and Obama has threatened to veto the legislation anyway.
On Friday, the Senate approved a “clean” funding bill for Homeland Security that would keep the department operating through the fiscal year without halting Obama’s plans. However, House Republicans have proposed a competing bill to keep the agency open for three more weeks.
It is unclear whether the House will pick up the Senate legislation or try to send its own bill to the Senate, where the fate of the three-week extension would be equally uncertain.