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Should Congress Be Exempt From a Government Shutdown?

February 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

If Congress fails to pass a government funding bill before March 4th and we enter shutdown mode, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed without pay or asked to continue working in a non-pay status. But guess who will continue to get paid as if nothing happened? That’s right, Members of Congress and the President.

Unlike just about all other federal employees, the salaries for members of Congress ($174,00) and the President ($400,000) are paid from permanent mandatory spending accounts that are not subject to annual renewal from Congress. They are, by law, effectively exempted from shutdowns. In case you’re wondering who decided that Congress’s pay should be immune to Congress failing to fund the government, the answers is, of course …Congress! Funny how that works.

With a government shutdown now looking very likely in early March, some members of Congress want to end their special salary protections. Barbara Boxer [D, CA] in the Senate and James Moran [D, VA] in the House have introduced legislation that would deny basic pay to Congress and the President if there is a more than 24-hour lapse in government funding as a result of a failure to enact appropriations bills or if the statutory debt limit is reached because is was not increased in time.

So far, Boxer has 7 co-sponsors for her bill (S.388), all Democrats, and Moran has 0 for his (H.R.819). According to the Daily Caller, Boxer has asked Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] to fast-track her bill through the Senate as a stand-alone measure. Now word yet on whether that’s going to happen. 

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  • plexer1098 02/23/2011 10:33am

    yes, they shoudlb eexempt, but at the same time their pay should be restricted or eliminated during the time the govneemnt is shut-down fornot completed a negotiated budget with the white house.

  • Kentuckian 02/23/2011 11:59am

    How about first requiring Congress members to ALWAYS show up to work and vote or they don’t receive pay/lose their jobs? That seems intuitive. I always hate hearing how many members just choose not to show up or are absent during many sessions.

  • coltabsh 02/23/2011 12:00pm

    They should not be Exempt they ran the government into the ground and they still sit up there like fat cats collecting a paycheck. People are loosing there homes big time. they have said the economy is improving. I see it getting worse I work doing property preservation and I am swamped!!!!! last week in my area 42 homes forclosed on that was with bank of america just think of the other mortgage companies.

    dont flame me on spelling and grammar i am just telling you how bad it is in my area

  • fakk2 02/23/2011 12:19pm

    This bill is amazing! They won’t even get paid retroactively if their pay is forfeited by a government shutdown. Athletes get penalized for not meeting their obligations, why should Congress and the President be any different? The last Senate had an obligation to pay for spending during their tenure, which they failed to do. Now it’s up to the current Congress, and although it’s not 100% this Congress’s fault, it is partially their fault; they had 2 full months to do it.

    I would even go farther to stipulate that if Congress cannot come to a Quorum, such as what’s happened in Wisconsin & Indiana, then the missing member’s pay should be forfeited and not payable retroactively. I think Congress should meet more with the constituents, but if we have legislators purposefully missing work to not have a debate about something, that is cowardice and they should be penalized. At least this bill is a step in the right direction.

  • DeborahJBrown 02/24/2011 3:07am

    This is ridiculous… If the government shuts down Congress is 100% AT FAULT and should not be paid during this period if they CHOOSE to take a vacation. They absolutely repulse me exempting themselves from this and then wanting to take the day/s off too. There is NO QUESTION that they better be working during this time since they’re the only ones being paid. No one else should work though… not one unpaid employee should work. If Congress wants to shut down then they deserve to live with the consequences and not benefit from a paid vacation.

  • jlohman 02/24/2011 3:45am

    Congress should also be shut down, and their pay and benefits STOPPED (not just suspended and accumulated and paid back when they reopen).

    Jack Lohman

  • fakk2 02/26/2011 3:52am

    Here’s a radical idea, why not pass a bill that does 3 simple things:

    1.) If the federal government “shuts down” due to not passing a budget or CR for the fiscal year, all members of Congress & the President forfeit their pay during that period and do not get it paid retroactively when normal functions are resumed.
    2.) If Congress does not pass and approve a full budget by the FY deadline (ie, by September 30, 2011 for a budget for FY 2012), but instead passes a CR, all members of that Congress & the President shall have their pay reduced to the same level as an enlisted serviceman out of bootcamp would get until the next FY.
    3.) These provisions would exempt the pay for the staff of the President & the Congress from any reductions as a result of these provisions.

    So, if the FED stops, so does their pay. If a budget isn’t approved, then they can make the same as a new recruit in the military, & their staffers can possibly make mroe than they do for 1 year.

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