No pay for Congress during default or shutdown

The proposal in the title is the underlying premise of a new bill that was introduced in Congress last week. The bill is called the “No Pay for Congress During Default or Shutdown Act” and it has both a Democrat and Republican sponsor. 

If Congress fails to pass a budget and keep the lights on, congressional paychecks would be suspended. It was introduced by Democrat Abigail Spanberger of Virginia in partnership with Republican Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. 

The basic selling point that Spanberger is pitching is, if you are a working American, “if you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid.” So Congress shouldn’t either. As it turns out, it’s not really a pay cut at all, which we’ll get to in a moment. 

Do you think it will pass? I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. 

From Government Executive:

Members of Congress wouldn’t get paid if the debt limit is reached or there is a government shutdown, under a new bill introduced by a bipartisan pair of lawmakers.

The bill, introduced last week, comes as there have been on and off talks between House Republicans and the White House on how to deal with the impending debt default. Also, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee warned in January of a possible government shutdown in the next year because of demands from some Republicans.

This is “a bipartisan bill that would not only incentivize cooperation during moments of looming default, but also pressure elected officials to keep the doors of our government open, the livelihoods of our federal employees protected, and the American people secure,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who introduced the bill along with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.

You can read the full text of the bill here. The prospects for the future of this bill do not look bright, at least initially. It doesn’t seem to be attracting a flood of sponsors in the House thus far. And there is no companion bill awaiting action in the Senate. Generally, if one of the members is preparing an ambitious piece of legislation that they believe has a good chance of making it into law, they will work with one or more Senators so both bills can be introduced at the same time.

I’ve gone through the bill which is only a few pages long and noticed some interesting caveats. First of all, the entire bill would not take effect until after the general election in 2024. There is a special caveat for the current (118th) Congress. In the event that the debt limit is breached and/or a shutdown takes place, the pay for Senators and House members would be reduced based on the number of days that the shutdown lasts. There is no mention of suspending the pay of staffers or the budget for other activities in each member’s office.

As to the member’s own paychecks, rather than being cut entirely, all of that pay would be placed in an escrow account. It would be restored to them after the shutdown ends. And if the shutdown somehow lasts until the end of the 118th Congress, the escrow funds would be released to the members in full. So it’s really not a pay cut at all. They’ll still get all of the money, even if they have to wait a while for it. This is just virtue signaling once again.

But it’s probably all hypothetical in the end. Do you really believe that these swamp dwellers are going to vote to drain their own bank accounts? You can probably gather a hint about this from the lack of support that’s shown up for a previous bill that would prevent the members from engaging in insider trading. It makes for a good headline, but most of these people will never do anything to impact their own financial interests even if you can’t afford to fill up your car’s gas tank.

I was going to suggest that the bill be expanded to cut the pay of the President, the Vice President, and all the members of the Cabinet as well. (Because the White House is equally culpable in budget stalemates.) But I somehow doubt Joe Biden would notice if he missed a few paydays. He’s done extremely well over his many decades in government service and The Big Guy probably hasn’t burned through all of the Hunter Biden money yet.

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