House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) joined the vast majority of members of Congress Wednesday night, saying elected federal officials should not be paid in the event of a government shutdown.
But with less than 48 hours to go until the government does shut down, all members — and the President — are still slated to receive their checks. The optics of this are so bad that members are figuring out ways to avoid political stigma for swimming in dough while their constituents suffer.
“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,” writes Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in a letter to colleagues. “I will donate my salary to charity or return it to the Treasury until the government works again.”The Senate passed a bill unanimously several weeks ago that would have blocked congressional and presidential pay during a shutdown. The House did, too. But House Republicans embedded their no-pay legislation in a bigger bill — one which would automatically trigger drastic spending cuts, and which has been rejected by Democrats.
The two bills don’t agree — and they must for President Obama to sign it.
Note, even if Obama signed it, there’s still a constitutional question. The 27th Amendment forbids a sitting Congress from changing its own compensation; it can only make changes to the compensation of future Congresses. But, really, who’s going to sue to stop members of Congress from earning less money.