GOP proposes cutting lawmaker pay if fiscal goals aren't met
The Washington Examiner
Washington, February 5, 2016
House Republicans have proposed two new bills aimed at cutting or withholding congressional salaries whenever Congress fails to balance the budget, or fails to pass all 12 federal spending bills on time.
The idea of tying member salaries to fiscal outcomes has been tried before, but hasn't gone anywhere. Still, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has promised to return to member-driven consideration of all 12 bills on time this year, and the two new bills from lawmakers looking to enforce that promise shows rank-and-file members want Ryan to keep that promise.
Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, proposed a bill that would cut member salaries by 5 percent if Congress fails to balance the budget, and another 10 percent for each following year in which the government spends more than it takes in.
"As a career small businessman, I know firsthand the consequences when businesses mismanage resources," Blum said Friday. "But unlike the private sector, Congress faces no penalties for failure."
"For the sake of our children and grandchildren who will be stuck paying off our $19 trillion debt, it's time we make our politicians face the reality of our fiscal crisis by hitting them where it counts: their own pocketbook," he said.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, proposed another bill that would withhold member salaries if Congress fails to hold votes on all 12 spending bills. His "Do Your Job Act" also requires all 12 bills to be open to amendment, so leaders can't ram through the bills all at once without giving members a chance to adjust them.
"If we don't fulfill the responsibilities of our office, we shouldn't get paid. That may require some tough votes," Wenstrup said.
Bills to cut or withhold member pay have led to legal arguments over the last few years about whether they're constitutional. The 27th Amendment to the Constitution says no law can vary the compensation of lawmakers "until an election of Representatives shall have intervened," or in other words, until the next Congress.
Some lawmakers have said simply withholding the pay of members is constitutional, since their pay isn't being varied, and is instead just being withheld. But others say even withholding pay would violate the 27th Amendment, although the debate hasn't been definitively settled by the courts.
Others have tried to get around constitutional concerns by saying pay cuts would take place as soon as the next Congress convenes.
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