- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2012

Proposed bipartisan legislation that would stop Congress from getting paid if they fail to pass a budget on time is winning fans on and off Capitol Hill.

The list of co-sponsors and endorsements is growing for identical House and Senate “No Budget, No Pay” bills introduced in December by Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee Democrat, and Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican.

Mr. Cooper’s bill has 34 co-sponsors equally divided by party. The list has grow significantly in recent days, with more than 20 co-sponsors added since Feb. 1.

The conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, of which Mr. Cooper is a member, last month also endorsed the measure.

“In the last six decades Congress has passed a budget a mere four times,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, Oregon Democrat, chairman of the group’s task force on fiscal responsibility.

“If this body can’t find a way to do what we have been sent here to do by the American people, which is to cut spending and reduce our nation’s outrageous $15 trillion deficit, then we don’t deserve to get paid.”

Of Mr. Heller’s six co-sponsors, two have joined since mid-February. One of the bill’s co-signers is a Democrat; Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

The measures would prohibit lawmakers from receiving pay after missing deadlines for budget and appropriations bills. It would not allow for that pay to be recouped.

The measure has been endorsed by the taxpayer-watchdog group Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the free-market organization Americans for Prosperity and the centrist group No Labels.

“It is absurd that this legislation is needed to establish an incentive for lawmakers to do their jobs, but nothing else seems to be working,” said Council President Thomas A. Schatz in a letter to the two lawmakers last week. “Congress should no longer be allowed to avoid its responsibilities and kick the can down the road through the use of stopgap financial measures.”

Congress hasn’t passed an annual budget since 2009, despite a statutory obligation to do so by the end of every September. Instead, lawmakers — mired in partisan gridlock and distracted by the 2010 and 2012 elections — have passed a series of short-term spending extensions.

The Republican-controlled House passed a budget last year, but it failed to clear the Democratic-run Senate.

Despite the bipartisan support, leaders of the majority party in each chamber haven’t rallied behind the proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, last month said he doesn’t intend to bring a budget to the floor for a vote this year, arguing that last summer’s debt-limit agreement — which set discretionary spending limits for fiscal year 2013 — in essence serves as a de facto budget.

And while a senior House GOP aide said the legislation appeared to be a good idea, don’t expect it to hit the floor for a vote anytime soon.

“The House always passes a budget — are we supposed to dock our members’ pay, which is frozen, anyway, because the Senate doesn’t do its job,” the aide asked rhetorically.

Mr. Heller and Mr. Cooper are scheduled to discuss their proposal as witnesses before a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday on congressional-reform proposals.