Seeking to show solidarity with furloughed workers and head off growing public frustration with Congress, some Capitol Hill lawmakers are vowing to give up their salaries until a deal is struck to reopen the government.
Republicans and Democrats from both chambers have announced suspension requests or say they will donate their salaries to charities. One such charity funds the “honor flights” that bring veterans to Washington to visit the National World War II Memorial. The memorial gained attention this week when a group of veterans skirted barricades put up by the National Park Service as part of the shutdown.
“My view is that we don’t get paid if the federal employees don’t get paid,” said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat.
Other lawmakers, though, are more reluctant to forgo a paycheck — at least for the time being.
“I am trying to get everyone paid,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, alluding to a bill he introduced that would ensure federal employees get paid for the time they miss at work. “My objective is not to withhold anyone’s pay. So, I want everyone to get paid. That is my ‘Plan A.’ If that doesn’t paid we will go to ‘Plan B.’”
Less than 48 hours into the government shutdown, there have been few signs that lawmakers are getting close to a deal.
Senate Democrats passed a continuing funding resolution earlier this year that would keep the federal government and Obamacare funded through Nov. 15. House Republicans have refused to take up that proposal and have instead passed a series of measures aimed at linking government funding to delaying or defunding Obamacare.
The resulting stalemate led to the government shutdown, which started after midnight Monday, and has left 800,000 federal employees out of work.
The showdown has coincided with polls showing Congress‘ approval rating has sunk to an all-time low — perhaps convincing some lawmakers to give up their pay as a sign of good will.
Meanwhile, legislation also is being pushed that would postpone lawmaker pay during a shutdown.
“No small business would pay someone who refuses to do their job,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican. “So why should senators or House members be paid for failing to fulfill one of their most basic responsibilities? They shouldn’t.”
The one catch is that lawmakers, who pull in at least $174,000 a year, constitutionally are barred from raising or lowering their salaries.
That means lawmakers who want to reject their pay right now must decide where to send it.
“I shouldn’t get a salary while other federal employees are denied the ability to go to work,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “What I am going to do, for every day that we are in a shutdown mode, I’m going to take my salary and donate it to the Wounded Warriors program.”