In-Depth: Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) introduced this constitutional amendment to prevent members of Congress from receiving pay during a government shutdown:
“Today, I took a step to bring common-sense back to the federal government – I introduced a constitutional amendment that would prevent Members of Congress from getting paid during a government shutdown It’s shocking to me that this is even an issue, where else in America would employees get paid for failing to do their jobs. Members have a Constitutional duty to keep the government open and funded. As it stands now, Members of Congress still receive their paycheck, even when they cannot keep the government running. This just is not right. It is time to bring a dose of reality to the swamp. If we cannot do our jobs, then we do not deserve to get paid, plain and simple. It does not count to delay pay or get back pay as is the case with government employees. In the event of a shut-down we have failed the American people, and therefore have not earned our pay. Maybe the threat of losing of money will incentivize Representatives and Senators to return to regular order. I am willing to take whatever steps are necessary to bring accountability and common-sense back to the way our government operates.”
During the October 2013 government shutdown, former Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) argued that Congress shouldn’t get paid during shutdowns:
“It is especially disheartening that our federal workforce, which has always exemplified the professionalism of our country, has been demonized, demoralized and relegated to the status of a political football. A string of bills and amendments to freeze federal pay, cut training, roll back benefits, curb hiring and furlough federal employees -- including congressional staff -- has created an environment which has resulted in the flight of the most brilliant, dedicated and productive workers into other professions… It is criminal that after forcing these continual debt debacles on the American people, members of Congress are still able to cash their paychecks. It is unjust and unconscionable that Congress should continue getting paid while hard-working federal employees such as FBI and DEA agents, border patrol agents, National Park Service employees and other federal workers are either being furloughed or given IOUs on their paychecks.”
This constitutional amendment has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee with the support of six cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans.
In January 2018, Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Jon Tester (D-MT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced a Senate bill, the No Government No Pay Act of 2018, that’d withhold members of Congress’ pay during a government shutdown. As of December 2018, that bill has yet to receive a committee vote.
Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to pass legislation freezing Congressional pay in a shutdown, but such a bill has yet to pass both chambers of Congress.
Of Note: Currently, members of the House and Senate continue to draw paychecks during government shutdowns, while their staffers and other federal workers are either sent home or see their paychecks delayed. This is because Congress’ salaries are written into the Constitution. Article 1, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution allows lawmakers to still get paid their salaries despite the federal government being shut down.
After the partial government shutdown took effect on Friday, December 21, 2018, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Congressional pay should be furloughed during a shutdown:
“Next time we have a [government] shutdown, Congressional salaries should be furloughed as well. It’s completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision. Have some integrity.”
Rep-elect Ocasio-Cortez added that she hoped this would “cause members who actually depend on their salary to think twice about leadership and take a shutdown vote more seriously.”
During the December 2018 government shutdown, some members of Congress chose to donate their salaries during the shutdown. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) donated her salary to a Nevada charity for every day of the “Trump shutdown,” tweeting:
“I cannot take a salary during a government shutdown knowing that so many federal workers in Nevada and across the country will go without pay. I’ll be donating my salary to a Nevada charity for every day of the Trump shutdown.”
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) donated his pay to the Collier County Honor Flight program, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) donated his pay to TheDream.us, and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) donated her pay to Hawaii’s federally qualified community health centers.
Reps. Elise Stafanik (R-NY), Mark Walker (R-SC), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) requested that her pay be withheld during the partial government shutdown. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) pledged to return her salary every day that the government was shut down, stating that:
"Members from both parties should not get paid if they cannot work together to pass a full-year budget that funds our military and critical domestic priorities. That is why I will return my salary every day that the government is shut down. Lurching from one short-term continuing resolution to another is reckless and wrong. It degrades our military readiness, disrupts essential government services that American families rely on, and hurts small businesses that depend on federal contracts, grants, and loans."
During the October 2013 government shutdown, which lasted 16 days, over 800,000 people working for the federal government were furloughed, and a total of 248 members of Congress from both parties donated their salaries or refused to take their pay.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / mj0007)