Senators Want to Cut Congressional Pay

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Susan Walsh/AP

Lawmakers should take a pay cut during sequestration, say two Democrats.

Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bill Nelson of Florida have introduced legislation that calls for a reduction in congressional salaries once furloughs begin across government. Furloughs could start as early as late March at some agencies, though April is more likely. They will continue through September unless Congress reverses the automatic spending cuts triggered on Friday.

“The federal workforce is looking at furloughs that would result in a sizeable pay cut -- and there’s absolutely no reason members of Congress should exempt themselves,” McCaskill said. “We can and should reach a balanced compromise to replace these damaging across-the-board cuts, but until we do, this is an obvious step to hold Congress accountable for the job we need to get done.”

The bill, dubbed the Congressional Overspending Pay Accountability Act, would reduce congressional salaries by the greatest percentage decrease furloughed employees face. Agencies have estimated that some employees could lose up to 20 percent of their salary based on the number of days they are forced to take unpaid leave.

The legislation, though, might not be legal. The 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits a sitting Congress from increasing or decreasing its own pay, although it can change the pay of future legislative bodies. A provision in the McCaskill-Nelson bill says if the pay cut is deemed unconstitutional, then the legislation would take effect in the next Congress.

The public favors docking the pay of Congress and the president for failing to balance the budget. A whopping 81 percent of voters believe lawmakers should take a 25 percent pay cut until the federal budget is balanced, according to a January survey from Rasmussen Reports.

Other lawmakers and officials have expressed solidarity with federal workers facing furloughs, offering to give up part of their salaries during the sequester.

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