Lawmakers Call for Shutdown Solidarity, Offer to Refuse Pay If DHS Closes

Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb.. introduced the "No Homeland Security, No Pay Act.". Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb.. introduced the "No Homeland Security, No Pay Act.". Nati Harnik/AP

Due to congressional inaction, hundreds of thousands of federal employees may soon have their pay cut off.

Some lawmakers see this as an injustice.

This has led Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb., to introduce the No Homeland Security, No Pay Act, which would withhold the pay of members of Congress if DHS shuts down due to a lapse in appropriations.

“All across the country, folks live by the idea that if you don’t do your job, you shouldn’t get paid,” Ashford said. “The same should hold true for members of Congress, and this bill simply codifies that belief…There are too many credible threats against our nation to let this important agency shut down.”

If Congress fails to fund DHS by Friday, the department will shut down and about 30,000 employees will be furloughed. The remaining 200,000 employees would have to report to work, but would not be paid until a funding bill was signed into law.

“It is simple,” said Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., a cosponsor of the bill. “If the hardworking men and women in the Department of Homeland Security will continue to go to work but not receive a paycheck, members of Congress, who have failed to do their job, should not receive a paycheck either.”

Because federal statute prohibits members of Congress from adjusting their own pay for the current legislative session, their salaries would be placed in an escrow account and not made available until DHS reopened.

Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., another cosponsor on the bill, has already pledged to donate her pay to the Florida charity Warrior Beach Retreat for the duration of any DHS shutdown. Graham was the first lawmaker to offer that promise relating to the current DHS funding crisis -- though scores of legislators withheld or donated their pay during the 2013 governmentwide shutdown. Graham called on her colleagues to follow suit.

At least one fellow member heeded that call: Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., announced Thursday he would refuse any pay as long as DHS is shut down.

“As long as the employees of the Department of Homeland Security including Border Patrol, Coast Guard, and [Transportation Security Administration] are working while not receiving paychecks, I will ask that my paycheck be withheld,” Sherman said.

In a press conference Thursday calling on Republicans to immediately back a “clean” DHS funding bill without any policy riders on President Obama’s immigration actions, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said many of her colleagues may have trouble following Graham and Sherman’s example.

“I think just about everybody I know cannot live without having their paycheck on time,” Pelosi said, sympathizing with DHS employees who may be forced to work without pay. “Members of Congress even, and yet they’re asking this Department of Homeland Security people to do that.” 

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